Government financial and medical assistance provided to victims of the Chernobyl disaster and procedures and criteria for recognition of victims [UKR33245.E]

Various reports indicate that assistance was provided to both victims of Chernobyl and to persons involved in cleanup activities in the days and years following the 1986 disaster. These latter persons are known as "liquidators."

A 1995 report "prepared under the aegis of the Committee on Radiation Protection and Public Health (CRPPH) of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), [which] presents a collective view by OECD radiation protection experts on this matter" contains general comments on issues related to this Response. For example, with regard to measures taken, including testing and data collection, the OECD wrote:

Within the territory of the former Soviet Union, short-term countermeasures were massive and, in general, reasonably timely and effective. However, difficulties emerged when the authorities tried to establish criteria for the management of the contaminated areas on the long term and the associated relocation of large groups of population. Various approaches were proposed and criteria were applied over the years. Eventually, criteria for population resettlement or relocation from contaminated areas were adopted in which radiation protection requirements and economic compensation considerations were intermingled. This was and continues to be a source of confusion and possible abuse. ...
Early in the development of the Chernobyl accident, it became obvious that the radioiodines were contributing significant thyroid doses (Il90), especially to children, and the then Soviet authorities made every effort not only to minimise doses, but also to record the thyroid doses as accurately as possible. ... A determined effort was made to estimate doses, record the data, initiate medical examinations and follow the cohorts already identified as being most at risk.
In Ukraine, more than 150,000 examinations were conducted by special dosimetric teams, and a realistic estimate of the collective thyroid dose of 64,000 person-Sv [sic] has been made, leading to a projection of 300 additional thyroid cancers (Li93a). ...
The problem in the early phase of an accident is that the countermeasures designed to avoid human exposure are of a restrictive nature and often have to be imposed immediately, even before the levels of contamination are actually measured and known. These measures include the cessation of field work, of the consumption of fresh vegetables, of the pasturing of animals and poultry, and also the introduction of uncontaminated forage. Unfortunately, these measures were not introduced immediately and enhanced the doses to humans in Ukraine (Pr95) (Nov. 1995).

The report mentions the social and psychological impact of the disaster:

The accident has caused disruption of social networks and traditional ways of life. As most inhabitants of the contaminated settlements are native to the area and often have lived there all their lives, relocation has in many cases, destroyed the existing family and community social networks, transferring groups to new areas where they may well be resented or even ostracised. In spite of these drawbacks, about 70 per cent of the people living in contaminated areas wished to be relocated (IA91). This may well be influenced by the economic incentives and improved living standards that result from relocation by the government.
There are two additional circumstances and events which have tended to increase the psychological impact of the accident, the first of which was an initiative specifically designed to alleviate these effects in Ukraine. This was the introduction of the compensation law in Ukraine in 1991. Some three million Ukrainians were affected in some way by the post-accident management introduced, upon which approximately one sixth of the total national budget was spent (Du94). Different surveys have shown a general feeling of anxiety in all sectors of the population, but it was particularly acute among those who had been relocated. People were fearful of what the future might bring for themselves and their offspring, and were concerned about their lack of control over their own destiny (ibid.).

The degree of contamination from radionuclides is the basis upon which zones are defined. These are described by the Chernobyl Liquidators Project (CLP) and other sources as "all zones are not one continuous area but are geographically separated areas and defined by contaminated levels rather than distance from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant" (CLP n.d.; OECD NEA Nov. 1995; Imanaka 1998; Grodzinsky 1998; Zgersky 1998). The measure used is that of the surface contamination of the radionuclide caesium-137, expressed by some as Ci/km2 [137Ci] (ibid.; Imanaka 1998; Grodzinsky 1998; Zgersky 1998). The four identified zones had concentrations of above 40 Ci/km2, 15-40 Ci/km2, 5-15 Ci/km2, and 1-5 Ci/km2 (ibid.; Imanaka 1998; Grodzinsky 1998).

The four zones have become known, in a descending order of concentrations of 137Ci. as:

The permanent eviction zone (or the confiscated/closed zone or the exclusion zone) ... The eviction zone (or the permanent control zone or the compulsory control zone or the zone of evacuation) ... The non-obligatory eviction zone (or the periodic control zone or the non-compulsory eviction zone or the zone of habitation with the right to resettlement) ... The zone of residence with beneficial socio-economical conditions (or the unnamed zone of the zone of habitation with preferential socio-economic status) (n.d.).

These definitions of the zones are corroborated by Milan Zgersky of the Moscow State Law Academy in writing on "the legal status of contaminated territories in the Ukraine" (1998).

Andrew Gregovorich, writing in FORUM Ukrainian Review provides a description of the first of these zones:

The zone is an area of 1,104 square miles centered on the nuclear plant site which has been evacuated of all its population. A circle of 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) in radius was established around the power plant which is located between the city of Chornobyl to the south and Pripyat which is north of it. A total of about 135,000 people, including 45,000 from the modern city of Pripyat, and from dozens of smaller towns and villages were evacuated from this area soon after the accident. This area of 2,827 square kilometers is guarded by police and military men but a few people, mostly older women, have returned to their old homes to live within the prohibited ZONE. It is uncertain how long the population will be excluded from the ZONE probably centuries. There are also a few thousand workers who are still operating Units 1 and 3 of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (Spring 1996).

This zone is also known as the "30 km zone" (Imanaka 1998; Grodzinsky 1998; OECD Nuclear Energy Agency Nov. 1995)

In terms of the size of these different zones in Ukraine, Imanaka, who is with the Research Reactor Institute at Kyoto University in Japan, states that the zone of above 40 Ci/km2 [permanent eviction zone] is 600 km2, the zone of 15-40 Ci/ km2 [eviction zone] is 900 km2, the zone of 5-15 Ci/ km2 [non-obligatory eviction zone] is 3,200 km2, while that of 1-5 Ci/ km2 [zone of residence] is 37,200 (1998). Slightly different figures for the size of the zones are provided by Grodzinsky, who is with the Institute of Cell Biology and Genetic Engineering at the National Academy of Sciences in Ukraine (1998). While Gregovorich refers to a "few people" returning to the 30 km zone [permanent eviction zone] (n.d.), as does the NEA (Nov. 1995), and Imanaka states that there were no people living in areas of above 40 Ci/km2 [permanent eviction zone] as of 1 January 1995, Grodzinsky writes, based on data dated 1993 and 1995, that there were 19,200 persons living in such contaminated zones in Ukraine (1998).

The same discrepancy in population figures for the remaining zones exists: 1,732,000 and 1,227,300 in the zone of residence; 653,000 - 204,230 in the non-obligatory eviction zone; and 19,000 - 29,700 in the eviction zone (Imataka 1998; Grodzinsky 1998).

Using a different measure of concentration of caesium-137 based on kilobecquerels per square metre (kBq/m2) the NEA writes that:

The three main spots of contamination resulting from the Chernobyl accident have been called the Central, Bryansk-Belarus, and Kaluga-Tula-Orel spots (Figure 4). The Central spot was formed during the initial, active stage of the release predominantly to the West and North-west (Figure 5). Ground depositions of caesium-137 of over 40 kilobecquerels per square metre [kBq/m2] covered large areas of the Northern part of Ukraine and of the Southern part of Belarus. The most highly contaminated area was the 30-km zone surrounding the reactor, where caesium-137 ground depositions generally exceeded 1,500 kBq/m2 (Ba93) (Nov. 1995).

Please consult the attached maps from this report for a visual orientation of the location of these spots. Map "A" shows the central spot referred to above, while Map "B" shows the spots, identified as "C," "B," and "K" (ibid.).

The NEA report states that the Supreme Soviet set up a special commission which established criteria pertaining to these contaminated zones and that:

large areas were contaminated mainly by caesium-137 and a ground contamination level by this radionuclide of 1,480 kBq/m2 was used as the intervention criterion for permanent resettlement of population, and of 555 to 1,480 kBq/m2 for temporary relocation.
People who continued to live in the heavily contaminated areas were given compensation and offered annual medical examinations by the government. Residents of less contaminated areas are provided with medical monitoring. Current decisions on medical actions are based on annual doses. Compensation is provided for residents whose annual dose is greater than 1mSv. The use of locally produced milk and mushrooms is restricted in some of these areas. Relocation is considered in Russia for annual doses above 5 mSv. ...
Among the population of the former Soviet Union, it is usual to single out the residents of the contaminated areas, defined as those with caesium-137 deposition levels greater than 37 kBq/m2. About 4 million people live in those areas. Of special interest are the inhabitants of the spots with caesium-137 deposition levels greater than 555 kBq/m2. In those areas, called "strict control zones", protection measures are applied, especially as far as control of consumption of contaminated food is concerned.
Early after the accident, the All-Union Dose Registry (AUDR) was set up by the Soviet Government in 1986 to record medical and dosimetric data on the population groups expected to be the most exposed: (1) the liquidators, (2) the evacuees from the 30-km zone, (3) the inhabitants of the contaminated areas, and (4) the children of those people. In 1991, the AUDR contained data on 659,292 persons. Starting from 1992, national registries of Belarus, Russian Federation, and Ukraine replaced the AUDR.

Writing in 1998, Zgersky provides information on legislation of the Soviet Union, as well the Ukraine with respect to Chernobyl:

First legislation during the period of USSR
The first attempts in the USSR to find legal settlement of the ecological and other problems caused by Chernobyl were bylaws adopted jointly by the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) Central Committee and the Council of Ministers of the USSR (the CPSU Central Committee was considered an authority). A Decree of the CPSU Central Committee and the Council of Ministers of the USSR, adopted 12 days after the accident - on the 7th of May 1986 - "On terms of payment and material provision of employees of enterprises and organisations in the Chernobyl NPP zone" has become the first document regulating the relations between the USSR government and the Chernobyl NPP.
For the first time since nuclear energy was put into use in the USSR some decades ago, the Ministry of Nuclear Power was founded. Along with its creation a legal subject had appeared, which could bear the responsibility for the activity in the sphere of "peaceful atom" implementation.
A number of other joint decrees by the CPSU Central Committee and the Council of Ministers of the USSR have been adopted in 1987-1988, that were aimed at solving various problems to liquidate the consequences of the severe accident. Only four years after the catastrophe, on the 25th of April 1990, the first decree on Chernobyl has been adopted directly by the legislative body of the country - the Supreme Soviet of the USSR - "On a comprehensive programme to liquidate the consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl NPP, and the situation related to this accident." This decree also authorised the first State Union-republican programme of immediate measures to liquidate the consequences of the accident for 1990-1992. The decree assigned the Council of Ministers of the USSR for a duty "to draft the Law on the Chernobyl Catastrophe and put it in to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in the fourth quarter of 1990. To define in the Law the legal status of the catastrophe victims, the participants of the accident consequences liquidation and persons involved in the activities in the affected area, as well as those subject to involuntary resettlement; legal regime of the disaster area; discipline of population residence and activities; military service; formation and functioning of state administrative bodies and public organisations in the affected area".
However, none of these measures have been implemented in time. A year later, in the next decree by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from the 9th of April 1991, "On course of implementation of the decree by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from the 25th of April 1990 'On a comprehensive programme to liquidate the consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl NPP, and the situation related to this accident'", it was mentioned that "there has been no possibility at present to adopt the Law on Chernobyl Catastrophe and the Law on Nuclear Energy Use and Nuclear Safety due to the delay in submitting the drafts of these laws."
Only in 1991, five years after the accident in Chernobyl, fully adequate legislative acts regulating the responsibility of the government for the damage inflicted to the citizens as a result of the activities of a nuclear enterprise have been adopted in the USSR. These are: the Law of Belorussian SSR - "On Social Protection of Citizens Affected by the Catastrophe at the Chernobyl NPP" from the 12th of February 1991, the Law of the Ukrainian SSR - "On Status and Social Protection of Citizens Affected by the Accident at the Chernobyl NPP", the Law of Russian Federation - "On Social Protection of Citizens Affected by Radiation in Consequence of the Accident at the Chernobyl NPP" from the 15th of May 1991, as well as the federal Law - "On Social Protection of Citizens Who Suffered in Consequence of the Chernobyl Catastrophe" which was adopted on the 12th of May 1991. These laws applied to the affected population as can be seen even from the names. They tackled with ecological problems only indirectly. However, in comparison to the legal vacuum that in fact existed during five years after Chernobyl, these laws were a significant step forward.
The scales of the Chernobyl catastrophe and the ecological damage were the initial motivation, especially for scientists and lawyers, on the base of which the first laws were adopted in Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia, allowing to solve the social and ecological problems of the Chernobyl. This is all the more important event as nobody has ever faced this kind of problems so far. Dozens of other nuclear accidents in the United States of America (Three Mile Island), England (Windscale), and in other states by no means could be compared to the global consequences of the release in Chernobyl.
Legal status of contaminated territories in the Ukraine
The first Law, "On the Legal Regime of the Territories Exposed to Radioactive Contamination in Consequence of the Catastrophe at the Chernobyl NPP" was adopted in the Ukraine on the 27th of February 1991 (with further alterations and amendments introduced by the Law from the 17th of December 1991 and the Law from the 1st of July 1992). This law has given definitions to the territories affected by radioactive contamination after the explosion at the Chernobyl NPP for the first time, as well as the definition of the territory radioactive contamination zone categories.
Depending on the landscape and geochemical properties of soils, the values of excess of natural pre-accident radionuclide accumulation level in the environment, rates of possible negative effect on the health of the population, requirements on implementation of population radiation protection and other special measures, considering the general industrial, social and domestic relations, the territories affected as a result of the Chernobyl catastrophe are divided into zones.

For further information on Ukranian legislation pertaining to Chernobyl please consult the attached document written by Oleg Nasvit of the Institute of Hydrobiology at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (1998).

For information on the social problems of Chernobyl victims and "state activities to resolve the problems of sufferers" please consult the attached document written by Volodymyr Tykhyi of the Environmental Education and Information Center in Ukraine.

For other information on Chernobyl and "the procedure for organizing and conducting sociomedical examination of disability cases" signed by the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers, please consult UKR31063.E of 8 March 1999.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Chernobyl Liquidators Project. n.d. "The USSR and Russian Legal Definition of a Chernobyl Liquidator." This project is a "collaborative project between University of Salzburg, Austria and St.Bartholomew's and the Royal London Hospital School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London." [Accessed 1 Dec. 1999]

FORUM Ukrainian Review (Scranton, PA). Spring 1996. No. 94. Andrew Gregorovich. "Chornobyl Nuclear Catastrophe: Ten Years After April 26, 1986." [Accessed 1 Dec. 1999]

Grodzinsky, Dmytro M. [Institute of Cell Biology and Genetic Engineering, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine]. 1998. "General Situation of the Radiological Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident in Ukraine." [Accessed 1 Dec. 1999]

Imanaka, Tetsuji [Research Reactor Institute, Kyoto University]. 1998. " Research Activities of the Nuclear Safety Research Group of KURRI with Belarussian, Russian and Ukrainian Colleagues about the Chernobyl Accident." [Accessed 1 Dec. 1999]

Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). November 1995. Chernobyl Ten Years On: Radiological and Health Impact; An Assessment by the NEA Committee on Radiation Protection and Public Health. [Accessed 1 Dec. 1999]

Zgersky, Milan [Moscow State Law Academy]. 1998. "Legal Regime of the Chernobyl Problems in the USSR, Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine." [Accessed 1 Dec. 1999]


Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). November 1995. Maps "A" and "B". [Accessed 1 Dec. 1999]

Nasvit, Oleg [Institute of Hydrobiology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine]. 1998. "Legislation in Ukraine About the Radiological Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident." [Accessed 1 Dec. 1999]

Tykhyi, Volodymyr [Environmental Education and Information Center, Ukraine]. 1998. "Chernobyl Sufferers in Ukraine and Their Social Problems: Short Outline." [Accessed 1 Dec. 1999]