Preventing Future Nuclear Accidents

Today the world is marking one of the most dramatic dates in its history - 10 years since the explosion of reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

We, as representatives of the countries affected most by Chernobyl's drastic consequences, would like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of the American public and the world community to this tragic event, one that is unparalleled in the history of mankind.

As a result of the Chernobyl disaster, we now have to deal with a variety of new and extremely complex problems extending to practically all spheres of life - political and social systems, economic development, the state of science and technology, legal norms and laws, and culture and morals.

Responsibility for this infamous disaster must be laid at the feet of the leaders of the former Soviet Union who, through their criminal disdain for the human needs and welfare of citizens, permitted this most devastating technogenic catastrophe.

Its aftereffects - a sharp increase in mortality, the presence of thousands of environmental refugees, long-term contamination of soil and water, and irreversible changes in the natural environment and ecosystems - will be felt for decades.

The territory of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia that was contaminated by radiation totals about 145,000 square kilometers with a population of 7 million. This area is equivalent to the territory of Belgium and Austria combined. Other countries partly contaminated by Chernobyl include Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the former Yugoslavia.

Chernobyl has acutely raised the question of the necessity for introducing international regulations and organizing international cooperation in case of other global disasters. Even after 10 years Chernobyl still requires the close attention of the international community.

Last December Ukraine and the Group of Seven nations signed a memorandum for the closure of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant by 2000. The international community will have to devote time, money, and expertise to reach this objective. This month's G-7 Summit in Moscow, which was dedicated to nuclear-safety problems, was another important step in this direction.

We appeal to the people of the world to unite in their efforts to assist us in overcoming Chernobyl's consequences. Despite major efforts on the national and international levels, including several United Nations resolutions, there is still much to be done. New, vigorous international efforts are needed to help address victims suffering in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia through the provision of humanitarian and medical assistance and increased scientific cooperation.

Let us hope that we have learned our bitter lessons. Together we should be able to avert technogenic disasters of this kind in the future and make our planet a better place to live. May God save humanity from new Chernobyls.

Serguei N. Martynov, Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus

Yuli M. Vorontsov, Ambassador of the Russian Federation

Yuri M. Shcherbak, Ambassador of Ukraine


Protecting journalistic integrity

I applaud the editorial "Protecting Journalists," March 29. The notion of protecting journalists against violence should be extended to include protecting journalistic integrity and sheltering journalists from corporate influence.

As depicted in the cartoon of the same issue, journalism is increasingly becoming a major industry, focusing on its sales and its future. The history of journalism has more to do with presenting information to raise public awareness and increase social participation than with the current trend of entertaining audiences with certain "hot" stories, such as the O.J. Simpson trial, which guarantee sales but do little to inform the public.

As citizens of a democracy we should remain mindful of the necessity of promoting journalistic integrity and leave selling products to advertisers.

D. Grey Jensen

Columbia, Mo.

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