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Press Release

Address of Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma on the occasion of the Chornobyl nuclear power station closure

Kyiv, December 15, 2000     # 48

I address the Ukrainian people, Heads of States, Governments and Parliaments of foreign countries, the whole world community in connection with the event that has a milestone significance for the mankind, for everyone who lives and will live on our Earth.

Today, on December 15, 2000 years after the Birth of Christ, I issued an instruction to stop the third power unit, which is the last of those functioning at the Chornobyl nuclear power station.

This means the closure of the facility that entered the history as the biggest and the most horrible by its outcomes catastrophe.

15 years passed after the day when the fire at the wrecked nuclear reactor illuminated a new phase in the civilization progress, which in all languages sounded as "post-Chornobyl".

Since April 26, 1986 the name of this small town in Polissya lost its original, geographical meaning and obtained a global political and ecological sense.

It joined a symbolic list of such tremendous and devastating cataclysms that entered the history by the distinctive marks of their epochs, as Pompei, Hernic, Hiroshima.

The words "Chornobyl nuclear power station" personify a new phenomenon - nuclear energy that went out of control, practical materialization of threatening warnings, which the nature sent many times to people trying to prevent their frivolous, thoughtless and felonious treatment of itself.

For Ukraine the act of the decommissioning of the Chornobyl nuclear power station is from many points of view, without overestimating, an event of the epochal importance.

In so doing we are, firstly, paying a tribute to the memory of those who died of the diseases caused by this catastrophe while eliminating consequences of the disaster.

Secondly, we confirm once more that we are fully committed to our obligations to the world.

Thirdly, we are finally parting with the totalitarian legacy and its tyranny, indifference and cruelty to a human being , society and nature.

And fourthly, we reiterate our intention to build our future responsibly, guided by our European choice as well as concern for the future generations of the Ukrainian people and the whole humanity.

This decision was conceived by harrowing experience of the previous 15 years. Ukraine has to pay the bills it has not signed and to expiate the sins it has not committed.

Its citizens were the first to step into the fire and into the invisible, but murderous field of radiation with the aim to protect the whole planet from the disastrous fire at the cost of their own lives.

And by the experience paid by the most expensive price to give to the mankind the key to solving such unprecedented problems.

What is Chornobyl for Ukraine?

It is nearly 3,5 bln. people affected by the catastrophe and its consequences.

It is almost 10% of the territory affected by direct radiation.

It is 160 000 people from 170 localities, who had to abandon their homes and move to other places.

By quoting these sad statistics we do not forget about other countries and peoples, on whose lives the most technological catastrophe of the XX-th century has also left its ominous mark.

That was the fate and history that our state has to bear its Chornobyl Cross mostly by itself, staying alone with its own difficulties and trials.

Its total economic expenses, concerned to the catastrophe at the Chornobyl station, have already run up to 130 bln. $.

We are compelled in further to distract enormous material and financial resources, first of all, on protection of the affected population and rehabilitation of natural environment.

Some years such expenses achieved 12 % of the state budget that considerably exceeds budget assignments for a science and culture.

I would like all of you to pay attention to this.

I would like the following fact to be considered as well. Ukraine is closing Chornobyl nuclear power plant in conditions, when its economy with the extremely deformed structure and vast power consumption just started to recover after the long crisis in difficult conditions in a fuel and energy complex and in the winter period.

To these factors the extremely adverse weather conditions were added also which in extensive territories have become a kind of natural disaster.

Thus to lose 5 % of generating capacities as a minimum - means being ready not only for significant additional losses but also for considerable risk.

Especially, if to mention, that after the closure Chornobyl nuclear power plant turns from the manufacturer of the electric power to its consumer.

All that is true, but Ukraine is making this step consciously and voluntarily, following the highest priority interests of our people and international community.

We realize that Chornobyl is a threat to the entire world, and consequently we are ready to sacrifice a part of the national interests for the sake of global safety.

The implementation of the decision on Chornobyl NPP closure that has been declared in the beginning of the 90-s and confirmed five years ago in the Ottawa Memorandum - is the second unprecedented good will act realized by the Ukrainian State.

Before that was the renunciation of the third in its capacity nuclear arsenal.

I hope the world appreciates all the importance and humanity of such approaches. And is also assured of our implementation of the nuclear security problems from the sphere of declarations to the level of real practical issues.

I emphasize it with regard to another, probably the most dreadful and tragic Chornobyl consequence.

It is the constant fear of the people for their lives and health, for the fate of their children and grandchildren, for the ecology of the lands and forests, seas and rivers, subterranean waters.

The fear that exists regardless of where they live - near the wrecked reactor and contaminated radioactive zone or thousands kilometers away.

An area that is desolated, silent and hostile to all the living and normal, located several dozens of kilometers away from the Ukrainian capital is the real, not created by one's imagination or computer picture of what could happen to the planet if the people lack the reason and caution in their conduct with the achievements of science and technology.

The Chornobyl fire-fighters and liquidators have shielded the mankind from such a perspective - as their predecessors from Kyiv Rus have safeguarded Europe at the dawn of the Renaissance from alien incursions.

Today's act, having eliminated the delayed-action nuclear mine in the heart of Europe, is the beginning of relief from the Chornobyl syndrome in Ukraine as well as in the global dimension.

The sword of Damocles that has all those years been hanging above us is passing into non-existence.

At the same time this dreadful page of the modern history can not be considered completely turned over.

The Chornobyl collisions remain with the exception of being transformed into a new dimension.

At the edge of the centuries and millenniums there is a new era awaiting us, a new one in the post-chornobyl sense as well. Yet, it raises more questions than gives answers to them.

Before us is a great, complicated and long complex of bringing out the station of operation and its transformation into an ecologically secure system of "Shelter" object above the damaged fourth energy unit.

Before us is social security ensuring of the station's workers who are being dismissed and the members of their families, determining and planning of the future of the Slavutych city where they all live.

Not even one of these people, not a family is to be abandoned.

All of that demands great expenses that Ukraine at the moment does not have at its disposal.

We, as a state and as a nation that have suffered the most from the Chornobyl catastrophe and its consequences have the right to rely on the support of the international community.

The support in international assistance programs, that are of vital importance as well as of human compassion and understanding of the problems we face.

Firstly, the decision on Chornobyl NPP station has been adopted and implemented under the guarantees of such assistance, first and foremost on the part of the G-7 member-states.

Secondly, there is a need for mankind that is aggravated with each passing day for unification of all efforts for safe existence in harmony with nature in preventing technogene catastrophes of global and regional scale, of proliferation of nuclear technologies.

Chornobyl is the most obvious but not the only evidence of such a demand.

The consequences of accidents at civil and military nuclear facilities, chemical and other enterprises, do not recognize any state borders. The danger emanating from them is common for all of us, as our living environment is also common.

Let us remember that the globalization and other post-industrial realities make the present world still more tight and interconnected. This world does not end with the threshold of our houses and the boundaries of our states.

According to a scientist physicist, we have the only copy of the Universe which we cannot be experimented with.

Let us repeat - after the pattern of great minds - that wisdom is a daughter of experience

And the experience testifies that the content and consequences of technogenic disasters rise above scientific and political and other differences. They demand the employment of all channels of international cooperation, so that no-where, never and under no circumstances a man-made disaster should come to our planet.

And that, to my mind, is the main lesson of the Chornobyl.

The lesson is sad, painful and tragic. Nevertheless, we must learn it.

Today, I would like to reiterate the idea declared during the 1997 Session of the United Nations General Assembly - the idea of establishing the Ecological Security Council of the United Nations, International Ecological Court and International Ecological Bank.

I believe the time has come to put this proposal on practical foundation. That would enable us to act together, in a concerted and coordinated manner, to concentrate the costs and resources where some countries are not able to cope on their own with the consequences of natural and technogenic disasters.

Ukraine stands up for signing the Convention on creation of the international mechanism of ecological monitoring and control, implementation of a range of other measures, which would guarantee healthy and clean living conditions for all people in every corner of the world.

On our part, we are ready to transmit freely and generously our unique, although very bitter, experience gained over the years of elimination of the consequences of the Chornobyl catastrophe to the international community.

We propose that the nuclear power plant, which is being shut down, and the territory adjacent to it, be used as a test ground for international scientific-research center to work out the technologies of the nuclear safety improvement, alleviation and elimination of the consequences of catastrophes at the nuclear objects, environment rehabilitation.

Approaching to shutting down the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, we are renouncing ourselves even the most necessary. We are not waiting for applauds but constructive attention and cooperation.

We demand not tips or alms but equality, respect and understanding.

We are convinced that the solidarity of nations and states, humanism of contemporary civilization will not abandon Ukraine without assistance.

We are grateful in advance to all who will render it.

The mankind is approaching the future turning back to the past. It is the ever law of the history.

The things that happened could not be helped. There is also nothing to forget.

Then let the word "Chornobyl" become instant and severe reminder for the responsibility in the name of coming generations for all created by wisdom and done by hands.

Let December 15, 2000 be taken by the world as one of the clear manifestations of this responsibility.

Let us listen to the words of the Holy Writ that came to us from the deepness of the ages: "Wise person knows his own way"

To summarize this message I am expressing confidence and hope that the states and peoples, all mankind will have enough wisdom, will and responsibility to keep on going ahead by reasonable and comprehended path free of such an ominous landmarks as Chornobyl.

Let it be so from now and forever.

For more information, please contact:
Taras Malyshevskyi, Press Secretary of the Embassy of Ukraine
310 Somerset Street West, Ottawa, ON K2P 0J9
Tel. (613) 230-2961, fax (613) 230-2400,