Belarus anti-nuclear activist fears for ‘another Chernobyl’ on her doorstep Nabeelah Shabbir theguardian.com, Friday 25 July 2014 Tatyana Novikova says new Russian-funded nuclear power plant bypassed official planning regulations and violates international conventions
In 2009, Tatyana Novikova bought a wooden house near the border between Belarus and Lithuania. She chose the area carefully, she says. It’s next to a lake, untouched by industry and – crucially for the mathematician who worked on contamination models in the aftermath of Chernobyl – unaffected by the fallout from the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986.
But six months after she bought her dream home, Belarus announced that a new nuclear power station, financed by Russia, would be built nearby in Ostrovets.
“I’m completely devastated,” says Novikova, who says the government bypassed official planning regulations, ignored safety concerns and failed to carry out an adequate environmental impact assessment for the plant.
Her experience with Chernobyl, when radioactive contamination forced around 350,000 people to leave their homes and led to an unknown number of deaths, have left her cautious about nuclear power and distrustful of government safety promises.
“Another Chernobyl cannot happen,” she says.
Novikova has appealed to international environmental authorities to try to stop the NPP project, without any success. In the meantime authorities have already started work on construction.
“The problem is that [Belarusian president Alexander] Lukashenko does not give his citizens a voice,” she says.
In a country which does not tolerate activism or public protest – the annual Chernobyl anniversary marches she organises often end in arrests – Novikova has taken her opposition abroad.
She is in London to raise awareness about the issue and hopes to spur the EU to put pressure on Belarus, as the plant would be 60km from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.
A group of Belarusian activists, including the theatre company Belarus Free Theatre, have launched a petition against the power station – and have won support from some high-profile figures:
Another Chernobyl?! No thanks! Join me – sign petition to block dodgy new nuclear plant in Belarus http://chn.ge/1pNrmGO
The petition cites several problems with the plant:
- Construction was started before design plans were in place, and before a license had been issued
- The design is experimental and has not been properly tested
- An assessment by more that 50 independent experts found gaping holes in the government’s environmental impact assessment
Novikova says the plans flaunt international regulations; Belarus is a signatory of the Espoo and Aarhus conventions, which specify environmental protections and monitor requirements such as public consultations over construction projects.
She approached the Aarhus committee in Maastricht in June, asking them to prevent the power plant because Belarus had violated the convention by not obtaining official planning permission. The committee came back to her with bad news; they would only issue what she calls a “caution of a caution” to Belarus, believing the government wouldn’t listen anyway. …….http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/25/belarus-anti-nuclear-chernobyl-on-her-doorstep
Belarus anti-nuclear activist fears for ‘another Chernobyl’ on her doorstepNabeelah Shabbir theguardian.com, Friday 25 July 2014 “…………The proposed new plant in Belarus will be funded by Russia. Belarus’s official cost estimate is 9.4 billion US dollars, with one third of this to be spent by 2015. Its reactors would be constructed by the Russian company AtomEnergoMash.
Novikova is critical of the EU for not clamping down on nuclear power in the wake of the Fukishima nuclear disaster of 2011, and points out that some countries are steering away from nuclear energy. “Germany is phasing out of nuclear power; it produced 50% of all electricity generation from more renewable sources last year. The Italians said no in their nuclear referendum.”
Like many Belarusian activists, Novikova has faced severe harassment. She was detained in her own home in Minsk during anti-nuclear protests. Her elderly mother has received prank calls which the police confirmed came from the KGB. In Russia, she was arrested and jailed for five days for trying to hand in an environmental petition to the Russian embassy.
She was also was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2011, and can’t tell if she was contaminated from radiation exposure from Chernobyl. The WHO says the disaster will cause 50,000 new cases of the cancer among young people living in the worst-affected region. Increased rates ofthyroid cancer are also being reported in Japan, post-Fukushima.
But she refuses to dwell on her own problems: “I’m still alive. Mine is not the worst case of persecution of people.”
“What should I do? Stop my fight? I lost my health, now I have lost my house,” she says. “Why should I run from this problem? I could go to the US or Europe, but it won’t change if I run – maybe I will, if my life will be in danger. Nobody knows. Right now, I have an opportunity to do something.”http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/25/belarus-anti-nuclear-chernobyl-on-her-doorstep
After many generations of radiation-caused deaths and deformities, some Chernobyl birds have adapted
Some birds adapt to Chernobyl’s radiation, Sarah Zielinski, 2 May 14, https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/some-birds-adapt-chernobyl%E2%80%99s-radiation On April 26, 1986, the world saw the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history when Unit 4 of the nuclear power station in Chernobyl, Ukraine, was destroyed. The explosion and subsequent fire released radioactive material into the environment that lingers today. The Soviet government closed off a 30-kilometer area around the plant, and hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated, never to return home. Workers are still trying to cap the site with a giant arch that would entomb the remains of the nuclear reactor.
The effects on local plants and wildlife have been varied. Pine trees close to the disaster died in the days soon after. Other plants thrived in the spaces abandoned by humans. Wildlife, too, seemed to be doing well. Rare birds were spotted. A herd of Przewalski’s horses, escaped from captivity, grew. Wolves and boar were seen on the streets of one town.But all was not good. Radiation, after all, is not healthy for living things. And so studies have documented negative effects of Chernobyl’s radiation on the region’s plants and animals, including changes in abundance, distribution, life history and mutation rates. Scientists have found that birds living in the area have eye cataractsor smaller brains. And insects, microbes and other decomposers aren’t behaving normally.
A new study, however, finds that some birds may be adapting to the low levels of radiation that persist around Chernobyl. Thestudy was published April 24 in Functional Ecology.
Ismael Galván of Paris-Sud University and colleagues captured 152 birds representing 16 species from sites within and near the Chernobyl exclusion zone. They took blood samples and analyzed the birds’ levels of antioxidants, how much their DNA had been damaged and their body condition. They also measured the levels of the pigment pheomelanin in the birds’ feathers.
When the researchers compared birds captured in higher radiation areas with those in lower radiation spots, they found something surprising: The birds from the higher radiation zones were generally in better condition, and they had higher levels of antioxidants. These molecules can help cells by stopping the reaction through which ionizing radiation damages DNA.
“To our knowledge, this represents the first evidence of adaptation to ionizing radiation in wild populations of animals,” the researchers write.
Two species, great tits (Parus major) and barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) didn’t follow the pattern and were doing worse in the high radiation locations. These birds had higher levels of pheomelanin in their feathers. Antioxidants are consumed in the production of pheomelanin, so to produce higher levels, the birds would have used up more antioxidants. Perhaps, the researchers write, these birds aren’t left with enough antioxidants to effectively deal with the DNA damage caused by radiation.
However, anyone thinking that this is good news for Chernobyl’s wildlife should think again. “The effects of radiation at Chernobyl on populations of organisms, and for birds in particular,” the researchers write, “have been negative overall.”
Chernobyl’s Steel Radiation Shield Is the Biggest Moving Structure Ever, Gizmodo Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan 29 April 14 (Terrific photos) In the normal world, it’s what you’d call a bad investment: Spending $2 billion to build the largest moveable structure ever—and knowing that it won’t work for longer than 100 years. But in Chernobyl, it’s the best available option for protecting a whole continent from the worst nuclear disaster in history.
Today is the 28th anniversary of the disaster, which killed 31 and subjects hundreds of others to extreme suffering, and left 200 tons of radioactive corium and 16 tons of uranium and plutonium exposed inside the smoking remains of Reactor 4. At the time, heroic workers quickly constructed an ad hoc shelter over the reactor to stop the spew of radioactive material across Ukraine and Western Europe, using 7,000 metric tons of metal and many more tons of concrete. But that shelter—known as the Sarcophagus—was never meant to last. And now, it’s in danger of collapsing.
Enter New Safe Confinement, a project that’s nearly as old as the meltdown it’s designed to contain. It’s a two-pronged plan: First, thousands of workers are constructing a 300-foot-tall steel arch that weighs more than 32,000-tons. Though it’s being built a few hundred meters away from Reactor 4, it’s eventually going to cover it, creating a thick steel cage around the reactor in case it collapses.
But because the area near it is too radioactive for workers to stay there for longer than a few minutes, this huge structure is being built next door—then, very very slowly, it will be slid on teflon-coated tracks to cover the
A number of studies apply that basic method – based on collective radiation doses and risk estimates – and come up with estimates of the Chernobyl cancer death toll varying from 9,000 (in the most contaminated parts of the former Soviet Union) to 93,000 deaths (across Europe).
unqualified claims that the death toll was just 50, should be rejected as dishonest or uninformed spin from the nuclear industry and some of its scientifically-illiterate (in this field if not in others) supporters.
And sadly, that has to include every last one of the self-proclaimed ‘pro-nuclear environmentalists’ – among them James Hansen, Patrick Moore, Mark Lynas, George Monbiot, Stephen Tindale and James Lovelock.
Chernobyl – how many died?, The Ecologist, Jim Green – Nuclear Monitor 26th April 2014“………Fifty immediate deaths
About 50 people died in the immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl accident. Beyond that, studies generally don’t indicate a significant increase in cancer incidence in populations exposed to Chernobyl fallout.
Nor would anyone expect them to because of the data gaps and methodological problems mentioned above, and because the main part of the problem concerns the exposure of millions of people to low doses of radiation from Chernobyl fallout.
For a few fringe scientists and nuclear industry insiders and apologists, that’s the end of the matter – the statistical evidence is lacking and thus the death toll from Chernobyl was just 50.
If they were being honest, they would note an additional, unknown death toll from cancer and from other radiation-linked diseases including cardiovascular disease. Continue reading
Tourism, Construction and an Ongoing Nuclear Crisis at Chernobyl NewsWeek, By Alexander Nazaryan / April 17, 2014 “……..For the most part, the defunct station of reactors (the first went live in 1977; the last, the one that blew, in 1983) looks like a tidy industrial park in central Ohio: shorn green lawns, a smattering of abstract art, half-empty parking lots, a canal rife with fish. Nothing indicates that this is the site of the worst nuclear disaster in human history.
Yet as tourists Instagram away at Pripyat’s ruins, Chernobyl is undergoing one of the most challenging engineering feats in the world, as a French consortium called Novarka tries to replace the aging sarcophagus that contains the reactor, a concrete shell hastily and heroically built in the direct aftermath of the meltdown. The place remains a half-opened tinderbox of potential nuclear horrors, and just because much of the world has forgotten about Chernobyl doesn’t mean catastrophe won’t visit here again……..
“It wouldn’t take much of a seismic event to knock it down,” a civil engineer recently explained to Scientific American. The Federation of American Scientists says, “If the sarcophagus were to collapse due to decay or geologic disturbance, the resulting radioactive dust storm would cause an international catastrophe on par with or worse than the 1986 accident……
Nor is the land surrounding the reactor quite the pristine preserve that some have celebrated in nature-has-triumphed-over-our-thoughtlessness-and-incompetence fashion. Earlier this year, a study by University of South Carolina biologist Timothy Mousseau and others indicated that fallen trees weren’t decomposing because, in Mousseau’s words, “the radiation inhibited microbial decomposition of the leaf litter on the top layer of the soil,” turning the ground into a vast firetrap at whose center sits the aged sarcophagus.
So, at best, Chernobyl is merely dormant. To extend that dormancy for a lot longer, Novarka was contracted in 2007 to build the New Safe Confinement. Though sometimes described as a gigantic hangar, having seen the NSC, I see it as something more elegant, its hopeful parabolic curves recalling the smooth grace of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. In cross section, it is two layers of steel with a 39-foot layer of latticework in between. Its combined shapes and angles are so fluid and simple, you want to put them on a ninth grade geometry quiz.
Currently being built in two pieces, it will rise 30 stories and weigh 30,000 tons-and cost perhaps as much as $2 billion. When completed, the steel contraption will slide along Teflon rails on top of Reactor No. 4 (a process that will take several days). It is believed to be the largest movable structure on Earth. The NSC will be so enormous that, according to the British technology journal The Engineer, it “is one of a handful of buildings that will enclose a volume of air large enough to create its own weather.”……http://www.newsweek.com/2014/04/25/tourism-construction-and-ongoing-nuclear-crisis-chernobyl-248163.htmlNewsWeek,
Decay takes a holiday: the wickedness beneath the “Chernobyl wild paradise” myth and the rotten implications for ecosystems and radiation science http://www.beyondnuclear.org/russia-ussr/2014/4/18/decay-takes-a-holiday-the-wickedness-beneath-the-chernobyl-w.html 21 April 14
April 26, 2014 will mark 28 years since the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded causing an unprecedented nuclear catastrophe. In a creepy revelation, the forests around Chernobyl are having difficulty decomposing. A recently published study indicates that forest matter in the contaminated areas around Chernobyl is taking years or even decades longer to decay than it should. In the areas with low radiation, 70 to 90 percent of the leaves were gone after a year. Where radiation levels were higher, “leaves retained around 60 percent of their original weight…”(Smithsonian.com) This indicates a fundamental disruption to the natural cycle of death feeding life, and calls into question the forest’s longer-term viability. Creatures responsible for decay such as microbes, fungi and some types of insects, are essential components of any ecosystem because they recycle organic material back into the soil. Unfortunately, they do not function properly in the areas around Chernobyl, leaving a forest full of “petrified-looking pine trees that no longer seem capable of rotting.” GIZMODO
Radiation’s effect on decay processes should be expected, considering how it impacts microbes in food; or considering the results of a bizarre, cavalier and extremely ill-advised series of experiments performed using a “naked reactor” in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. These experiments intentionally irradiated a number of varying materials and forest land 40 miles north of Atlanta, GA. Wood subjected to this radiation was produced in small-scale and called “Lockwood”, for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation who operated the Georgia Nuclear Laboratory. The building and land is still contaminated with radionuclides.
The lack of decomposer activity has researchers worried that nutrients which trees require for grow are not being recycled, causing trees in the area to grow more slowly. Improper plant decay has potential implications for animal decay as well, although there do not appear to be any Chernobyl studies investigating this yet.
Actual in-the-field examinations of regions contaminated by radioactivity from Chernobyl also reveal evidence for increased mutation rates, abnormal sperm with reduced swimming ability, developmental abnormalities, cataracts, tumors, smaller brains in both birds and mammals, and decreased tree growth rates, a finding of fundamental importance for ecosystem functioning that likely relates to effects on the microbial community. Fewer spiders and insects including bees, butterflies and grasshoppers—live there. Animals and plants show other impacts of radiation after the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in the US and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.
Timothy Mousseau, a biologist at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, who collaborated on many of these studies, contends that, fundamentally, this evidence indicates low-dose rate exposures cause significant measurable impacts for the biota inhabiting contaminated regions of Chernobyl. Further, this evidence supports a hypothesis that suggests effects down to very low levels. Further implications for Fukushima should not be ignored.
Humans and animals alike: healthy looking on the outside, disintegrating on the inside
Referencing studies summarized in his book, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, Alexey Yablokov states:
“Wildlife in the heavily contaminated Chernobyl zone sometimes appears to flourish, but the appearance is deceptive,” says Yablokov. “Levels of incorporated radionuclides remain dangerously high for mammals, birds, amphibians, and fish. Long-term observations of both wild and experimental animal populations in the heavily contaminated areas show significant increases in morbidity and mortality that bear a striking resemblance to changes in the health of humans – increased occurrence of tumours and immunodeficiencies, decreased life expectancy, early aging, changes in blood and the circulatory system, malformations, and other factors that compromise health.
“All of the populations of plants, fishes, amphibians and mammals studied there are in poor condition,” he continues. “This zone is analogous to a ‘black hole’, in which there is accelerated genetic degeneration of large animals – some species may only persist there via immigration from uncontaminated areas. The Chernobyl zone is a micro-evolutionary ‘boiler’, where gene pools of living creatures are actively transforming, with unpredictable consequences. We ignore these findings at our peril.”
Dr. Yablokov’s statement deftly presents the dichotomy between what is observed by a dilettante’s eye – such as lots of members in a wild animal population — versus what is actually happening to these members over time. What is happening to this wildlife has parallel implications for human health.
So where did this “paradise for wildlife” and “biodiversity sanctuary” myth come from? In 2006 the International Atomic Energy Agency, a nuclear power promoter and a member body of the United Nations, released a report entitled Environmental Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident and their Remediation: Twenty Years of Experience. This report references the creation of a nature preserve within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and remarks “Without a permanent residence of humans for 20 years, the ecosystems around the Chernobyl site are now flourishing. The CEZ has become a wildlife sanctuary…, and it looks like the nature park it has become.” From another report: “Indeed, the Exclusion Zone has paradoxically become a unique sanctuary for biodiversity.”
The Chernobyl Forum coalition makes this statement in support of “unique biodiversity” in spite of their recognition that “Genetic effects of radiation, in both somatic and germ cells, have been observed in plants and animals of the Exclusion Zone during the first few years after the Chernobyl accident. Both in the Exclusion Zone, and beyond, different cytogenetic anomalies attributable to radiation continue to be reported from experimental studies performed on plants and animals.” They conclude, however, “[w]hether the observed cytogenetic anomalies in somatic cells have any detrimental biological significance is not known.” In order to know this, one has to actually look.
The study summaries compiled by Alexey Yablokov, et al. (studies which had been mostly unavailable in the west until 2009) and the published examinations of researchers Mousseau, et al., indicate rather strongly that there is significant biological detriment to wildlife in the contaminated areas surrounding Chernobyl. And unlike these studies, the Chernobyl Forum documents provide very few references (under ten total) for any claims they make regarding the flourishing of wildlife.
Chernobyl Sarcophagus Jeapordised by Crisis in Ukraine, Sourceable, 15 April 14, The political crisis in Ukraine is severely hampering efforts to build a new radioactive containment structure over the site of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. Efforts to build an immense steel mausoleum to house the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown site are being stymied by the Ukrainian crisis, as channels of funding dry up amidst the country’s political upheaval.
Work on the New Safe Confinement arch (NSC) project first commenced in 2010, with the goal of containing the radioactive contamination produced by Chernobyl for at least a century into the future.
While the project was originally scheduled for completion by 2015, Ukrainian officials now concede that it will be impossible to meet the original timeline as a result of political turmoil, while others question whether or not construction will ever be completed.
The Ukrainian government and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are footing the hefty $2.1 billion bill for the project. The political crisis in Ukraine has left the country starved of cash, however, while also scaring off donor nations and foreign investors.
“In our financial analysis we are of course making the working assumption that it will not receive any money from Ukraine in the near term,” said Vince Novak, director of nuclear safety at the EBRD to trade publication NuclearEngineering……….http://sourceable.net/chernobyl-sarcophagus-jeapordised-by-crisis-in-ukraine/
Children Radiation Maps, Blog by Jan Hemmer April 14, 2012 by Mikkai“………“for 15 years new children were born who, thanks to God, did not experience the first radioactive shock. For 15 years, they have eaten contaminated food. Children receive the highest doses, because the dose coefficients, in a 3 year old child, are 5 times higher than in adults. Contaminate food spreads like locusts In the whole Republic. It is not surprising to find in Minsk, children with a dose load of 700-900 Bq/kg.
I want to draw your attention on the research of Prof. Bandazhevsky. We worked with him. He came to the conclusion that 50 Bq/kg bodyweight in children, represent a threshold where pathologies appear in vital organs like kidneys, liver, heart and others. I want to say that today the health of children is such that if we do not take urgent measures, I cannot see good prospects for our children.” Continue reading
Children Radiation Maps, Blog by Jan Hemmer April 14, 2012 by Mikkai
Published by arclight2011- date 15 Sep 2012 -nuclear-news.net
Accusations: Despite the mockery of the film Borat, leaked U.S. cables suggest the country was undemocratic and used torture in detention
Other dignitaries at the meeting included former Italian Prime Minister and ex-EU Commission President
Romano Prodi. Mr Mittal’s employees in Kazakhstan have accused him of ‘slave labour’ conditions after a series of coal mining accidents between 2004 and 2007 which led to 91 deaths.
Last week a senior adviser to the Kazakh president said that Mr Blair had opened an office in the capital.Presidential adviser Yermukhamet Yertysbayev said: ‘A large working group is here and, to my knowledge, it has already opened Tony Blair’s permanent office in Astana.’
It was reported last week that Mr Blair had secured an £8 million deal to clean up the image of Kazakhstan.
Mr Blair also visited Kazakhstan in 2008, and in 2003 Lord Levy went there to help UK firms win contracts.
Max Keiser talks to investigative journalist and author, Leah McGrath Goodman about her being banned from the UK for reporting on the Jersey sex and murder scandal. They discuss the $5 billion per square mile in laundered money that means Jersey rises, while Switzerland sinks.
And as well as protecting the guilty child sex/torturers/murderers of the island of Jersey I believe that they are also protecting the tax dodgers from any association.. its just good PR!
FORMER Prime Minister Tony Blair was reportedly involved in helping to keep alive the world’s biggest takeover by Jersey-incorporated commodities trader Glencore of mining company Xstrata.
Mr Blair was said to have attended a meeting at Claridge’s Hotel in London towards the end of last week which led to the Qatari Sovereign wealth fund supporting a final revised bid from Glencore for its shareholding. Continue reading
Belarus and Russia sign off on Ostrovets nuclear plant in dubious contract Bellona Charles Digges, 13/10-2011 Russian and Belarusian environmentalists are concerned over a contract agreement signed by the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, for construction of the first two nuclear reactors in the Stalinist country, which was signed earlier this week.
Belarus’s state-owned Directorate for Construction of Nuclear Power Plants signed the contract with Atomstoriexport, the foreign construction wing of the Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, for the construction of a 2400 megawatt plant of the untested AES 2006 (NPP -2006) design.
The site for the plant is in Ostrovets in the Grodno region, close to Lithuania – which has vociferously protested the building of the nuclear power plan. Continue reading
Presidential Decree No. 418 “On the location of a nuclear power station in Belarus” contradicts Article 18 of the country’s constitution, which proclaims Belarus “a neutral country with a nuclear-free territory.”
Activist Sues Belarusian President Over Nuclear Power Plant, Radio Free Europe, October 07, 2011, ASTRAVETS, Belarus — An antinuclear activist in western Belarus is suing President Alyaksandr Lukashenka over plans to build a contentious nuclear power station there, RFE/RL’s Belarus Service reports. Continue reading
Belarus hangs on to enriched uranium cache, Detroit Free Press |Aug 20, 2011, Belarus has frozen a plan aimed at getting the country to give up its Soviet-era stockpile of highly enriched uranium with U.S. assistance in response to new U.S. sanctions, the government said Friday.
The U.S. conducted a longtime effort to secure nuclear materials in former Soviet nations to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
The U.S. and the European Union introduced sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko’s government for its crackdown on a political opposition group…… Belarus hangs on to enriched uranium cache | Detroit Free Press | freep.com
Rep. Dan Burton: 25 Years After Chernobyl, Russia and Belarus Still Don’t Get It, HUFFINGTON POST, 13 June 11“…..a new nuclear power plant set for construction this fall on former Soviet territory raises alarm at how little has been learned.What set Chernobyl apart from Fukushima more than anything else was the way the closed Soviet regime responded to the disaster, remaining in denial for weeks that a catastrophe was unfolding. The same could occur in Belarus, which is currently ruled by an autocratic leader who falsified his own reelection last December. Belarus and Russia’s mishandling of the proposal to build a reactor near Astraviec, a town in western Belarus, is a warning sign the West should not ignore. Again, we see the potential lack of transparency, international coordination, and communication……..
Rep. Dan Burton: 25 Years After Chernobyl, Russia and Belarus Still Don’t Get It
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