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Better prevention and response systems needed to avoid another "Chernobyl": UN

Better prevention and response systems needed to avoid another "Chernobyl": UN

Marking the 15-year anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the President of the United Nations General Assembly today stressed the importance of better preventing and managing such disasters in the future.

"Pooling of expertise through cooperation is essential," said Harri Holkeri of Finland. "For the future of our global village, we should be able to answer its call for stringent disaster-prevention measures, and functioning emergency crisis management systems, where radioactive materials are being, or will be, processed."

The Assembly President also said the world needed to prioritize its actions in researching, monitoring and securing the safety of older nuclear plants currently in operation. Regulating illicit trafficking of hazardous materials and securing the safety of nuclear material transport are also of high importance, he said.

At UN headquarters in New York, the anniversary was marked with the ringing of the Peace Bell by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kenzo Oshima.

"This Peace Bell which we ring today is cast from coins donated by representatives of 60 countries and from individual contributions of various metals," he said. "We hope very much that the symbolism of this kind of spirit of unity and cooperation will trigger the wide-ranging support that is urgently needed to help those that are still suffering from the consequences of Chernobyl."

The Chernobyl disaster occurred on 26 April 1986 when two explosions destroyed a reactor at a power plant not far from Kiev, Ukraine, contaminating an area of over 160,000 square kilometres with the release of 50 million units of radiation. Thirty people were killed instantly and radioactive material spread across Europe, causing at least 6,000 subsequent deaths and health problems affecting millions of people in Ukraine, the Russian Federation and Belarus. The plant was shut down on 15 December 2000.