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Ambassadors call for objective assessment of nuclear disasters

All News 17:30 April 29, 2016

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- The nuclear disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima should be viewed objectively in light of their actual impact on health and safety, without exaggerating the extent of the damage, ambassadors from the two regions said Friday.

Ambassadors Natalya Zhilevich and Koro Bessho, the top Belarusian and Japanese envoys to Seoul, made the case in a forum organized by the Embassy of Ukraine to mark the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster that devastated millions of lives in Ukraine, Belarus and neighboring countries.

This year also marks five years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

"Chernobyl was really a very bad nuclear accident, but it was mass media which turned it into a catastrophe," Zhilevich said in her keynote speech at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

Citing Michael Fox, a radiation biologist at Colorado State University, she argued that Chernobyl "was not as bad as we feared" and the biggest health danger was in fact from panic and stress caused by "very inaccurate reporting by the news media."

Many reports on the accident chose "sensation at the cost of truth," she added.

In the years following the disaster, the Belarusian government allocated US$22 billion to programs designed to cope with the aftermath, and construction of the country's first nuclear power plant is currently under way with "overwhelming" support from the public, according to Zhilevich.

Bessho agreed with his colleague's remarks, saying that while it is important to ensure the safety of nuclear energy, it is equally important to make sure there is no unnecessary panic or sensationalism surrounding the issue.

The facts show that the air dosage rate in Iwaki, the biggest city of Fukushima prefecture, is 0.07 microsievert, which is less than the 0.115 microsievert measured for Seoul, he said.

"I think we need to face the fact the road to reconstruction, rehabilitation of the region as a whole is a long process," Bessho said. "However, the environment of the region has been improving steadily."

Ukrainian Ambassador to Seoul Vasyl Marmazov outlined the enormous impact the disaster had on his country, with around 2 million Ukrainians still registered as being affected and around 35,000 families receiving state welfare benefits.

He expressed hope, however, that the lessons learned from the accident on April 26, 1986, would bring lasting improvements to nuclear and radiation safety around the world.

"Today, 30 years after the Chernobyl technogenic disaster, much depends on us and our efforts to protect nature and living conditions so that they are well preserved for the generations to come," he said.

hague@yna.co.kr
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