Lessons of Chernobyl top UAE nuclear discussion

ABU DHABI // UAE officials reviewed ways to prepare for a nuclear accident in a discussion this week marking the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a discussion with officials from Belarus, where a quarter of the country’s population was affected by radiation spilling out of the former Soviet […]

ABU DHABI // UAE officials reviewed ways to prepare for a nuclear accident in a discussion this week marking the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a discussion with officials from Belarus, where a quarter of the country’s population was affected by radiation spilling out of the former Soviet town near its border.

The UAE’s heads of nuclear power discussed the need to learn from such catastrophes to mitigate the consequences of an accident, and develop safe nuclear energy capabilities. The country’s first nuclear power plant is expected to be in place by 2020, pending regulatory approval.

“Every accident is unique in terms of lessons learnt and the advancement in responding to these accidents,” said Hamad Alkaabi, UAE ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency. “Our policy in the UAE has been clear that safety comes first. Lessons learnt have become an essential part of our programme and we are planning more events next month on Fukushima.

“Chernobyl is only a reminder that nuclear safety should continue as our priority, but it is also not something we can take for granted.”

On April 26, 1986, several blasts in the Chernobyl plant’s fourth unit caused about four tonnes of radioactive dust to fall out, affecting an area of abouts 40,000 square kilometres, including 23 per cent of Belarusian territory. About 2.2 million people were affected.

“It’s a real tragedy and the biggest catastrophe in the history of nuclear power plants and the peaceful use of atomic energy,” said Roman Golovchenko, Belarus ambassador to the UAE. “But we need to learn from what our country was confronted with 30 years ago and we still feel the consequences.

“The most important thing is the government practices, because no one is safe. The scale of the tragedy and the impact on the health of the population and the environment could have been much less if the government undertook the necessary steps.”

Christer Viktorsson, the director general of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, was in charge of emergency response in Sweden’s nuclear sector when Chernobyl happened.

“An important point is we have to realise that a nuclear -accident can have a trans-boundary effect,” he said.

“We got more than 1 per cent of the core content of the nuclear reactor on our territory and it’s still there, so we introduced a lot of measures and restrictions for foodstuff.

“We had to organise mapping of radioactivity that deposited on the ground because we didn’t know too well how the vegetation [would] react to a nuclear accident.”

He said international information sharing was vital to avoid being taken by surprise.

“We didn’t know the details because the Soviet Union didn’t disclose details of the accident,” Mr Viktorsson said. “We learnt about the safety culture and not only how important the regulator is but also the leadership and management for safety, it has a high priority on nuclear safety. We’re trying to implement emergency planning here in the UAE as well.”

Mohammed Al Hammadi, chief executive of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, said the numbers mentioned from radiation exposure and public health were catastrophic.

“Lessons learnt is an area for the UAE to learn from,” he said. “For us in the UAE programme, I am glad to see someone building a plant in parallel to us and learn from Belarus and we look forward to cooperation because there are always lessons to be learnt, also when it comes to operation and readiness.”

Mr Alkaabi said nuclear -accidents should not prevent a country from living.

“It’s astonishing to see a country starting a nuclear programme when the people building the plant were children at the time of the accident.”

cmalek@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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