Archive for the ‘Chernobyl’ Category
Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
April 5, 2011
By William Tucker
Will "shunning" become the biggest health problem from Fukushima?â€¨â€¨
One of the lessons of Chernobyl has been that the psychological effects of being involved in a nuclear accident are worse than the physical effects. The UN 2005 report found that although there had been only limited physical harm to people in the surrounding region, they had suffered severe psychological depression from the sense that something awful had occurred to them to ruin their lives.â€¨â€¨
Part of this is self-imposed, of course, but part also stems from the reaction of other people. One common response is that people who are affected by the accident are carriers of some kind of contagion – that they are "radioactive" and therefore to be avoided. In a recent article in the New York Post, Natassia Astrasheuskaya, who was born in Belarus in 1989, says she has spent her entire life being identified as a "Child of Chernobyl," a label that is not entirely flattering. Astrasheuskaya herself seems to have accepted part of that stigma in that she has an enlarged thyroid and attributes it to the accident. Yet she was born three years after the accident and it is unlikely that the radioactive iodine, which has a half-life of only eight days, could have contributed to her condition.
â€¨â€¨Now nations around the world are starting to react to Fukushima with the response that Japan has somehow become tainted and the best thing to do is stay away. Twenty-five countries have already imposed bans on food imports from Japan, extending to such things as cookies and chocolate (the Philippines). There are reports of people on the West Coast of America refusing to eat Japanese food. This is ridiculous. The Japanese are carefully monitoring milk, spinach and other immediately affected products for their own population. Fish will be examined as well. In any case, the levels of contamination already found are well below any matter of concern. The most serious contamination, once again, will be I-131 and that will disappear within two months.
â€¨â€¨It will be important to monitor radioactivity in food substances and the Japanese are aoready doing a very good job. But the world should avoid piling on and turning a very conscientious nation into a a pariah. One of the best ways to support nuclear power and provide relief for the earthquake-devastated nation will be to eat out at a Japanese restaurant.
Read more about it at Kyodo News
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
March 23, 2011
If you’ve got lemons, make lemonade. That’s the approach the Russians are taking as they confront the threat posed by Fukushima to their $20 billion-a-year nuclear export industry.
Much to the affront of The New York Times, Russian scientists are claiming that their experience with Chernobyl 25 years ago has made them more safety conscious in marketing their reactors and uranium supplies to the rest of the world. In interviewing Leonid A. Bolshov, a Russian physicist who won a Soviet hero’s medal for improvising an on-the-sport core-catcher during the Chernobyl crisis, the Times reports: “Like many others involved in his country’s nuclear power industry, Mr. Bolshov, 64, expresses what to some ears may sound like a jarringly opportunistic sales pitch: that Chernobyl was the hard-earned experience that made Russia the world’s most safety-conscious nuclear proponent.”
But then the Russians have a lot at stake. Even as Fukushima was suffering a meltdown, Rosatom was signing an agreement with Belarus to provide the former satellite with a $9 billion reactor. The Russian nuclear company also has a $20 billion deal to build four reactors for Turkey and sales of uranium amount to another $3 billion annually. The Russians now provide 17 percent of the world’s uranium and are aiming to raise this to 25 percent by 2025.
The Times digs up a Norwegian environmentalist who complains, “They promote this technology only because it engages the enormous military nuclear industry left over from Soviet times.” But a more sensible interpretation would be that the Russians are becoming adept at capitalism and know an economic opportunity when they see one.
Read more about it at the New York Times
Friday, September 24th, 2010
Chernobyl, the scene of the world’s worst nuclear power accident, has become a tourist attraction, drawing thousands of curious on-lookers every year.
The standard viewing includes a trip to the perimeter of the reactor, where radiation levels are still 35 times normal background. After that there is a tour through the ghost town of Pripyat, two miles distant, where 50,000 people were evacuated shortly after the disaster, never to return. Like a modern-day Pompeii, the village is almost perfectly preserved from the day its inhabitants fled. Forbes lists it among "the world’s unique places to visit." Last year 7,500 tourists passed through the site in the Ukraine.
Disputes still reign over the death toll from Chernobyl. The UN estimated 60 immediate deaths and said 4,000 additional cancer deaths might occur. Newspaper accounts now regularly cite the 4,000 figure but use it to compare to the numbers from Greenpeace and other organizations that claim anywhere from 75,000 to 125,000 people died from the accident.
Arguments also reign over the condition of wildlife in the "Land of Wolves" – the natural preserve that has sprung up in the surrounding region. Some researchers report severe genetic damage in the thriving wildlife populations while others say show an unusually low incidence of cancer.
As with so much of the other mysteries surrounding Chernobyl, it may be decades before a straight answer emerges.
Read more at Nuclear Power Daily
Monday, August 16th, 2010
The Government of Belarus has now formally outlined plans to bring areas evacuated two and a half decades ago as a result of the Chernobyl accident back into "general use."
The general details are included in a comprehensive piece on the infrastructure published in the linked World Nuclear News article. And although the sources are still a bit sketchy, the government of Belarus is also reportedly making plans to move people back into the Chernobyl evacuation area for permanent residence.
The story first surfaced on July 28 when Dr. Zbigniew Jaworowski, a Polish nuclear scientist who has been a member of UNSCEAR (the United Nations Scientific Committee on Atomic Radiation) since 1973 and served as its chairman from 1980 to 1982, reported from Poland that Belarus had decided to resettle 2,000 “ghost villages” abandoned after the accident in 1986. Dr. Jaworowski estimated that, at 100 people per village, this would involve up to 200,000 people. He reported the news had appeared on Novisti, Interfax, Interia and other Belarusian, Polish and Russian news agencies. The report set off immediate chatter on the American Nuclear Society’s Social Media email tree, however several people expressed suspicion because the story was first reported by less than credible sources.
Nuclear Townhall placed a personal phone call to Dr. Jaworowski’s offices in Warsaw, where he reiterated that the story had appeared on Polish and Russian news sites, although he was unable to supply any specific Internet links. Dr. Jaworowski has long argued that the dangers of radiation exposure in evacuated areas have been wildly exaggerated. He has opined that it was senseless to evacuate regions of Belarus and Russia hundreds of miles from the accident and that only Pripyat, 3 km from the reactor site, should have been emptied as a precaution. He argues that radiation levels in Pripyat are no higher than they are in Warsaw and that only a 0.5 square kilometers around the reactor still poses any danger.
A repopulating in Belarus would still leave broad evacuation areas of Russian and the Ukraine uninhabited. Dr. Jaworowski can be contacted in Poland at: 011-48-22-754-4434 (voice) or 011-48-22-711-7 (fax).
Read more at World Nuclear News
Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
If you thought the harum-scarum style of anti-nuclear reporting was a thing of the past, think again.
In a 2,500-word front-page story entitled “Nuclear Growth Puts Region at Risk,” the Wilmington News Journal has informed readers that “no region in America has so many people living within the overlapping, 50-mile planning areas of so many nuclear power reactors.” The implication, of course, is that all these people will soon be running frantically for the exits as one of these reactors blows up and starts spewing radioactive debris. (Chernobyl is mentioned as the prototype.)
“When threats to human life from a catastrophic accident at Salem [in nearby New Jersey] were last calculated 30 years ago, planners said 100,000 people could quickly die from radiation, with 40,000 more cancer deaths triggered years afterwards. It was among the worst forecasts for any plant in the nation.”
Under sub-headlines such as “A history of danger” and “Wading through the risk,” reporter Jeff Montgomery rounds up the usual suspects – Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists plus leaders of several local opposition groups – to inform readers that danger lurks everywhere while authorities are trying to cover it up.
“For one thing, the NRC drastically discounts the possibility of a meltdown, a kind of catastrophic failure of a nuclear reactor that breaks through tough containment structures, dumps molten fuel into the ground and releases a huge radioactive cloud. The closest the world ever came to a meltdown was at Ukraine’s Chernobyl plant in 1986.”
As you can see, Montgomery also embodies the old anti-nuclear reporter’s capacity for not knowing what he is talking about. A meltdown did occur at neighboring Three Mile Island in 1979 and no one was hurt. The “breakthrough” and “huge radioactive cloud” described is the old “China syndrome” hypothesis, which was discounted by Three Mile Island. Chernobyl, of course, was an entirely different animal – a carbon-moderated reactor with no containment structure that caught fire and burned for four days. But what’s the difference? It’s all “nuclear,” right?
The funny thing is that when Montgomery ventures out into the hinterland to interview those ordinary citizens who are supposed to be scared to death by all this, he finds them remarkably unaffected.
"We can’t go on without developing other sources of energy, including nuclear," says one resident, who has “an almost unbroken view of Salem’s hulking cooling tower.” A second tells him the cooling towers just blend into the background. "Most of the time, you just see it in the distance, with the steam coming out,” he says. “My kids call it the cloud-maker.” A third sums up his view about nuclear in one sentence: “As long as it’s safer than oil.”
Once again, the public is way out in front of the press on this issue. Such a story could have just as easily run under the headline, “Public refuses to be scared by nuclear horror stories.” But how to interpret these results will be the battle that’s fought in the pages of the newspapers and on the websites as the Nuclear Renaissance continues to gain momentum.
Read more at the Wilmington News-Journal