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3- Trying to minimize the consequences


Collaboration between Western scientists and experts from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia begins. A delegation of German scientists visits the Chernobyl nuclear power station and the affected regions. 
April: According to Yuri Shcherbak, vice-chairman of the Su-preme Soviet Commission on Environment & Nuclear Energy said some US320 billion will be needed to handle the conse-quences of Chernobyl in the next 10 years. 
26 April: A marathon broadcast of 24 hours to raise aware-ness and money for Chernobyl victims. On soviet national television Telethon Chernobyl on Channel 3 collects about US$100 million. 
19 August: IAEA claims the sarcophagus is due to high tem-peratures and radiation no longer reliable. A new catastrophe cannot be ruled out.
September. Computer data stolen in Minsk and destroyed about health situation and radiation levels from over 670,000 people living in the eastern part of Belarus. Also contamina-tion details from 20,000 settlements were on the disks. 
21 September: The IAEA and the Governments of the Soviet Union, the Belarussian and Ukrainian SSR sign a framework agreement on the international consequences of the accident. “The Chernobyl area affords” according to the IAEA press re-lease, “unique possibilities for carrying out scientific research under post-accident conditions, including some areas where radiation levels have subsides but are still above normal background levels.” 

A specialized enterprise was organized, and all further work in the zone was done on a professional basis. (All people who worked in the zone until 1990, no matter what task, got status as "liquidator" and the right to social benefits.) 
April: Soviet authorities announce 200,000 people have been evacuated, in 1991 another 112,000 will be evacuated and in 1992 about 12,000. 
April: Laka Foundation publishes in the WISE News Commu-nique an extensive list of contaminated foodstuffs dumped on the world market (especially in southern countries) in the first five years. (see:
15 April: rumors circulating since May 1986 about Soviet air force producing artificially rain from radioactive clouds mo-ving towards Moscow in the first days after the accident early May 1986 are confirmed by soviet scientists during a confe-rence in Berlin, Germany. At the same conference Professor Chernousenko claims, already 7,000 – 10,000 people have died as a result of Chernobyl. 
26 April: On the fifth anniversary of Chernobyl there are mass demonstrations in Kiev and Minsk. The world press focuses on the event, highlighting new evacuations, alleged sicknes-ses in contaminated zones, and the continuing operation of Soviet RBMK reactors, including those at Chernobyl. 
26 April: a special stamp to commemorate the accident is launched in the Soviet Union.

Sovjet stamp to commemorate Chernobyl accident, 1991.

21 May: IAEA/IAC releases study: “Assessment of Radio-logical Consequences and Evaluation of Measures for the Chernobyl Accident” 
IAEA conclusions: 
- there were no health disorders that could be directly attri-buted to radiation exposure. There were no indications of an increase in the incidence of leukemia and cancers; 
- there were significant non-radiation related health disorders in the populations of both the surveyed contaminated set-tlements and control settlements; 
- the accident had substantial negative psychological conse-quences in terms of anxiety and stress due to continuing and high levels of uncertainty, relocation and other  measures; 
- early evacuations undertaken by the authorities – in cases which could be assessed by the projects – were broadly reasonable and consistent with internationally-established guidelines 
- protective measures taken or planned for the longer term, generally exceed what would have been strictly necessary - official procedures for estimating doses were significantly sound 
- etc 
Main criticism on the report: 
- study excluded from its subject of investigation the liquida-tors (estimated up to 600,000) 
- study excluded the 30 km contaminated zone 
- study excluded the evacuees from the zone (up to 95,000 – 100,000) 
- study excluded hot spots 
- There is some ambiguousness about the settlements cho-sen for the study: it would seem the selection was deliberate and arbitrary 
- The report substantially underestimate the amount of ex-posure, particularly the lifetime dose. It appears that external exposure is estimated at one-third to one-fourth, and internal exposure at about one-tenth 
- It is not clear how control groups were obtained. Thus, even though the study recognizes many illnesses and deaths, it was not able to link them to radiation 
- Friends of the Earth claims that the IAEA scientists  are scientifically incompetent because they draw concrete con-clusions on the basis of what they themselves admit are “not always adequate data”. 
- The scientist had little or no access to pre-accident health records, leaving them unable to compare pre- and post-acci-dent levels of disease and health disorders 
- Etc. 
According to Greenpeace the only aim of the study was to 
“produce a thirty-second sound-bite which is pleasing to the ear of the Soviet authorities – ‘we didn’t find radiation-induced health effects’ is constructed to avoid implicating radiation in the disaster 
24 August: Ukraine declares independence from the Soviet Union after a failed hard-line coup in Moscow. 
29 August: On top of the ‘want’-list of the independent Uk-raine is the closure of Chernobyl 
12 October: After a fire breaks out in the second Chernobyl reactor, this unit too has to be shut down for good. 
18 November: Ukraine plans to close the remaining reactors at Chernobyl in 1993 at the latest. 
12 December: Two Bulgarian ex-ministers are sentenced to imprisonment of 3 and 2 years, because they found guilty of hushing up the dangers of Chernobyl to the Bulgarian popula-tion after the 1986 accident.

Ukrainian government reports that cracks have ap-peared in the sarcophagus. An international competition is to be held for a design for a replacement roof. 
May & August: forest fires lift radiation levels in Belarus, again 
July: Ukrainian government launches an international compe-tition (‘Shelter-2 competition’) for the best project to prevent the ruins of the reactor from threatening public health and the environment. A new shelter (‘sarcophagus’) is urgently needed. 
18 September: US experts estimate the economic damage for Ukraine due to Chernobyl at about US$150 billion 
15 October: Block 3 is brought back online. Number 2 will follow at the end of the month 
29 November: Ukrainian nuclear experts warn for Ameri-cium-241. This Pu-241 daughter emits alpha-radiation and is seen as more dangerous as its parent. Experts say alpha-ra-diation will be much higher in 50-70 years from now and hope it will not spread outside the 30km zone. (see August 4, 2005) 

January to March: Establishment of a thyroid centre in Gomel by the Otto Hug Strahleninstitut, Munich. Gomel is a large city with a population of 500 000 in the most severely contaminated region of Belarus. 
April: World Health Organization expects sharp rise in both leukemia and cancers, after numbers in both are increasing 18 June: The international Shelter-2 competition ends. But Ukrainian government does not award a first prize. The French consortium Campenon Bernard receives a second prize. None of the 19 concepts on the shortlist fulfils all Uk-rainian requirements. Unclear what happens next. Ukraine is  looking to establish an international fund to raise money. 
22 October: Ukrainian government decided, due to electricity shortage not to close the remaining Chernobyl reactors and suspends a moratorium on new built 
9 December: Russian geochemist Valerin Kopejkin claims that if international radiation limits for Strontium-90 would be installed in the Ukraine, Kiev has to be evacuated. 

February: The U.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) releases report: emissions at Chernobyl five times higher than official IAEA estimate of 50 million curies. MIT claims 185-250 million Curies was released. 
9/10 October: Decision that remaining Chernobyl reactors will not be closed before 1996 at the earliest 

February: The first phase of the European Union-study for stabilizing the sarcophagus ends. The study claims it is a huge open radiation source. The consortium is pointing to the danger of collapse of the first sarcophagus and the problems of radioactive waste in case of constructing a second con-tainment. Start of construction is foreseen in April 1996. March: 100 times more thyroid cancers in Gomel, Belarus, WHO claims in report published in British Medical Journal. 13 April: President Leonid Kuchma declares Ukraine is ready to shut down the remaining reactors of the plant by the year 2000. His statement follows a meeting with European Com-mission officials in Kiev. 
25 April: Ukrainian minister of public health Andrej Serdchuk: 125,000 people died due to Chernobyl, 432,000 still treated, 3.66 million affected. 
July: In a resolution adopted at a Kiev Conference organi-zed amongst others by WHO, it is said that mental disorders spreading among Chernobyl-affected people 
20-23 November: new findings presented at a WHO confe-rence in Geneva, suggest that radiation could also be increa-sing the incidence of strokes, heart attacks and liver disease, as well as damaging the brains of babies at the womb 
22 December: At a meeting in the Canadian capital Ottawa, Ukraine and the G7 group of the world's leading industrialized nations sign a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to close Chernobyl. It involves commitments worth a total of some US$2.3 billion in aid from the G7 to support Cherno-byl's closure by the year 2000. The agreed package of loans for Ukraine's energy sector includes the completion of two more modern nuclear reactors at Rivne (R4) and Khmelnytsky (K2) stations in the west of the country. The aid package includes US$498 million in G7 member grants and $1.8 billion in loan financing from international agencies. Most of the grant money -- US$349 million - will be for nuclear decom-missioning and safety. More than US$1.9 billion will be spent to upgrade nuclear plants and the energy sector as a whole. 

April: 20 seconds before the 1986 accident an earthquake occurred in that region. According to Russian scientists it is not impossible the seriousness of the accident could have been increased as a result of that. 
April: Genetic mutations have occurred twice as often in children of families exposed to the radioactive fallout as elsewhere 
8-12 April: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission (EC), organized the conference "One Decade after Chernobyl: Summing up the Consequences". The conclusions of the IAEA on the health effects of the Cher-nobyl disaster are as follows: 
- The death rate among "liquidators" did not exceed that for a corresponding age group. 
- Thus far, the only admitted health effect due to radiation is an increase in thyroid cancers in children. 890 cases were detected. In the coming decades, several more thousands of cases of thyroid cancer (4,000-8,000) can be expected. 
- No significant increase in leukemia has been found. 
- Future cancer deaths will be about 6,660: 2,200 among liquidators and 4,460 among residents and evacuees of con-taminated areas. 
- Other health effects are related to psychological stress: fear of radiation and a distrust in the government.[1] 

25 April: A French government minister acknowledged that the French were misled about the impact of the disaster. Whether forecasters on state television even told viewers that the radioactive cloud had stopped at France’s borders. 
26 April: The President of the UN General Assembly, Diogo Freitas do Amaral (Portugal), delivers a statement at the spe-cial commemorative meeting on the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. In his speech he states: “There continues to be an acute need for further assistance to the peoples and countries for whom Chernobyl represents a crushing burden [..]. To ignore this continuing humanitarian tragedy would be to reduce these people and the areas most affected to mere objects of scientific research.” 
November: Chernobyl shuts down reactor Number One. Only reactor Number Three remains in operation. 
11 November: Cases of thyroid cancer among children in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are up by roughly 200 per cent compared to the 1980s. The WHO estimates that around 4 million people in these three countries have been affected by the nuclear disaster. Roughly one million are undergoing medical treatment for consequential health impairments.
December: Authorities of Belarus launched a campaign to return people to regions which have suffered from Chernobyl. Nesterenko (director of Institute for Radiation Safety) warns for a serious error. 

April: Belarus has to spent 25% of its national annual budget on dealing with the effects of the 1986 disaster. 
June: President Kuchma says Ukraine is spending US$1 bil-lion a year to combat the aftermath 
November: At a conference in New York, dozens of nations collect $350 million to rebuild the rapidly deteriorating con-crete sarcophagus. The reconstruction cost is estimated at $760 million. 

November: an international assistance program for the affec-ted areas is launched by the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs. The program covers more than 50 projects in such areas as the health sector, social-psychological and econo-mic rehabilitation, and the environment, and is based on the findings of an inter-agency needs assessment mission to Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine, undertaken in May. December: The Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF) was set up with the purpose of funding the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP).  The total costs of the SIP are estimated by the EBRD at US$768 million. Others however think the costs will be much higher. Vladimir Asmolov of the Russian Kurchatov Nuclear In-stitute and involved in the original construction of the shelter thinks that the costs could reach as much as US$2.5 billion. 

26 November: Scientific seminar on: “Thyroid Diseases and Exposure to ionizing Radiation: Lessons learned following the Chernobyl accident” in Luxembourg, organized by the Euro-pean Commission. One of the major health consequences of the Chernobyl disaster is the sudden and great increase in the number of persons, particularly children, with thyroid carcinoma. The presentations made at the seminar reviews the existing knowledge on the subject of radiation induced thy-roid diseases especially in relation to the Chernobyl accident. The subject is treated from the four points of view: genetic and environmental factors influencing the radiation induced cancer risk; thyroid doses reconstruction and risk after the Chernobyl accident; age and molecular biology; and lessons learned following the Chernobyl accident. 
14 December:  for the first time Ukraine speaks about clo-sure of the remaining Chernobyl reactors under conditions: money from the international community to finish construction of two reactors to replace Chernobyl (K2/R4) 

Reconstruction of the sarcophagus begins. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) releases US$130 million in grants for this first phase (improve-ments of the existing shelter). 
14 May: In an internal memo to France prime-minister Jospin environmental Minister Dominique Voynet states: “a program to improve energy efficiency, would fit better to the Memo-randum of Understanding for closure of Chernobyl,  as K2/R4 replacement nuclear reactors”. 
5 August: Belarus: After being arrested on July 13, on August 5, 1999, however, Professor Bandazhevsky was formally charged under Article 169 (3) of the Belarusian Criminal Code with allegedly accepting bribes from students seeking admis-sion to the Gomel Medical Institute. Professor Bandazhevsky founded the Gomel State Medical Institute and was serving as its rector at the time of his arrest. His scientific work fo-cused on the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on the health of the people living in and around the city of Gomel, a region close to the nuclear reactor and thus seriously affected by its radioactive emissions. According to Amnesty International, Bandazhevsky was outspoken in his criticism of the Belarusi-an authorities’ handling of the Chernobyl disaster’s impact on the population’s health and had repeatedly stressed the need to find “innovative solutions” to the problem. He reportedly was particularly critical of the way that the Ministry of Health spent the scant resources available for research in this area. Shortly before his arrest, Bandazhevsky wrote a report about research conducted by the Belarusian Ministry of Health’s Scientific and Clinical Research Institute for Radiation Medi-cine on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. In this report, he criticized the manner in which the government’s research was carried out and its conclusions. 
He was held for more than five months in pre-trial detention under harsh conditions that included temporary isolation, a poor prison diet, and no access to legal counsel. During his detention he reportedly suffered from heart ailments, sto-mach ulcers, and depression and lost approximately 44 lbs, resulting in his hospitalization. Professor Bandazhevsky was conditionally released from prison on December 27, 1999, pending trial.

20 September: Nobody is allowed to live permanently within 15 km of the power plant site. And yet, in the early 1990s, elderly people began to re-occupy their houses in the said zone. According to the authorities, there have been some 1500, two thirds of them women. About 50 people again took up residence in Chernobyl itself. This resettlement is being tolerated by the authorities. 
18 November:  A Coordination Committee Meeting at the Ministerial Level on International Cooperation on Chernobyl takes place in New York. US$9.51 million is required for the 1999 Appeal distributed in May. Though the international community has largely contributed to the shelter fund, the affected populations have been chronically under funded. The nine priority projects in the 1999 Appeal are: the modernizati-on of the Bragin Hospital, the establishment of child rehabi-litation centers, the rehabilitation of contaminated sectors in the Gomel area (Belarus); providing diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of liquidators, improving management and use of contaminated forests, and studying the health status of the posterity of persons affected by radiation. (Ukraine); the screening of 100,000 children exposed to radiation for early diagnosis of thyroid pathology, strengthening the network of centres for social and psychological rehabilitation, and pro-duction lines for measuring and packaging of diary products for the Bryansk region. 

13 January: The Ukrainian Government commissions an overall concept:  parts of the Chernobyl area are to be re-cultivated. 
March: According to documents from the Ukrainian Atomic Energy  regulatory commission, published by Greenpeace, the safety of the remaining Chernobyl reactors is not guaran-teed after August 
March: Belarus: Girls in affected areas had five times the normal rate of deformations in their reproductive systems and boys three times the norm. “It is clear we are seeing genetic changes, especially among those who were less than six years of age when subjected to radiation”, says Vladislav Ostapenko, head of Belarus’ radiation medicine institute April: Kuchma reaffirms Chernobyl is to be closed by the year end, but gives no date. 
April: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Af-fairs (OCHA) releases the report "Chernobyl disaster – a con-tinuing catastrophe". The authors concludes: “The radiologi-cal conditions in the area immediately surrounding the plant have largely improved, thanks to the international commit-ment to improved safety at Chernobyl, which allowed for the reconstruction and now reinforcement of the sarcophagus. However, the human consequences of the accident continue to be relentlessly harsh. The EBRD expects to complete the refurbishment of the Chernobyl plant site by 2007. A sum of US$400 million has already been pledged for this operation. A contribution from donor countries of just 3 per cent of this amount would have a substantial impact on the alleviation of human suffering that has resulted from this accident.” 
26 April: While visiting the Chernobyl zone, president Luk-ashenko of Belarus announces plans to re-locate people 
to the zone. “People moving from other parts of the Com-monwealth of Independent States will be given the Belarus nationality within one week”, he says. 
May: Swedish radiation protection authorities have issued recommendations for the handling of ashes from biomass-fuelled electricity plants. It was calculated that 5-7% of the yearly amount of bio fuel ash has to be stored as radioactive waste. 
6 June: Kuchma tells visiting U.S.-President Clinton that the ex-Soviet state will shut down the station on December 15. Clinton says the U.S. will give Ukraine $78 million in fresh funds to help improve safety at the plant. 
5 July: The EBRD administers the Chernobyl Shelter Fund. As of July 2000, 37 countries had contributed US$715 million to the fund, which is 93% of the overall project cost estimate. Most of the money comes from the European Union and the G-7 countries. 
The first phase of the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) consisted of an expedited review of the collapse risk and the most critical repairs were conducted. Further, studies were conducted and designs been made for a structural stabiliza-tion of the shelter, to be conducted in the second phase. Two projects of the first phase which had to start without delay were repairs of the beams supporting the roof of the shelter (1999) and stabilization of the ventilation stack (1998), whose possible collapse was also threatening the then still operating reactor 3. The second phase will consist of the actual streng-thening of the present sarcophagus and the construction of the new covering shelter. 
November-December: Chernobyl engineers prepare to shut down the last functioning reactor, Number Three, on De-cember 15. The last fuel rods will not be removed until 2008 and it will be between 30 and 100 years before the station is completely decommissioned. The EBRD and the European Union each pledge to lend Ukraine hundreds of millions of dollars to finish construction of Soviet-era reactors at Rivne and Khmelnitsky (K2/R4) in western Ukraine, to replace lost capacity from Chernobyl. The EBRD loan is for US$215 mil-lion, while the EU pledges $585 million. Environmentalists protest against the loans, which they say are going toward re-actors which, although safer than Chernobyl's, are still based on ageing technology. 
12 December: The Chernobyl reactor complex is shut down.