The world must prepare for more nuclear accidents on the scale of Chernobyl and Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, the UN chief warned last night.
In a chilling address UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that grim reality will demand sharp improvements in international co-operation.
Mr Ban portrayed the growth of nuclear power plants as inevitable in an energy-hungry world as they spoke at a Kiev conference commemorating the explosion of a reactor at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear reactor 25 years ago.
"To many, nuclear energy looks to be a relatively clean and logical choice in an era of increasing resource scarcity. Yet the record requires us to ask painful questions: have we correctly calculated its risks and costs?" Mr Ban said.
"The unfortunate truth is that we are likely to see more such disasters."
During a brief visit to the explosion earlier in the day, Mr Ban proposed a strategy for improving nuclear energy security worldwide, including strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and devoting more attention to "the new nexus between natural disasters and nuclear safety".
"Climate change means more incidents of freak weather," Mr Ban said in Kiev. "Our vulnerability will only grow."
IAEA head Yukiya Amano, who accompanied Mr Ban, echoed those sentiments.
"Many countries will continue to find nuclear power an important option in the future, and that is why we have to do our utmost to ensure safety," he said, speaking a few hundred yards from the exploded reactor, which is now covered by a hastily erected sarcophagus.
The sarcophagus has gone past its expected service life and work has begun to build a shelter that will be rolled over the building. The new shelter, designed to last 100 years, is expected to be in place by 2015, but a substantial amount of money for the project is still lacking.
The Chernobyl explosion on April 26, 1986, spewed a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
A 19-mile zone from the plant remains uninhabited except for some plant workers and unconcerned locals.
The UN leader said he is calling a summit-level meeting on nuclear safety to be held in September in Geneva.