Explanation of Position on Agenda Item 52: “Effects of Atomic Radiation”

Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 9, 2021


Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.

The United States is proud to be one of the founding members of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, UNSCEAR. Since 1955, UNSCEAR has facilitated the work of the world’s leading scientists to support the international community’s understanding of the effects of exposure to ionizing radiation. The Committee’s work has served as the scientific basis for evaluating the risk of radiation and establishing and updating best practices and protective measures. UNSCEAR has played an important role in analyzing information after both the Chernobyl accident and the Fukushima disaster, and in examining the risks of radon exposure, including its effects on cancer.

UNSCEAR was expanded to include new members in 1973, in 1986 with the addition of China, and again in 2011. At each stage of this expansion, the United States has emphasized that in contemplating increases in membership we must always consider their effect on UNSCEAR’s ability to carry out its important, technocratic work effectively and efficiently.

The current discussions over expansion of membership began, as members of the Committee know, in 2017. In 2018, the United States expressed concerns regarding the suggested framework of criteria and the indicators for new members of the Scientific Committee. We found the suggested criteria to be insufficient and underscored that the General Assembly should also take into account the impact of further expansion on the effectiveness, efficiency, and quality of work of the Committee, as well as look at the records of the candidate Member States.

UNSCEAR itself has reported longstanding and serious concerns regarding the impact of increased membership on its work. These issues remain core concerns of the United States which we have highlighted in our discussions regarding this resolution and we believe require serious consideration with respect to any further increases in Committee membership. It is clear the Committee cannot be expanded indefinitely without undermining its ability to effectively carry out its critical work. Moving forward, the size of the Committee and the process by which new Committee membership is considered require additional review to ensure any further expansion of membership enhances and supports the Committee’s pivotal, technocratic work. We look forward to continued reporting from the Committee and the Secretary-General in this regard.

Finally, Madam Chairwoman, while the United States joins consensus on the resolution inviting the four observer countries to become members of UNSCEAR, this does not imply U.S. endorsement of the behavior of all four countries. In particular, we note with concern that Iran is joining the Committee while at the same time it continues to act in a manner inconsistent with its nuclear-related commitments. Members of UNSCEAR have a special responsibility to contribute to its important technical work in studying the effects of atomic radiation. We expect all UNSCEAR members to uphold the important work of the Committee, and to contribute as responsible members. UNSCEAR members should not politicize the Committee’s work, and we expect new members to uphold its high standards and contribute constructively to its essential research.

The United States will continue our efforts with the other members of the Committee to support its essential technical work and ensure that all members uphold these important responsibilities.

Thank you.