Chernobyl

On 26th April 1986 reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power station underwent catastrophic failure, spewing radioactivity into the environment for 10 or so days. The radiological consequences applied throughout most of Europe, extending as far afield as Britain and Scandinavia. Locally, in the regions of the Ukraine, Russian and Belarus, the radiological situation was very severe, in fact so bad necessitating the immediate evacuation of ninety thousand or more population from towns and villages nearby the stricken Chernobyl nuclear power plant and, as time passed, whole settlements were evacuated, demolished and ploughed into the ground, and more and more stringent controls over foodstuffs and agricultural were imposed. Today the town of Pripyat, once home to 50,000, remains deserted along with the villages and settlements of the Exclusion Zone with the zone itself remaining evacuated save for about 7,500 people who continue to work there.

The Chernobyl catastrophe released one hundred times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet many seem to just dismiss the accident as a part of history and forget what large doses of radiation actually do to human lives. Sadly, focussing solely on the disputed statistics of Chernobyl has dehumanised what happened. The effects of Chernobyl touched millions of people and thousand still endure very visible and painful effects.

Chernobyl became the infamous nuclear accident that devastated the lives of millions of people in Western Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. 25 years on, and the nightmare for thousands of people is still frightening. Greenpeace tells the stories of just a few of those thousands, to bring to light the reality of nuclear energy.

Below are some of the reports produced for the 25th anniversary of the catastrophe and since.

Health Effects of Chernobyl 25 Years after the Reactor Catastrophe, IPPNW Germany, April 2011. This paper evaluates studies that contain plausible indications of health damage caused by the Chernobyl catastrophe. The authors of this paper attach importance to the selection of methodically accurate and comprehensible analyses. Due to the already mentioned methodical difficulties, it is not our aim to present the “right” statistics in contrast to the obviously wrong ones given by the IAEA, since these can never be found. They can only supply us with indications as to the diversity and extent of the health effects we should be dealing with when we talk about the health effects of Chernobyl.

German Affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and German Society for Radiation Protection (GfS) Literature Review Health Effects of Chernobyl 20 years after the reactor catastrophe.

The Other Report on Chernobyl (TORCH) by Dr Ian Fairlie and Dr David Sumner. Greens/EFA April 2006 An Independent scientific evaluation of health and environmental effects 20 years after the nuclear disaster providing critical analysis of a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Chernobyl Catastrophe: Consequences on Human Health, Greenpeace 18th April 2006. Any description which attempts to present the consequences of Chernobyl as a single estimate of excess cancer deaths will inevitably provide a gross oversimplification of the extent of human suffering experienced. In any case the evidence presented here suggests that official estimates may greatly underestimate the scale of impacts.

Chernobyl: A nuclear catastrophe 20 years on by Large & Associates, Greenpeace 24th April 2006. This review considers Chernobyl as it is today and how it might be in future decades. It gives regard to past decisions on how to isolate and cope with the radioactivity and contamination, and it reviews the present approach to management and remediation being undertaken or at various stages of planning for future years.

Fallout: the Legacy of Chernobyl  BBC Radio 4 programme broadcast on April 26 and May 1 2011 Comments by Dr Ian Fairlie.

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Published: 26 October 2012
Last updated: 6 December 2012