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Life as a liquidator after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster

 

Hard duty in the Chernobyl zone,  Life as a liquidator after the 1986 nuclear disaster

Cathie Sullivan, a New Mexico activist, worked with Chernobyl liquidator, Natalia Manzurova, during three trips to the former Soviet Union in the early 2000s. Natalia was one of 750,000 Soviet citizens sent to deal with the Chernobyl catastrophe. Natalia is now in her early 60s and has long struggled with multiple health issues. She was treated last year for a brain tumor that was found to be cancerous. A second tumor has since been found and funds were recently raised among activists around the world to help with the costs of this latest treatment. Natalia and Cathie together authored a short book, “Hard Duty, A woman’s experience at Chernobyl” describing Natalia’s harrowing four and a half years as a Chernobyl liquidator. What follows is an excerpt from that book with some minor edits.

By Natalia Manzurova

When I tell people that I was at Chernobyl they often ask if I had to go. My training is in radiation biology and I was born in a city that was part of the secret Soviet nuclear weapons complex, much like Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the first A-bomb was built. People from my city considered it a duty to go to Chernobyl, just as New York City firefighters went to the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Because of the radiation danger to women of child-bearing age, those under 30 did not go, but being 35 in 1987, I began my 4.5 years of work at Chernobyl. ………..

Sad experiences

In 1987, when I first arrived at Chernobyl, my group of about 20 scientists from the Ozyersk radio-ecology lab started a Department of Environmental Decontamination and Re-Cultivation. We used a 10-acre greenhouse complex for our plant studies, built before the accident, and for office space we used an empty, nearby kindergarten……..

Like many liquidators I ‘wear’ a ‘Chernobyl necklace’, the scar on the lower throat from thyroid-gland surgery.* While working in the exclusion zone I experienced slurred speech, memory loss and poor balance. One of my bosses and I realized that we were forgetting appointments and obligations and agreed to help each other remember who, what, where and when. I had severe amnesia for a time and read letters I wrote my mother to help fill in forgotten years.

The Chernobyl accident is not over, in fact its damaging effects on people and the land will only taper off slowly for generations—lingering harm that is almost certainly unique to nuclear accidents.

Natalia Manzurova, with fellow Russian activist, Nadezhda Kutepova, was awarded the 2011 Nuclear-Free Future Award in the category of Resistance.

Print copies of Hard Copy are available from Cathie Sullivan. Please email her at: cathiesullivan100@gmail.com. more  https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2019/04/21/hard-duty-in-the-chernobyl-zone/

April 22, 2019 - Posted by | employment, PERSONAL STORIES, social effects, Ukraine

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