6 February: The UN call for an entirely new approach to helping millions of people impacted by the Chernobyl accident, saying that 16 years after the incident those affected remain in a state of “chronic dependency,” with few opportunities and little control over their destinies.The report notes that some 7 million people are in some way or another recipients of state welfare connected with Chernobyl. The study, carried out by an international panel of experts in July-August 2001, was commissioned by the UNDP and the UNICEF, and was supported by the WHO and the OCHA. [.... read more]
March: The German TV documentary "Tschernobyl - Der Millionensarg" triggers a debate on how much fuel still remains in the reactor beneath the sarcophagus. The movie claims that the new «sarcophagus» is unnecessary because there is hardly any remaining radioactive material.
April: secret KGB documents released in Ukraine show that there were problems with the Chernobyl nuclear plant. One 1984 document notes deficiencies in the third and fourth block, and also of poor quality of some equipment sent from Yugoslav companies.
June: The International Chernobyl Research and Information Network (ICRIN) was launched by the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl in Geneva on 27 June 2003. The objective of the international network is to make Chernobyl research results systematically accessible both to the affected population and to the authorities and decision-makers, and also to identify gaps in existing research findings. The chernobyl.info website serves as an information platform for ICRIN members and the public at large. The activities and addresses of scientific institutions and organisations can be accessed in a database on the chernobyl.info website.
August: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said it would give Ukraine USD 85 million this year to cover the gaping hole in reactor 4. The construction of the new shelter will start in 2004.
27 April: In New York, over 600 invited guests from numerous countries attended the first public viewing of the film "Chernobyl Heart" since it won this year's Academy Award for the best documentary two months ago.
November: Scientific evidence that fallout from Chernobyl may have raised cancer rates in western Europe may have emerged. Researchers in Sweden showed a statistically relevant correlation between the degree of fallout and an observed rise in the number of total cancer cases.
In 2005, the SIP (Shelter Implementation Plan) entered its final stage. All major Chernobyl site infrastructure facilities and programmes (radiation and industrial protection, medical training, emergency response) have either been completed or will be at final acceptance over the next few months. These facilities and programmes will ensure adequate protection of people during the construction activities, which have commenced and which will significantly increase during the year. Site services in the construction zone have been renewed and a change facility constructed.
The physical work on stabilisation of the existing shelter is ongoing under the contract signed in July 2004. When completed in 2006, it will eliminate one of the principal risks - the collapse of the shelter. A comprehensive monitoring system (nuclear, radiation and seismic) as well as the site access control and physical protection system are under construction and scheduled for completion during the first half of 2006.
The tenders for the new safe confinement - the largest component of the SIP - are at an advanced stage of evaluation with contract award scheduled for Autumn 2005. The confinement is an enormous arch - with a span of 260 metres and height of 100 metres - to enclose the existing ‘sarcophagus’ and its radioactive contents for a period of minimum 100 years. It is being constructed off site to limit workers’ exposure to radiation. The arch-shaped confinement wll be erected and slid into position over the old shelter via specially built rails. Once in place, safer working conditions will enable the deconstruction of unstable parts of the shelter.
April: European Commission confirms that restrictions in the
UK on the transport, sale and slaughtering of sheep remain in force ‘in
numerous cattle breeding enterprises especially in the North of Wales”
In Ireland and certain scandinavian regions, monitoring is also still conducted.
April: In certain game, wild grown berries and mushrooms and in carnivorous fish (from regions in Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithaunia and Poland) the levels of Caesium-137 still vastly exceed normal levels. In the regions worst hit by the fall-out from Chernobyl, contamination levels will remain high and relatively unchanged for the next decades, the EC believes.
12 May: At a pledging meeting in London the European Commission announced an additional €49 million to the international Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF). A total of about $200 million are donated at the donor meeting. The project is estimated to cost $1,091 million and will be completed by 2009.
3 August: An international donor conference pledges USD 7 million (EUR 5.8 million) to Ukraine for the processing of nuclear waste from the closed down Chernobyl power plant. The requisite plant is to be built within the next three years. There are also plans for building a storage site for this nuclear waste.
4 August: Alpha-radiation from plutonium-241 decay products is increasing. Pu-241 emits Beta-radiation and has a half-life of only 14.4 years. It decays in Americium-241 emits alpha-radiation and has a half life 432.2 years. Result: in Belarus alpha-radiation is currently three-times as high as in 1986 and in the year 2276 the level will still be twice as high as shortly after the 1986 disaster. The zone’s americium-241 will reach its maximum level in 2059. Am-241’s alpha radiation is even more powerful than plutonium’s, and it decays to neptunium-237, which also decays by way of an energetic alpha particle and has a half-life of more than 2 million years. But, the vast majority of radiation exposure is from beta-emitting caesium-137 which is declining with a half-life of about 30 years.
5 August: As a result of amnesties, Professor Bandazhevsky's eight-year prison sentence was reduced to seven years in July 2002 and, in early 2004, his sentence was reduced to six years. According to the Belarusian government, Articles 90 and 91 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus stipulate that Professor Bandazhevsky's sentence could be reduced when he had served half of the term of the prison sentence handed down by the court, and conditional early release (“parole”) reportedly was possible after two thirds of the sentence had been served, on January 6, 2005. But it was not until August 5, 2005, under an amnesty declared by President Lukashenka to celebrate the 60th anniversary of World War II, that Professor Bandazhevsky was released.
30 August: The latest radiation measurements in the area immediately surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant indicate that the levels of radioactive contamination are falling. Ukraine’s authorities are therefore opening some of the evacuation zone of 2,800 square kilometres, from where all inhabitants were relocated after the 1986 nuclear accident, for partial resettlement. However, those who return will lose the welfare benefits they have been entitled to so far.
31 August: The WHO completes its working draft Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programmes Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group "Health". From this report and others in this series, IAEA creates Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-economic Impacts and Recommendations to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine [date of release: 5 September 2005]. Again the work of the WHO is overshadowed by the so-called WHA 12.40, which is the agreement between WHO and IAEA that allows either to keep information from the other, which would hurt their respective mandates. Since it is the IAEA's mandate "to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world", it is doubtful that IAEA could conduct unbiased health studies on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion. In fact, IAEA has no mandate to conduct health studies at all.
September: Ukrainian authorities retrieve radioactive fuel believed to be stolen from Chernobyl. A plastic bag, containing 14 pieces of fuel, where fond during a routine search of the reactors perimeter. The material is believed to be stolen in 1995 but left in the plant when additional security measures to detect radiation were installed after the theft in 1995
5 September: According to the IAEA’s press release Chernobyl: The True Scale of the Accident, introducing the controversial report Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts a total of up to four thousand people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl accident. And “as of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster”. Chernobyl relief organisations and many radiation scientists dispute and criticise the data and figures in the report, calling them “poor”, “quite inappropriate” or simply “rubbish”. The report is accused of playing down the true dimension of the catastrophe. Some statements of the study are challenged as “demonstrably false”. Experts are also concerned that the UN’s IAEA, may have had “too great an influence” on the study. [....read more]
November: Eleven farms, covering 11,300 hectares in Scotland, are still so contaminated by the Chernobyl accident that their sheep are considered unsafe to eat.
15 December: In a official statement Ukraine president Yushchenko says no foreign fuel will be stored at Chernobyl. A week earlier, he stated that the government was studying the possibility of storing foreign nuclear fuel at Chernobyl. After a loud public outcry he apparently discarded the idea.
16 December: France: The SCPRI (Central Service for Protection against Radioactive Rays) knew of high levels of contamination in Corsica and southeastern France but kept the information under wraps. The study was commissioned by a magistrate who since 2001 has been examining allegations that the atomic cloud from Chernobyl caused a surge in cases of thyroid cancer in parts of France. According to the report the SCPRI issued imprecise maps that concealed high levels of fallout in certain areas.