On 26 April 1996, the world will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. The EU's own internal research and development programmes have, since 1987, taken account of Chernobyl, particularly the radiological impact of the accident and the level of preparedness for future disasters. Nuclear safety is a priority for EU action. As part of its on-going Nuclear Fission Safety (NFS) programme, the EU is funding an ECU 10.5 million project whose aims include better management of land contaminated by radioactive material in the former Soviet Union and improved ways of looking after the health and welfare of populations exposed to risk. As part of its TACIS programme of technical assistance to the former Soviet Union, the EU assists Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus and other republics to upgrade their nuclear reactors and improve their safety culture in all sectors of the civil use of nuclear energy. TACIS has already earmarked ECU 30.4 million for preliminary work for a new encasement of Unit 4 at Chernobyl and the new waste retrieval facility linked to this operation. Previously, TACIS had provided funding worth nearly ECU 15 million on a series of Chernobyl-related projects. These have included the raising of safety standards for fire protection at Chernobyl, assistance with local decontamination, the management of radioactive waste inside the exclusion zone, and the provision of reliable information about radiation risks from Chernobyl and how these can be reduced. The EU has been involved in joint research projects into the consequences of Chernobyl under an "Agreement for International Collaboration on the Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident" signed in 1992 between the EU, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. A total of 16 projects have been carried out to date, involving 120 laboratories in the three republics and a further 80 in the EU. The research projects of the joint collaborative programme cover: - A study on the transfer of radioactive material through the environment into the human food chain; - A study of decontamination strategies and restoration measures; - The investigation of the health effects of the accident, in particular the appearance of thyroid cancer in children who were living near Chernobyl in 1986; - The development of emergency management procedures and the improvement of overall emergency preparedness. The overall objectives of the joint research programme are fourfold: - To enable scientists to improve their understanding of the health and environmental impact of radioactive contamination and how it can be reduced; - To assist those people in the three republics responsible for evaluating and mitigating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident; - To help the governments concerned formulate a rational policy response to the disaster; - To help alleviate the suffering of people directly affected by the accident.
Belarus, Russia, Ukraine