The Polish government has agreed with the Soviet Union to work out new procedures for providing warnings about environmental hazards following "differences in the way of responding to certain facts" during the Chernobyl nuclear accident, spokesman Jerzy Urban said today.
The announcement was the strongest indication by a governmental official here of discrepancies between the two Warsaw Pact allies in the wake of the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl that struck Poland following the disaster.
Both the Soviet Union and Poland have been criticized for failing to provide timely information about the accident and subsequent radiation levels. However, Polish officials have been relatively more open in reports on the crisis and adopted a number of public safety steps last week that may have added to Soviet embarrassment over the disaster, Western diplomats said.
There has been widespread speculation here that Poland either was not informed about the nuclear plant explosion until radioactive clouds had already reached the country, or that Warsaw was constrained from announcing safety measures until the Soviet Union reported the incident more than two days after its occurrence.
Urban, at his weekly press conference today, refused to say when Polish authorities had been informed by Moscow about the explosion at Chernobyl. However, he said, Polish and Soviet officials meeting in Warsaw yesterday had agreed "to more precisely define" emergency standards that have "not been precise enough until now."
"These standards should be set and informative procedures set up," Urban said. He added: "There is not a lack of standards, but differences in the way of responding to certain facts."
The agreement to review procedures was made during a meeting of Polish Deputy Prime Minister Zbigniew Szalajda, the head of a government commission that monitors radioactive fallout, and a Soviet delegation led by Valentin Sokolovsky, the chief of environmental protection on the state committee for science and technology, Urban said.
Urban also said that Poland would not seek compensation from the Soviet Union for losses suffered as a result of the accident, which caused radiation levels to increase by as much as 500 percent above normal and contaminated milk supplies in northeastern Poland. He said no significant economic losses would result from the crisis, even if West European countries decided on a temporary boycott of food imports from Poland.
Urban and Adam Rodovicz, the deputy chief of the government's nuclear energy agency, said air contamination in Poland had never been a health hazard. However, they refused to reveal figures for cumulative radioactive fallout in the hardest-hit areas of Poland.
Urban said that high radiation readings were not reported in order to avoid "unnecessary reactions." He said all public warnings about the radiation cloud over Poland were delayed because "these measurements had to be analyzed."