Kate Brown, author of Manual for Survival: Before expanding nuclear power to combat climate change, we need answers to the global health effects of radioactivity. In 1986, the Soviet minister of hydrometeorology, Yuri Izrael, had a regrettable decision to make. It was his job to track radioactivity blowing from the smoking Chernobyl reactor in the hours after the 26 April explosion and deal with it. Forty-eight hours after the accident, an assistant handed him a roughly drawn map. On it, an arrow shot north-east from the nuclear power plant, and broadened to become a river of air 10 miles wide that was surging across Belarus toward Russia. If the slow-moving mass of radioactive clouds reached Moscow, where a spring storm front was piling up, millions could be harmed. Izrael’s decision was easy. Make it rain. So that day, in a Moscow airport, technicians loaded artillery shells with silver iodide. Soviet air force pilots climbed into the cockpits of TU-16 bombers and made the easy one-hour flight to Chernobyl, where the reactor burned. The pilots circled, following the weather. They flew 30, 70, 100, 200km – chasing the inky black billows of radioactive waste. When they caught up with a cloud, they shot jets of silver iodide into it to emancipate the rain. Before we enter a new nuclear age, the declassified Chernobyl health records raise questions that have been left unanswered about the impact of chronic low doses of radioactivity on human health. What we do know is that as fallout from bomb tests drifted down mostly in the northern hemisphere, thyroid cancer rates grew exponentially. In Europe and North America, childhood leukaemia, which used to be a medical rarity, increased in incidence year by year after 1950. Australia, hit by the fallout from British and French tests, has one of the highest incidence rates of childhood cancer worldwide. An analysis of almost 43,00 men in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, showed that sperm counts dropped 52% between 1973 and 2011.
Guardian 4th April 2019 read more »