Ceremonies have been held in Ukraine to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. Those involved in the initial efforts to stabilize the destroyed reactor are still being recognized for their selfless courage.
Ukrainian prime minister Mykola Azarov took part in a memorial service in Kiev today for those emergency response workers - the 'liquidators' - that lost their lives bringing the situation at Chernobyl under control.
|Russian President Medvedev and Ukrainian President Yanukovych ring bells after a memorial service in Chernobyl (Image: Kremlin.ru)
In an address, Azarov said, "25 years have passed since the Chernobyl catastrophe - a catastrophe of global scale that changed forever the fate of hundreds of thousands of people within seconds." He added, "The word 'Chernobyl' has become the embodiment of unprecedented catastrophe - nuclear energy that has gone out of control. It gave rise to social and economic problems that have not disappeared over the years. These complex problems can only be solved by coordinating the efforts of government, science, social organizations of citizens who suffered from Chernobyl and the entire society, including the international community."
According to Azarov, "Economic losses of Ukraine from the Chernobyl disaster are about $180 billion." He said that over 145,000 square-kilometres of territory in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were contaminated with radionuclides as a result of the accident.
"You and your comrades, some of whom,
sadly, are no longer with us today, showed
great courage in performing your duties in
exceptionally difficult conditions and at
immense risk to your own lives. To be
honest, you did this at a time when the state
authorities did not immediately find the
courage to admit the full extent of what had
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
to Chernobyl liquidators
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev visited the Chernobyl site today for a memorial ceremony. They took part in the ceremony of laying the first stone of the future memorial to the liquidators of the Chernobyl disaster. The monument will be erected by 14 December, when Ukraine marks the Chernobyl Accident Liquidators Day.
Yanukovych, commented: "Before 26 April 1986 the world had an illusion of security. After this date no one and nowhere can be sure of a safe future. And the events at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have only confirmed this bitter truth of life."
Medvedev noted that "Ukraine, Russia, and other countries too, still feel the effects of this disaster to this day. But the consequences would have been worse were it not for the heroism and self-sacrifice of those who took part in the clean-up operations back then."
Speaking to liquidators yesterday, he said, "You and your comrades, some of whom, sadly, are no longer with us today, showed great courage in performing your duties in exceptionally difficult conditions and at immense risk to your own lives. To be honest, you did this at a time when the state authorities did not immediately find the courage to admit the full extent of what had happened."
"Unfortunately, we ended up paying a high price for this irresponsibility on the part of our authorities, and this is a lesson for the future," Medvedev said. No one realised the full extent of the personal risk at that moment, but you and your comrades inside the 30 kilometre exclusion zone did not think about the potential risks. You knew that the clean-up operations had to go ahead no matter what the cost."
He noted that 12 liquidators were subsequently awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union and Hero of Russia titles and that more than 25,000 people have received the Order of Courage. More than 70,000 people, he said, have received state decorations for their part in the Chernobyl clean-up operations. Yesterday Medvedev presented the Order of Courage to 16 people who took part in the operations.
"Nuclear energy is one of the cheapest and generally most environmentally friendly energy forms, but is an industry that requires the highest and most stringent standards," he said. "Russia learned lessons from the Chernobyl disaster, and our nuclear energy standards are considerably higher than those of a number of generally very technologically advanced and strong countries. We have gone further in our standards, and this was the right decision."
He added, "I think that our government must learn all the lessons from what happened - from the now-distant Chernobyl incident in 1986 and the recent tragedies in Japan. Perhaps the most important lesson concerns the need to tell people the truth. Because the world is so fragile and we are all so interconnected that any attempts to hide the truth ... subsequently results in the tragic loss of human lives."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News