Lessons for the use of nuclear power in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
After the nuclear accident, Belarus halted all plans for nuclear power stations of its own. This moratorium is still officially in place. In the first few years following the accident, broad swathes of the Ukrainian public were critical of any further expansion of nuclear power. In 1990 a moratorium was therefore declared, which put further construction and extension plans temporarily on hold. This moratorium was, however, lifted two years later, because of the energy crisis and the dependence on fossil fuels, which had to be imported using expensive foreign currency.
Lessons for the international nuclear power sector.
The accident had a disastrous impact on life, health and the environment in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and prompted fear and concerns in other nations of the world about the effects of radiation. The disaster rekindled the international debate on the controllability, benefits and costs of nuclear power. In the West, because of tightened safety requirements, and the increased costs of plant insurance and transport and storage of radioactive waste, new plants had previously been considered unprofitable. From 2002, the European Union's Euratom Framework Programme will no longer include research funding for the development of new nuclear reactors. Investments are only to be made in new strategies to improve the safety of existing plants, and in research on disposal.
Lessons for reactor safety and disaster management.
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster dramatically demonstrated to the countries concerned that they had not been prepared for an accident on this scale. But it also led to a review of reactor safety and emergency planning for plants in both East and West.
In 1990 only 70 inspectors, trained in the West, were available to oversee nuclear power stations in the whole country. Six years later the number had increased fivefold.
In all former Eastern Bloc countries, a new awareness of safety arose in response to the Chernobyl disaster. Quality assurance programmes at nuclear plants impose more stringent requirements on technical installations and maintenance, as well as on staff training and information. However, critics continue to point to problems such as reactor design, frequently defective construction materials from the Socialist past and operating constraints due to inadequate funding.
In the countries of the West, too, tighter regulations were introduced for the operators of nuclear power stations after the Chernobyl accident. For example, the German Nuclear Safety Commission (RSK) carried out checks at all plants. So-called catalytic recombiners were installed so as to ensure that, in the event of a reactor accident, the hydrogen released would combine with oxygen to form water, thereby preventing an explosion.
According to the IAEA, the Chernobyl accident not only stimulated nuclear safety research ; the management of major accidents at nuclear power stations was also rethought. The first lesson drawn from Chernobyl was that emergency plans must assign responsibilities clearly and provide for measures such as the rapid distribution of iodine tablets without delay - and across national frontiers. The second lesson drawn was the need for well-equipped rescue teams and well-trained staff to be on standby at all times to ensure rapid measurement of radiation around a nuclear power station.
The importance of rapid communication beyond frontiers led, after Chernobyl, to improvements in the international early-warning system for nuclear accidents. Another important lesson for the IAEA is the need for flexible contingency plans: every accident is unique.
Lessons for research
Especially in Belarus, the country that was most severely affected, the Chernobyl disaster called for Herculean efforts in the area of research.
After the accident - and even more so after the CIS states declared their independence in the early 1990s - Time was short in all three affected countries. The researchers had to produce results that would provide the basis for rapid political decisions on limit values and resettlements. Their work took them into new territory: the Chernobyl disaster was without precedent. They also had to contend with the problem that in some cases data had not been systematically recorded in the first weeks and months after the disaster. One example is the patchy documentation of the radiation levels to which liquidators were exposed at the reactor complex.
In parallel with international aid for the victims of the disaster, international research cooperation with the three affected countries also got underway. The collaborations that developed can be divided into two broad categories: research projects that are closely linked to aid projects for the people in the contaminated territories, and scientific research concerned primarily with long-term observations of the impact of radiation on humans, animals and plants.
Posted by Sherman