UNSCEAR – United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation
The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) was established in 1955 by Resolution 913 (X) of the United Nations General Assembly as an answer to the wide-spread concern regarding the effects of ionising radiations on health and the environment.
The Committee’s mandate is to assess and report levels of exposure to both natural and artificial ionising radiations and its effects on man and its environment.
For the governments of Member States, the Committee’s estimates provide a scientific basis for evaluating the risks related to radiation and for setting up safety measures. UNSCEAR’s publications are also used by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) to draw up recommendations on the protection of workers, of population and of patients against ionising radiation. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regularly publishes and reviews standards in the fields of nuclear safety and radioprotection based on these ICRP recommendations.
The Committee’s work programme is approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations and typically expends over a 4-5 year period. The Secretariat collects relevant data from the Member States of the United Nations, International Organisations as well as Non-governmental Organisations, and employs experts to analyse the data, study relevant scientific publications and produce scientific evaluation. The data mostly relates to the intensity of ionising radiation, the level of ambient radioactivity and the results of scientific experiments on the effects of ionising radiations on man and its environment.
The Committee also offers research programmes and standards for sampling and instrumentation methods, but also for the measurement of radiations for sample analysis. However, UNSCEAR has no power to set radiation standards or define policies regarding the positive impact or economic aspects of radiation technology; neither does it make recommendation in the field of nuclear testing.
The UNSCEAR Secretariat is based in Vienna. It is works in connection to the United Nations Programme for Environment (UNPE). Every year, the Secretariat submits its scientific studies to in-depth review during the UNSCEAR Session, at the end of which the studies are published.
UNSCEAR currently has 27 members:
Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States of America.
UNSCEAR and the radiological consequences of the Chernobyl accident
Following the Chernobyl accident, UNSCEAR published, among others:
A first account of acute radiation effects on emergency workers and of the global exposures, in 1988
A more detailed assessment of radiation levels and effects from the accident, in 2000
A synthesis report on the health effects of the accident, in 2008; its conclusions draw upon over two decades of experimental and analytic studies on the radiological consequences of the accident on the populations’ health and the environment
A report on optimising the international endeavour to study and to minimise as much as possible the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.
UNSCEAR and the radiological consequences of the Fukushima accident
On December 9th, 2011, nine months after the nuclear accident of the Fukushima-Daiichi facility, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 66/70 which extends the group’s work and approves UNSCEAR’s project to fully evaluate the level and effects of radiation exposure caused by the Fukushima accident. Those activities take place in cooperation with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The report was made available since the beginning of 2014.
France and UNSCEAR
France actively supports UNSCEAR’s activities. The French delegation includes experts that mostly come from the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) and take an active part in the Committee’s work.