The explosion of the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine, 24 years ago showed graphically the need to strengthen the safety and security of nuclear material and power plants, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday.
Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are organising a conference in April 2011, the 25th anniversary of the accident, to review progress in restoring normal life in regions affected by the nuclear disaster.
Those three countries have been calling for international health and decontamination assistance since the Chernobyl meltdown, when radioactive fallout drifted over vast regions in then Soviet Union and some of its satellite republics, Western and Eastern Europe.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and World Health Organisation (WHO), participants in the Chernobyl Forum, reported in 2005 'fewer than 50' direct deaths and estimated there would be thousands of cancer deaths among the hundreds of thousands of people exposed to the radioactive plume.
But others believe the numbers are greater. A report by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko which appeared in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science showed that by 2004, there were 985,000 additional deaths worldwide caused by the nuclear disaster, including 212,000 of them within Western Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
The Chernobyl forum is intended as a platform to debate the consequences of the nuclear disaster April 26, 1986.
'One of the most important global lessons of the Chernobyl disaster is the importance of strengthening the safety and security of nuclear material and facilities,' Ban said in a message.
'The UN stands ready to do everything in its power to further the region's revival,' Ban said, He called on the international community to support the full recovery of regions contaminated by radio-active material.