Today, on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster we must reflect on the impact of the day that changed the world's view of nuclear power. Chernobyl was not simply an industrial accident. It was a human tragedy on an unimaginable scale. Our recent report about the true health impact of the explosion and its aftermath show that the estimates of the number of people who died or who now have terminal or chronic illnesses as a result of Chernobyl could be many-fold higher than was originally thought.
Construction of the sarcophagus (cover) over the destroyed Chernobyl reactor.
Today, however, is not for statistics. This haunting milestone
in thehistory of nuclear power is a time to remember the human
sufferingcaused on that fateful day. All over the world this month,
photoexhibitions have opened featuring portraits of those living
with thepernicious after-effects of the radiation from Chernobyl -
and thegrinding social deprivation following the disaster. The
bedriddenchildren with cancers and degenerative diseases who must
be turnedevery fifteen minutes in excruciating pain. The parents
who themselvessuffer from chronic radiation-related diseases. The
old people who haveno alternative but to eat mushrooms and burn
firewood harvested fromwoodland so radioactive that soil samples
from them are treated asradioactive waste in Western Europe. It is
here where we should look -into the eyes of these people - when we
are told about the so-called'benefits' of nuclear power.
Chernobyl is not just a historical event, from a moment in time
twentyyears ago. It is still very much having a massive impact. The
number ofpeople who will get sick and die because of the radiation
fromChernobyl is still rising - and will do for many decades to
come. Andthat horrific legacy is still being discovered as the
extent of themedical impact of the disaster continues to manifest
itself in therange of illnesses being seen in those affected.
The international community has failed the victims of Chernobyl.
Notonly by downplaying the extent of the human impact, but also
byabdicating their responsibility for them and failing to
collaborate totake them out of the Chernobyl shadow and give them a
better life, whatremains of it.
This anniversary comes at a pivotal moment in the future of
nuclearpower - as the current generation of nuclear plants near the
end oftheir life, we have the opportunity to reassess the human
price we arewilling to pay for generating electricity in this way.
Nuclear power isinherently highly dangerous and despite claims of
improvements insafety, scientists agree that another catastrophe on
the scale ofChernobyl could still happen any time, anywhere.
Nuclear is also themost expensive energy source in the world and
actually generates only 2percent of the world's supply. Clean,
renewable sources such as wind,solar and hydroelectricity generate
seven times as much, globally - andthat is growing. We also need to
remember that wherever there isnuclear power, nuclear weapons are
only few steps away.
We must ensure that no more Chernobyls ever take place again.
The onlyway we can do this is to ensure that nuclear power has no
future,whilst investing in renewable alternatives. I believe that
on the 20thanniversary of Chernobyl, governments and international
bodies such asthe IAEA must exercise their moral duty to this and
future generationsby committing to a rapid and permanent
eradication of nuclear power.