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Cyber attack targets UK’s nuclear industry

Telegraph UK,   Wil Crisp, 30 NOVEMBER 2019 GCHQ cyber experts have been called in after a digital attack on a major player in Britain’s nuclear power ­industry triggered a security crisis.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), an arm of GCHQ, has been ­secretly providing assistance to a ­nuclear power company in the UK that has struggled to recover after being hit by a cyber attack, The Telegraph can reveal.

A Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) report, obtained using freedom of information legislation, said officials are “aware that an important business in the Nuclear Power Generating Sector has been negatively impacted by a cyber attack and has had to rely on expertise from the NCSC to help them with recovery”.

The document,... (subscribers only) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/11/30/cyber-attack-targets-uks-nuclear-industry/

December 2, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Studies on Chernobyl nuclear disaster show that it’s relevant today, and for the future

DOES CHERNOBYL STILL MATTER? https://www.publicbooks.org/does-chernobyl-still-matter/ 11.22.2019 BY GABRIELLE HECHT  Since it first announced electricity “too cheap to meter,” in the 1950s, the nuclear industry has promised bountiful futures powered by a peaceful—and safe—atom. Design principles, the industry claims, limit the chances of core damage to one incident every 50,000 reactor-years of operation. History, however, has delivered a different verdict: together, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the three Fukushima reactors represent five meltdowns in only 100 reactor-years. What lessons do these accidents hold for the future of nuclear power?

Each meltdown has impelled design, operational, and regulatory changes, increasing the cost of nuclear power. Today, says the industry, the technology is safer and more vital than ever. No other source of electricity can offer so much baseload power with so few carbon emissions. But who can make money when a single US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspection costs $360,000?

For the current US administration, the remedy for waning profits lies in cutting inspection hours. In a July 2019 proposal, which drew heavily on nuclear industry recommendations, the NRC also suggested crediting utility self-assessments as “inspections” and discontinuing press releases about problems of “low to moderate safety or security significance.” Translation: fewer inspections, less transparency, and weaker environmental and health oversight at the nation’s nuclear power plants.

The cause, costs, and consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl accident loom large in these battles. Was Chernobyl a fluke, the result of faulty technology and a corrupt political system? Or did it signal a fundamentally flawed technological system, one that would never live up to expectations?

Even simple questions are subject to debate. How long did the disaster last? Who were the victims, and how many were there? What did they experience? Which branches of science help us understand the damage? Whom should we trust? Such questions are tackled, with markedly different results, in Serhii Plokhy’s Chernobyl, Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl, Kate Brown’s Manual for Survival, and HBO’s Chernobyl (created by Craig Mazin).

Serhii Plokhy’s book and Craig Mazin’s miniseries, both entitled Chernobyl, focus primarily on the accident and its immediate aftermath. Both build on the standard plotline embraced by nuclear advocates.

In this narrative, Soviet love of monumental grandeur—or “gigantomania”—led to the selection and construction of Chernobyl’s RBMK1 design: an enormous 1000-megawatt reactor, powered by low-enriched uranium fuel, moderated by graphite, and cooled by water. The utterly unique RBMK had fundamental design flaws, hidden by corrupt state apparatchiks obsessed with secrecy, prestige, and productivism. Operators made inexcusable errors. The accident was inevitable. But the inevitability, Plokhy and Mazin affirm, was purely Soviet.

Plokhy gives more backstory. The enormous scale of Soviet industrialization put huge strains on supply chains, resulting in shoddy construction. Some of the men in charge had no nuclear background. The pressure to meet production quotas—and the dire consequences of failure—led bureaucrats and engineers to cut corners.

For both Plokhy and Mazin, these conditions at Chernobyl came to a head during a long-delayed safety test.   When the moment to launch the test finally arrived, shortly before midnight on April 25, 1986, there was confusion about how to proceed. The plant’s deputy chief engineer, Anatolii Diatlov, who did have extensive nuclear experience, believed he knew better than the woefully incomplete manuals. He pushed operators to violate the poorly written test protocol. (Disappointingly, Mazin’s miniseries portrays Diatlov more as a deranged bully than as someone with meaningful operational knowledge.)

The reactor did not cooperate: its power plummeted, then shot back up. Operators tried to reinsert the control rods. The manual didn’t mention that the RBMK could behave counterintuitively: in other reactor models, inserting control rods would slow down the fission reaction, but in the RBMK—especially under that night’s operating conditions—inserting the rods actually increased the reactivity. Steam pressure and temperature skyrocketed. The reactor exploded, shearing off its 2000-ton lid. Uranium, graphite, and a suite of radionuclides flew out of the core and splattered around the site. The remaining graphite in the core caught fire.

At first, plant managers didn’t believe that the core had actually exploded. In the USSR—as elsewhere—the impossibility of a reactor explosion underwrote visions of atomic bounty. Nor did managers believe the initial radiation readings, which exceeded their dosimeters’ detection limits. Their disbelief exacerbated and prolonged the harm, exposing many more people to much more radiation than they might have otherwise received. Firefighters lacked protection against radiation; the evacuation of the neighboring town of Pripyat was dangerously delayed; May Day parades proceeded as planned. Anxious to blame human operators—instead of faulty technology or (Lenin forbid!) a broken political system—the state put the plant’s three top managers on trial, in June 1987, their guilt predetermined.

Mazin’s miniseries follows a few central characters. Most really existed, though the script takes considerable liberties. The actions of the one made-up character, a Belarusian nuclear physicist, completely defy credibility. But hey, it’s TV. Dramatic convention dictates that viewers must care about the characters to care about the story. Familiar Cold War tropes are on full display: defective design, craven bureaucrats, and a corrupt, secrecy-obsessed political system. A few anonymous heroes also appear: firefighters, divers, miners, and others who risked their lives to limit the damage.

Nuclear advocates—many of whom believe that Chernobyl was a fluke, one whose lessons actually improved the industry’s long-term viability—object to the unrealistically gory hospital scenes portraying acute radiation sickness. But these advocates should feel appeased by the closing frames, which ignore the long-term damage caused by the accident.

Instead, the miniseries skates over post-1987 events in a few quick captions. The managers went to prison, a scientist committed suicide, people were evacuated. Yes, controversy persists over the number of casualties (31? That was the official Soviet number. How about 4,000? That’s the number issued by the Chernobyl Forum, an entity that includes representatives from the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and other international organizations. As for the 41,000 cancers suggested by a study published in the International Journal of Cancer—that number isn’t even mentioned). But all is under control now, thanks to the new confinement structure that will keep the area “safe” for a hundred years. Mazin himself insists that the show isn’t antinuclear.

Instead, the miniseries skates over post-1987 events in a few quick captions. The managers went to prison, a scientist committed suicide, people were evacuated. Yes, controversy persists over the number of casualties (31? That was the official Soviet number. How about 4,000? That’s the number issued by the Chernobyl Forum, an entity that includes representatives from the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and other international organizations. As for the 41,000 cancers suggested by a study published in the International Journal of Cancer—that number isn’t even mentioned). But all is under control now, thanks to the new confinement structure that will keep the area “safe” for a hundred years. Mazin himself insists that the show isn’t antinuclear.

Plokhy also addresses the accident’s role in the breakup of the USSR. In 2006, Mikhail Gorbachev famously speculated that “the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union.” Plokhy delivers details. Ukrainian dissidents trained their writerly gaze on Chernobyl, vividly describing the damage. Street demonstrations depicted the accident and its coverup as “embodiments of Moscow’s eco-imperialism.” This vision spread and morphed, animating protests in Belarus—also severely contaminated by the accident—and elsewhere. Chernobyl served as Exhibit A for why the republics should shed the Soviet yoke.

If you’re hoping for clear technical explanations, however, you’ll be disappointed. A stunning error mars the first few pages: Plokhy declares that each RBMK produced 1 million megawatts of electricity. This is off by a factor of 1,000. Typo? No, because he doubles down in the next sentence, affirming that the station produced 29 billion megawatts of electricity in 1985. He gets the orders of magnitude right later on, but these early missteps undermine reader confidence. Muddled technical descriptions and uninformative diagrams add to the confusion.

Readers seeking to understand the technology should turn instead to journalist Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl. He uses global nuclear history to illuminate Soviet efforts to manage the Chernobyl crisis. By comparing the crisis to reactor accidents elsewhere, Higginbotham shows that deep vulnerabilities are widespread. Plokhy’s engineers and managers seem bumbling, verging on incompetent. Higginbotham’s more nuanced portrayal reflects how complex engineering projects of all types necessitate informed improvisation. The three-dimensional world doesn’t faithfully obey manuals. Adjustments are always required.

Higginbotham and Plokhy differ most starkly in their treatment of Soviet reactor choice. In the1960s, technocrats weighed the RBMK design against the VVER,2 the Soviet version of a pressurized light water reactor similar to those sold by Westinghouse and used in the United States. For Plokhy, it’s simple. The VVER was “safe.” The RBMK was not, but its size and cost appealed to Soviet productivism.

Higginbotham, however, wisely relies on Sonja Schmid’s pathbreaking Producing Power: The Pre-Chernobyl History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry (2015) to show that reactor safety isn’t a yes-no proposition. Plutonium-producing reactors similar to the Soviet RBMK (albeit half its size) existed in North America and Western Europe. Like nine of its French cousins, the RBMK could be refueled while continuing to operate. This presented significant advantages: light water reactors had to shut down for refueling, which entailed several weeks of outage. Even the risks presented by RBMK design vulnerabilities seemed manageable. “Nuclear experts elsewhere considered the RBMK design neither technologically novel nor particularly worrisome,” Schmid writes, noting that “what we consider good and safe always depends on context.” In the Soviet context, “selecting the RBMK made very good sense.”

Neither Schmid nor Higginbotham absolves the Soviet technopolitical system. The specific circumstances that led to Chernobyl’s explosions might not recur. But, as sociologist Charles Perrow has been arguing since his 1983 book Normal Accidents, highly complex technological systems create unpredictable situations, which inevitably lead to system failures. The question is not whether an accident of Chernobyl’s gravity can happen elsewhere, but how to prepare for the consequences when it does. 

That’s one of the questions Kate Brown considers in Manual for Survival. Offering a wealth of new information and analysis, Brown speeds past the reactor explosion. Instead, she focuses on dozens of previously untold stories about how people coped with their newly radioactive lives.

Brown’s protagonists include women who worked at a wool factory fed by contaminated sheep and butchers ordered to grade meat according to radioactivity. Ukraine, we learn, kept serving as the Soviet breadbasket, despite food radiation levels that exceeded norms. The concentrations of radionuclides were biomagnified by receptive organisms and ecologies, such as mushrooms, wild boar, and the Pripyat Marshes. Defying expectations, some foods, over time, have even become more contaminated.

Brown’s descriptions add historical flesh to arguments first developed by Olga Kuchinskaya, in her 2014 book on Belarus’s Chernobyl experience, The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects after Chernobyl.

Since the first studies of bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, science on the biological effects of radiation exposure has been subject to controversy. Like all scientific work, these early survivor studies had limitations. Exposure estimates were unreliable.

The largest study began data collection five years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts, so it didn’t include people who died or moved between 1945 and 1950. Another problem lies in the applicability of these studies. Bomb exposures, such as those in Japan, mostly consist of high, external doses from one big blast. Yet postwar exposures have mainly consisted of low doses, delivered steadily over a long period. They often involve internal exposures—such as inhalation of radioactive particles or consumption of irradiated food—which can be deadlier.

Irrespective of their limitations, however, the findings of these survivor studies have served as the basis for establishing regulatory limits for all types of radiation exposures. Critics argue that extrapolating from the Japan data underestimates low-dose effects: If you’ve already decided that the only possible health effects are the ones you’ve already found, surely you’re missing something? Among other limitations, studies of external gamma radiation exposures cannot illuminate the long-term health effects of inhaling radioactive alpha particles.

Brown injects the work of Dr. Angelina Gus’kova into this story. Gus’kova started treating radiation-induced illnesses in the 1950s, while working at the top-secret Mayak plutonium plant (where the radioactive spills from a 1957 accident continue to contaminate people, land, and water). A neurologist, Gus’kova made observations that extended beyond the narrow cancer focus of most Western practitioners who studied the health effects of radiation exposure. Her patients displayed a wide range of symptoms, which Gus’kova and her colleagues dubbed “chronic radiation syndrome.” Not that they neglected cancer: a 40-year study of 1.5 million people who lived near Mayak found significantly higher cancer and death rates than those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Soviet rubric of “chronic radiation syndrome” did not exist in the West. Yet Gus’kova’s findings did align with those of dissident scientists in the US and the UK. Thomas Mancuso, for example, was pushed out of the US Atomic Energy Commission because he refused to give the Hanford plutonium plant a clean bill of health after finding that workers there sustained high rates of cardiovascular disease, immune system damage, and other illnesses.

Alice Stewart, meanwhile, was shunned by the British establishment after her 1956 research showed that x-raying pregnant women increased the risk of cancer and leukemia in their children by 50 percent. Over the years, these and other scientists whose data challenged the findings of American and European nuclear establishments found themselves sidelined and defunded.

In tandem with perestroika, Chernobyl opened communication between Soviet and Western nuclear experts, engendering what Brown calls an “unholy alliance.” In 1990, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sent a mission to Belarus and Ukraine to assess radiation damage. Belarusian scientists reported rising rates of many diseases in contaminated areas. Nevertheless, the IAEA team rejected radiation as a possible cause. Such correlations didn’t appear in Western data.

Instead, the IAEA teams used dose estimates provided by distant Moscow colleagues and ignored local Belarusian and Ukrainian descriptions of people’s actual consumption habits, which included significant amounts of contaminated food and milk. The IAEA assessments neglected the internal exposures resulting from this consumption. Yet these assessments now serve as international reference points. “Underestimating Chernobyl damage,” Brown warns, “has left humans unprepared for the next disaster.”

For some, hope springs eternal. In 2017, Chernobyl’s “New Safe Confinement” finally became operational, after two decades of design and construction. This $1.7 billion structure aims to contain the spread of radioactive rubble while workers inside dismantle the reactor and its crumbling sarcophagus. Ownership was transferred from the builders of the structure to the Ukrainian government in July 2019.

At the transfer ceremony, newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a tourism development plan for the radioactive exclusion zone, including a “green corridor” through which tourists could travel to gawk at the remains of Soviet hubris. “Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine’s brand,” declared Zelensky, who was nine years old when the reactor exploded. “It’s time to change.” (Zelensky further demonstrated his dedication to “branding” two weeks after this ceremony, when he emphasized his recent stay in a Trump hotel during his now-infamous phone conversation with the US president.)

Change also seems possible to Plokhy, who optimistically predicts that new reactor designs will be “cheaper, safer, and ecologically cleaner.” But Allison Macfarlane, who chaired the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission under Obama, recently noted that these “new” options are actually “repackaged designs from 70 years ago.” They still produce significant quantities of highly radioactive, long-lived waste.

Meanwhile, regulators in France—the world’s most nuclear nation—are taking the opposite approach from the United States’ NRC. Rather than rolling back oversight, France is intensifying inspections of their aging reactor fleet. After four decades of operation, many French reactors have begun to leak and crack. Keeping them operational will cost at least $61 billion. Despite the phenomenal cost, there are many who believe such an investment in the nuclear future is worthwhile.

Brown is far less sanguine about our nuclear future. Predictably, she has been denounced for believing marginal scientists and relying too heavily on anecdotal evidence. She does occasionally go overboard in suggesting conspiracy. Cover-ups clearly occurred on many occasions, but sometimes people were just sticking to their beliefs, trapped by their institutional and disciplinary lenses. Brown’s absence of nuance on this point matters, because the banality of ignorance—its complicity in all forms of knowledge production—can be more dangerous than deliberate lies: more systemic, harder to detect and combat.

Overall, though, Brown is on the right track. Many modes of scientific inquiry aren’t equipped to address our most urgent questions. Clear causal chains are a laboratory ideal. The real world brims with confounding variables. Some scientists studying Chernobyl’s “exclusion zone”—the region officially declared uninhabitable due to contamination—are trying new techniques to grapple with this reality. Tim Mousseau and Anders Møller, for example, collect data on the zone in its ecological entirety, rather than focusing on single organisms. Their findings belie romantic tales of wildlife resurgence (such as the one offered up by a 2011 PBS special on the radioactive wolves of Chernobyl). They too have met resistance.

How, then, can we harness the immense power of scientific analysis while also acknowledging its limitations? The nuclear establishment is quick to lump its opponents together with climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers. Some may deserve that. But much dissident science is well executed. So how do we, the lay public, tell the difference? How can dissent and uncertainty serve, not as a block to action, but as a call?

One way: we can refuse to see Chernobyl and its kin as discrete events of limited duration. Brown, for example, treats Chernobyl as an acceleration of planetary-scale contamination that began with the atomic arms race.

Let’s be clear: the contamination continues. After the triple meltdown at Fukushima, scientists found highly radioactive, cesium-rich microparticles in Tokyo, 150 miles south of the accident site. When inhaled, such particles remain in human lungs, where their decay continues to release radioactivity for decades. Contaminants from future accidents will, in turn, accrete on the radioactive residues of their predecessors.

And, we might add, on the ocean floor. The Russian state-run firm Rosatom recently announced the inauguration of its first floating reactor, towed across the melting Arctic to serve a community in Siberia: yet another manifestation of how climate change favors nuclear development. Rosatom is currently negotiating contracts for reactors (floating and otherwise) in some 30 countries, from Belarus to Bangladesh, Egypt to South Africa.

Threatened, the US nuclear industry sees Russian expansion as “another reason that the United States should maintain global leadership in nuclear technology exports.” And so we hurtle forward: rolling back oversight, acceleration unchecked.

This article was commissioned by Caitlin Zaloom.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | history, investigative journalism, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

: The nuclear dimension of US security assistance to Ukraine

November 4, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Kate Brown’s “Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future” illuminates the truth about radioactive legacy of nuclear industry

[in 1992] Baverstock and his colleagues published a letter on their findings in the scientific journal Nature, in which they concluded, “the consequences to the human thyroid, especially in fetuses and young children, of the carcinogenic effects of radioactive fallout is much greater than previously thought.”

Now, after more than 30 years, U.N.-sponsored researchers have backed away from the 1992 UNSCEAR study by concluding that “studies of clean-up workers/liquidators suggest dose-related increases of thyroid cancer and hematological malignancies in adults,” as well as “increases in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. If confirmed, these would have significant public health and radiation protection implications.” 

The United States’ involvement with the Chernobyl aftermath was shaped largely, and shamefully, by the desire to avoid potential legal liabilities associated with the 166 U.S. open-air nuclear weapons tests in Nevada and the Marshall Islands. At the time of the Chernobyl accident, compensation radiation claims for injuries and deaths from bomb testing were looked upon by the nuclear weapons program as a dagger aimed at the heart of U.S. national security.

September 14, 2019 Posted by | investigative journalism, politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine, USA | Leave a comment

The radioactive fallout from Chernobyl continues to impact lives.

The legacy of Chernobyl: Zombie reactors and an invisible enemy  ABC News,  Foreign Correspondent  By Europe correspondent Linton Besser, Mark Doman, Alex Palmer and Nathanael Scott, 3 Sep 2019,   As the Soviet Union grappled with the scale of the disaster unfolding at Chernobyl, radioactive material spewed into the environment.

In the immediate aftermath of the 1986 explosion inside reactor number four of the nuclear power plant, dozens of first responders received fatal doses of radiation, forests surrounding the reactor were poisoned, and nearby waterways were contaminated.

Despite attempts to douse the fire in the core with sand, boron and lead, the reactor burnt for 10 days, releasing huge amounts of radioactive materials beyond the plant’s perimeter.

Three decades on from what is considered to be one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, the fallout from Chernobyl continues to impact lives.
Carried in the prevailing weather patterns, the radioactive particles pouring out of reactor four spread rapidly.

The vast majority of particulates fell over parts of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine where more than 5 million people now live in contaminated areas. But modelling by the Met Office, the UK’s national weather service, shows how, within two days of the disaster, the radioactive plume was transported more than 1,000 kilometres.

In fact it was a nuclear facility in Forsmark, Sweden that first detected unusually high levels of radiation in the atmosphere and began investigating the cause. Until this point, the disaster at Chernobyl had been kept under wraps by the Soviet Union.
In all, an area of more than 200,000 square kilometres was contaminated by a significant amount of radiocaesium (Caesium-137) — a by-product of nuclear fission which can take centuries to decay completely and is known to cause cancer.  Mapping of the ground deposits of Caesium-137 after the accident shows just how widely the particulates spread and eventually settled across Europe.  Areas where it rained as the plume passed over were more likely to see higher levels of deposited radiocaesium.
Closer to the site of the disaster, parts of the area still remain so heavily contaminated that a 2,600-square-kilometre “zone of alienation” remains in place around the reactor.
Data captured as part of the global citizen science project Safecast shows high levels of radiation remain more than three decades later.
In Pripyat, a ghost town on the outskirts of the reactor, pockets of radiation can be found which are among the highest levels recorded in the dataset.
At Pripyat hospital No. 126, where first responders dumped contaminated clothing, spikes in radiation around 700 microsieverts per hour (µSv/h) have been recorded, with an average of about 36µSv/h in the area. Prolonged exposure at these levels can be dangerous. In general background levels of radiation are usually around 0.1µSv/h.
There’s also the highly contaminated Red Forest to the south and west. It got its name from the colour the trees turned as they died after the blast. Here researchers continue to uncover highly radioactive pockets of soil. Access to this area is largely restricted, but the Safecast data shows areas inside the forest reaching an average of around 30µSv/h.  Then of course there’s the reactor itself. A place so irradiated it sits entombed in a giant sarcophagus made of steel and concrete. Some estimates suggest the core will remain radioactive for thousands of years.

There’s no data at the core because access to the area is heavily restricted for safety reasons.  Azby Brown, the lead researcher with Safecast, said many of the hardest-hit areas, like the abandoned town of Pripyat, will remain unsafe to live “for generations”.

“If you just look at the half life of Caesium-137, it’s 30 years. So it’s been through one half life, meaning naturally half of it has decayed, so anywhere you went 30 years ago in Chernobyl was twice [as radioactive] as what it is today,” he said.

“Some of it gets moved by weathering, by wind, by rain etcetera … but often a rule of thumb is it takes 10 half lives for something to really be considered gone, which would mean like 300 years.

The ‘invisible enemy’

Despite the lingering risks, there are some who’ve chosen to ignore the warnings and return to live inside the exclusion zone.

Sofia Bezverhaya was living just 30 kilometres from the plant in the village of Kupovate when the plant exploded.

The breach of reactor number four occurred on a Saturday. But Sofia, the local council administrator, heard nothing of it.

“It was only on the Monday that we’ve found out there’d been an accident,” she told Foreign Correspondent. That day, she took a phone call from a Communist Party official. “There’s been an accident,” she was told. “Prepare for the evacuation.”

“They kept telling us, it’s just for three days … [but] all of us had that uneasy feeling creeping into our souls, that we might just leave our homes and never ever come back. And that’s what came to be.”

This fallout was an “invisible enemy”, Sofia said. Although she “neither saw it nor felt it [and] it had no colour and no taste”, it would go on to take the lives of many of those close to her.But the then 40-year-old was determined to return home. One year after the meltdown, amid confusion over the precise dimensions of the exclusion zone being established by Soviet authorities, she and several-hundred others did just that.

“Our grand- and great grandparents are buried here. And we also want to be buried here, in our village. It’s our dream.”

The official death toll from Chernobyl is disputed, but a UN report into the “true scale of the accident” found as many as 4,000 people could die as a result of radiation exposure.

Once Sofia returned, despite official warnings to avoid locally grown produce, she had little choice but to continue to plough her own yard for food. And more than three decades later, she’s still doing it.

From the garden bed, which runs beside the length of her blue weatherboard home, she grows tomatoes, zucchinis, pumpkins, capsicum, sorrel, potatoes and onions.

“For me, my resort is my work in the garden … where I can watch a squirrel collecting nuts, and hear the singing of nightingale.”

Kupovate is firmly within the boundaries of the exclusion zone around the reactor. But once a year, Sofia Bezverhaya said, her garden vegetables are tested, and the results are within acceptable limits.

It’s an anomaly which demonstrates the caprice of the fallout; the red lines of the exclusion zone simply do not prescribe the limits of the contamination……… https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-03/chernobyls-radioactive-legacy-zombie-reactors-an-invisible-enemy/11432430

September 3, 2019 Posted by | environment, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Spanish group gives summer holidays to kids from Chernobyl’s polluted region

Chernobyl nuclear disaster: Meet the NGO giving children a summer from the still present pollution,   Euro News 1 Sept 19, TV hit series Chernobyl may have revived interest in the 1986 nuclear disaster, but for one Spanish NGO, it’s never gone away.

Vallès Obert has helped organise summer holidays in Spain for around 2,000 children from the Chernobyl region since 1995.

It does this by finding families willing to host them.

The time away from the area helps their bodies recover from exposure to the toxic radioactive materials still present in the atmosphere around the diaster site…….

There are many people who have health problems”, explains Natasha, 14, who was born two decades after the incident.

She is being hosted by a family in La Roca del Vallès, near Barcelona, but will soon return to her hometown, Stanyshivka, about 60km from Chernobyl.

“After radiation, some people born cannot speak,” she told Euronews…….

Vallès Obert estimates two months a year outside the polluted environment helps their defences regenerate significantly.

Manuel, president of the association, explains that “there is an age range between 40 and 50 years old in which cancer problems begin to appear: larynx or stomach cancer, leukaemia… everything related to cancer”…….. https://www.euronews.com/2019/08/31/chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-meet-the-ngo-giving-children-a-summer-from-the-still-present-po

September 1, 2019 Posted by | children, Religion and ethics, Spain, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Bitcoin Hackers Charged As Nuclear Power Plant Security Compromised

August 23, 2019 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Authorities Seize Crypto Mining Equipment from Nuclear Power Plant

August 22, 2019 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Chernobyl ‘sarcophagus” on the verge of collapse

August 10, 2019 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

The dreadful truth of Chernobyl radiation’s health and death toll is now coming out

a contentious report published by members of the Russian Academy of Sciences indicates that there could have been as many as 830,000 people in the Chernobyl clean-up teams. They estimated that between 112,000 and 125,000 of these – around 15% – had died by 2005. Many of the figures in the report, however, were disputed by scientists in the West, who questioned their scientific validity. 

The Ukrainian authorities, however, kept a registry of their own citizens affected by the Chernobyl accident……  In Ukraine, death rates among these brave individuals has soared, rising from 3.5 to 17.5 deaths per 1,000 people between 1988 and 2012. Disability among the liquidators has also soared. ……  In Belarus, 40,049 liquidators were registered to have cancers by 2008 along with a further 2,833 from Russia.

Viktor Sushko, deputy director general of the National Research Centre for Radiation Medicine (NRCRM) based in Kiev, Ukraine, describes the Chernobyl disaster as the “largest anthropogenic disaster in the history of humankind”. The NRCRM estimate around five million citizens of the former USSR, including three million in Ukraine, have suffered as a result of Chernobyl, while in Belarus around 800,000 people were registered as being affected by radiation following the disaster.

Even now the Ukrainian government is paying benefits to 36,525 women who are considered to be widows of men who suffered as a result of the Chernobyl accident.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | health, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

International kindness to Chernobyl children from radiation-contaminated areas – but more help is needed

Chernobyl children are taking vacation breaks to escape radiation, but there aren’t enough families to host them. https://www.businessinsider.com/chernobyl-children-international-vacation-radiation-2019-7/?r=AU&IR=T,Jul. 24, 2019

July 27, 2019 Posted by | children, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Vladimir Shevchenko – heroic photographer of Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe

I watched the “Chernobyl” miniseries, and I was struck by the accuracy. The scene on the roof of the reactor as depicted in the fictional episode, was accurate in so much detail, compared to  the 1986 real film.

The Soviet film maker who filmed his own death at Chernobyl    https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/the-soviet-film-maker-who-filmed-his-own-death-at-chernobyl/news-story/b06e971263baff167fdeab00061d9e9c

There were many who risked their lives after the Chernobyl disaster — but none more so than a man desperate to show the world what happened,   LJ Charleston,  21 July 19  When Soviet filmmaker Vladimir Shevchenko took his camera onto the roof of Chernobyl’s reactor four in the aftermath of the fatal explosion, he had no idea he was right in the middle of what was — in April 1986 — the most dangerous place on earth.

He also had no idea that his chilling documentary Chernobyl: Chronicle of Difficult Weeks, about the clean-up of the radioactive material at Chernobyl, would be his very last.

He died of acute radiation sickness a year later.

The award-winning film director, who was working for Ukrainian TV at the time, was said to have been quite unaware of the dangers he was putting himself in when he agreed to film from the roof next to reactor four.  

He’d been hired to film in the exclusion zone. But his gravest error was agreeing — along with two assistants — to climb up to the most lethal area of all, just days after one of the worst man-made disasters of all time.

Even 33 years after the explosion, Shevchenko’s film is still an eerie reminder of the sacrifices made by those who risked their lives in the clean-up efforts at Chernobyl.

Today, as the world focuses once again on those events due to HBO’s series Chernobyl, it’s worthwhile putting the spotlight on the courageous Shevchenko.

He gave his life so that we could see with our own eyes what went on during the clean-up. It was, at times, incredibly basic and put so many lives at risk.

And, by doing so, Shevchenko was unknowingly filming his own death……

Shevchenko, who was the first and only film maker allowed on location in the exclusion zone of Chernobyl, is best known for Chernobyl — Chronicle of Difficult Weeks. You can watch the full cut of his film here.

The film is entirely in Russian, although it’s believed people are currently working on English subtitles. It includes interviews with beleaguered scientist Valery Legasov, now famous due to the HBO series in which he’s played by Jared Harris.

Legasov committed suicide two years after the disaster, on the anniversary, due to the horror of his experiences and the lies he had to tell the International Atomic Agency in Vienna to cover up Soviet mishandling of the event.

Shevchenko’s footage of Chernobyl has not been widely seen and the fact he lost his life a year after the explosion has been completely obscured, as his name isn’t listed on official records of deaths. At the time, his two assistants were receiving hospital treatment, but there is no word of what became of them.

Sydney archaeologist Mr Robert Maxwell, the only archaeologist who has worked in Chernobyl across two field excursions, told news.com.au Shevchenko was well-respected and trusted to film the clean-up efforts, as it was such a highly sensitive time for the Soviets.

“He was granted permission to film the clean-up, including the incredibly dangerous work of the ‘biobots’,” Mr Maxwell said, referring to the name given to the workers sent in to clean up……..

THE ‘BIOBOT FOOTAGE’

One of the most memorable and unbelievable scenes in the TV series Chernobylfeatures liquidation workers on the roof, using shovels to throw highly radioactive material back into the core.

If it wasn’t for Shevchenko’s 1986 footage, we would not know that this happened. The men could only work in frantic 90 second shifts; any longer and their exposure to the radiation would be fatal.

What makes the footage so compelling is that we can clearly see some men picking up the radioactive graphite with gloved hands. We also see Shevchenko filming from the roof top, wearing only a flimsy mask and cap for protection. Then we can see how badly damaged the footage is as the radiation makes an impact on the film itself.

It’s harrowing to see how much work the men are doing with their hands.

This is Shevchenko’s footage focusing on the rooftop clean-up.

Chernobyl. Cleaning the roofs. Soldiers (reservists). 1986.

July 22, 2019 Posted by | media, Resources -audiovicual, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Doubts on the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors

experts are still studying the cancerous, continent-spanning impact of the 1986 meltdown, which took place just outside the small town of Prypyat, some 150 kilometers north of Kyiv, and belched billions of radioactive particles into the wind.

In Ukraine alone, nearly two million people are estimated to have been victims in some way of the disaster, caused by cost-cutting and negligence. The Ukrainian government pays the price today: in compensation to the families of at least 35,000 people who died of Chornobyl related cancers. Across Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, fatality estimates reach into the hundreds of thousands

A major complaint is that Energoatom’s environmental impact assessments are unconvincing. Safety and security are insufficiently addressed, waste disposal is barely mentioned and plans to mitigate risks are severely lacking in detail..

Ukraine’s nuclear power disasters may not be over, experts warn, Kyiv Post, By Jack Laurenson. July 19 2019

Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs) score poorly on security and are failing to meet some important International Atomic Energy Agency safety requirements. At the Khmelnytsky NPP, the planned addition of two extra reactors (supplied by a controversial, Kremlin-linked company) will go ahead, despite the strong concerns.

After more than three decades in the shadow of the Chornobyl catastrophe — the world’s worst nuclear energy-related disaster — Ukrainians continue to live with nuclear power plants as part of their country’s landscape. A whopping 15 reactors power their towns and cities, while Ukraine’s total installed capacity makes it the seventh-largest nuclear nation in the world today.

At the same time, experts are still studying the cancerous, continent-spanning impact of the 1986 meltdown, which took place just outside the small town of Prypyat, some 150 kilometers north of Kyiv, and belched billions of radioactive particles into the wind.

In Ukraine alone, nearly two million people are estimated to have been victims in some way of the disaster, caused by cost-cutting and negligence. The Ukrainian government pays the price today: in compensation to the families of at least 35,000 people who died of Chornobyl related cancers. Across Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, fatality estimates reach into the hundreds of thousands.

Only two nuclear energy-related disasters have been rated at the maximum severity available on the International Nuclear Event Scale: the Chornobyl explosion, and the meltdowns that shook Japan and the world during the 2011 Fukushima disaster. There, some 170,000 evacuees still cannot return to their irradiated homes in the exclusion zone.

Today in Ukraine, difficult questions linger. Have the painful lessons of Chornobyl and Fukushima been learned, and can a country struggling with war, corruption and political turmoil guarantee the safety of its nuclear infrastructure?

Safety, security lacking

These days, at least 55 percent of all Ukrainian electricity comes from its 15 fission reactors, operating at four different nuclear power plants, or NPPs, around the country. They are all operated by the state-owned National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine, widely known as Energoatom.

These nuclear reactors in Ukraine are still not as safe and secure as they could be. They are vulnerable to external shocks, internal sabotage, cybersecurity threats and terrorism, according to shortcomings identified in expert assessments.

Ukraine scored poorly in a 2018 security index published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative organization, scoring 70 out of 100 points, ranking it 30th out of the 45 countries indexed.

The most recent overall safety assessment of all Ukrainian NPPs, completed in 2010 by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, and the European Commission, found that Ukrainian plants were non-compliant with 22 out of 194 vital safety requirements. Weak areas included the “consideration of severe accidents, NPP seismic resistance, completeness of deterministic safety analysis, and post-accident monitoring.”

The National Ecological Center of Ukraine, or NECU, and other nongovernmental organizations here warn that nine Ukrainian nuclear reactors are currently operating beyond their safe lifespan, on the basis of 10-year lifetime extension permits granted following an assessment they have labelled as “deeply flawed.”

And now, in Khmelnytsky Oblast, scientists, experts and campaigners are starting to raise their voices in protest at the latest and perhaps most serious concern.

Experts say that two new reactors which are planned to go into operation there have serious, known safety flaws and do not meet modern safety standards, widely adopted following lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan eight years ago………..

Khmelnytsky expansion

On May 16, a senior official with an Austrian government ministry taking part in talks on the Khmelnytsky project, contacted the Kyiv Post to express concern over its feasibility and safety. The official asked not to be named for fear of jeopardizing talks with Ukrainian counterparts, but shared an official report with the Kyiv Post that makes for alarming reading.

The 87-page report from Austria’s environment agency was commissioned by the country’s Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism. Its lead authors are two Austrian scientists — Oda Becker, a physicist specializing in nuclear safety, and Gabriele Mraz, an expert on nuclear policy.

A major complaint is that Energoatom’s environmental impact assessments are unconvincing. Safety and security are insufficiently addressed, waste disposal is barely mentioned and plans to mitigate risks are severely lacking in detail.

And Energoatom’s plan to simply “continue” construction of facilities that would house KhNPP 3&4 is unthinkable, because the partially-finished constructions have been largely abandoned for nearly three decades and are no longer suitable, the report’s authors said.

“I was surprised that (KhNPP 3&4) was restarted…the site is in ruins… nothing has been done to protect the construction and the conditions there,” the official said.

The official asked how anyone can “think of using this ruin to build a nuclear power plant,” considering that the site and components had been exposed to ice, snow and rain over the years.

The experts also voiced concerns over the shady choice of supplier for the two new reactors.

Energoatom has selected a type of Russian-built reactor from the Czech-based (but ultimately Russian-owned) company Škoda JS. The reactor is cheap and fits within the existing, partially abandoned buildings, but features a number of known safety deficiencies, according to experts.

“They wanted a cheaper reactor — but this reactor is not considered good enough and it lacks safety features that have become required after what we learned since Fukushima,” the official said.

The Kyiv Post repeatedly tried to speak with Energoatom about its plans for the Khmelnytsky NPP, but the agency was uncooperative. Ultimately, Energoatom did not provide information or answer questions by deadline.Unanswered questions

In the report from Vienna seen by the Kyiv Post, the Austrian environment agency poses at least 89 separate questions to Energoatom which it said had so far gone unanswered. Some questions are highly technical, while others address issues of basic safety and security. The authors state that the Ukrainian side has not responded to many questions, or have provided materials that are insufficient and do not address their concerns.

Questions relating to the proposed choice of a reactor, a VVER‑1000/V‑320, and its safety deficiencies, are raised repeatedly. It states that the Ukrainian side has not sufficiently demonstrated how it will cope with any of the “known safety issues” of the reactors……… https://www.kyivpost.com/business/ukraines-nuclear-power-disasters-may-not-be-over-experts-warn.html?cn-reloaded=1

July 20, 2019 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Chernobyl radiation

The Real Chernobyl: Q&A With a Radiation Exposure Expert, UCSF, 

Ed note:  This article considers only external radiation emitters – fails to consider internal emitters

By Nicoletta Lanese  17 July 19, The Emmy-nominated HBO mini-series “Chernobyl,” which is a dramatized account of the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster, has rekindled conversation about the accident, its subsequent cleanup and the long-term impacts on people living near the power plant.

UC San Francisco’s Lydia Zablotska, MD, PhD, grew up in Ukraine, trained as physician in Belarus, and has studied the long-term health impacts of radiation exposure on the Chernobyl cleanup workers, local children and others in the region. Her research helped uncover the connection between radiation exposure, thyroid conditions and leukemia, and remains relevant to global health today.

We talked with her about the real-life health impacts from the disaster portrayed in the HBO miniseries. The following answers have been edited for length and clarity.

What kind of radiation were people exposed to at Chernobyl?

The first responders, including firefighters and nuclear workers who tried to put out the multiple fires and prevent the explosion of other reactors at the nuclear power plant, were exposed to large doses of gamma radiation. Gamma radiation originates during the decay of radioactive isotopes of uranium or plutonium used as a nuclear fuel in nuclear power plants. As a result of decay, packets of electromagnetic radiation, which consist of high-energy photons, are emitted and could penetrate body tissues and cause damage to cells and their genetic material. Subsequently, DNA mutations could lead to the development of cancer.

The miniseries shows some workers dying instantly from acute radiation syndrome – what symptoms did they really experience?

The latest report from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation found 134 first responders who were diagnosed with acute radiation syndrome (ARS) after the Chernobyl accident. Of these, 28 died in the first four months, but not instantaneously. Then 19 more died over the next 20 years. But the majority of these survived and lived a long life after that. There were no cases of ARS among the general public living in cities and villages around the Chernobyl power plant.

Large doses of radiation could affect a number of systems in the body that are necessary for survival. Patients with ARS could develop a bone marrow syndrome, which suppresses their immunity, or a gastrointestinal syndrome, which could lead to damage to the lining of the intestines and associated infection, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance. Then, a couple days later, the circulatory system collapses so people start having blood volume issues and so forth. The whole body is essentially collapsing.

Can those exposed to intense radiation exposure “pass on” their radioactivity to others, as the HBO show suggests? 

There are types of radiation where human bodies could retain radioactive particles and remain radioactive over time, but this is not the type that was seen at Chernobyl. After gamma radiation has passed through the body, the person is no longer radioactive and can’t expose other people.

Based on what we know, at Chernobyl, there were also no effects on children who were exposed to radiation in utero.

How does radiation exposure relate to thyroid conditions?

We conducted two studies of thyroid conditions in children who lived at the time of the Chernobyl accident in affected areas in Ukraine and Belarus. We confirmed that the particular type of radiation in Chernobyl, radioactive iodine, could cause thyroid cancer. Unexpectedly, we also showed that radiation to the thyroid gland from ingesting radioactive iodine within two months after the Chernobyl accident by children and adolescents could lead to development of non-cancer thyroid diseases, such as thyroid follicular adenoma, thyroid benign nodules, and hypothyroidism.

We also showed that the youngest children were at the highest risk for developing these diseases. Children’s thyroid glands are very active and act as a sponge for iodine, because our body needs iodine. But our bodies cannot distinguish between dietary iodine, from salt or fish, and radioactive iodine. After the explosion of the nuclear reactor, parts of the core were dispersed in clouds and carried by the prevailing winds. This is how Belarus, which was in the path of winds in the first days after the accident, got really large doses. One of the most contaminated products was milk from pastured cows, mostly consumed by children.

What about leukemia?

We did a study of cleanup workers in Ukraine and confirmed that gamma radiation causes leukemia, as was found in atomic bomb survivors in Japan. Our truly unique finding was that radiation exposure can cause many types of leukemia, not just a select few. In particular, we showed that radiation doses of gamma radiation were associated with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the most prevalent type of leukemia in adult, Caucasian men. CLL was not increased in the study of atomic bomb survivors, but as our group at UCSF reported in a later study, CLL is very rare in Japan, so this finding could have been missed. ……  https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2019/07/414976/real-chernobyl-qa-radiation-exposure-expert 

July 18, 2019 Posted by | radiation, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

The dangers of Chernobyl nuclear site being turned into a tourism mecca

The grounds remain coated with plutonium, cesium, strontium and americium — radionuclides (atoms that emit radiation) that could pose potentially serious health risks to those who touch or ingest them. Some areas are more radioactive, and therefore more dangerous, than others.

“Even though the accident occurred over 33 years ago it remains one of the most radiologically contaminated places on earth.”

Chernobyl tourists should avoid plant life, and especially the depths of the forests.

Those areas were not cleaned in the aftermath of the disaster and remain highly contaminated by radiation. Research has showed that the fungus, moss and mushrooms growing there are radioactive. Eating or drinking from the area is not safe.

Those who stay on the paved pathways, which officials cleaned, are much less likely to absorb harmful toxins.

Ukraine wants Chernobyl to be a tourist trap. But scientists warn: Don’t kick up dust. https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2019/07/12/ukraine-wants-chernobyl-be-tourist-trap-scientists-warn-dont-kick-up-dust/?utm_term=.5e82b547ceaf  By Katie Mettler, July 12 2019

The tourists first started flocking to Chernobyl nearly 10 years ago, when fans of the video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. wanted to see firsthand the nuclear wasteland they’d visited in virtual reality.

Next came those whose curiosity piqued when in 2016 the giant steel dome known as the New Safe Confinement was slid over the sarcophagus encasing nuclear reactor number four, which exploded in April 1986, spewed radiation across Europe and forced hundreds of thousands to flee from their homes.

Then in May, HBO’s “Chernobyl” miniseries aired, and tourism companies reported a 30 to 40 percent uptick in visitors to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, abandoned and eerily frozen in time.

Now the Ukrainian government — capitalizing on the macabre intrigue — has announced that Chernobyl will become an official tourist site, complete with routes, waterways, checkpoints and a “green corridor” that will place it on the map with other “dark tourism” destinations.

“We must give this territory of Ukraine a new life,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a visit to Chernobyl this week. “Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine’s brand. It’s time to change it.”

Zelensky, who was inaugurated in May, signed a decree July 10 to kickstart the Chernobyl Development Strategy, which the president hopes will bring order to the 19-mile Exclusion Zone that has become a hotbed for corruption, trespassing and theft. At the nuclear facility and in the nearby town of Pripyat, wildlife has returned and now roams freely. Flora and fauna grow up around decaying homes, playgrounds and an amusement park. Letters, dinner tables and baby dolls remain where their owners abandoned them 33 years ago.

Radioactive dust still coats it all.

“Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster, where there is a real ‘ghost town,’” Zelensky said during his visit. “We have to show this place to the world: scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists.”

Though exploiting a historical space like Chernobyl could infuse Ukraine’s economy with tourism dollars and motivate developers to revive the sleepy towns surrounding the “dead zone,” there are significant downsides, experts say.

[Thanks to HBO, more tourists are flocking to the eerie Chernobyl nuclear disaster site]

The grounds remain coated with plutonium, cesium, strontium and americium — radionuclides (atoms that emit radiation) that could pose potentially serious health risks to those who touch or ingest them. Some areas are more radioactive, and therefore more dangerous, than others.

“Chernobyl was the worst nuclear accident in human history,” said Jim Beasley, an associate professor at the University of Georgia who has been studying wildlife in the Exclusion Zone since 2012. “Even though the accident occurred over 33 years ago it remains one of the most radiologically contaminated places on earth.”

More than 30 people were killed in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, and officials are still debating the full extent of the longterm death toll in Ukraine and nearby countries where people grew sick with cancer and other illnesses.

The World Health Organization estimates total cancer deaths at 9,000, far less than a Belarusian study that put the death toll at 115,000, reported Reuters.

Today, radiation levels inside the Exclusion Zone vary widely from location to location, said Dr. T. Steen, who teaches microbiology and immunology at Georgetown’s School of Medicine and oversees radiation research in organisms at nuclear disaster sites. Because of that, she advises anyone visiting to be educated and cautious while inside the Exclusion Zone, and to limit time spent there.

“The longer you’re exposed, the more that future impact is,” she said.

She advises visitors to the Exclusion Zone to wear clothes and shoes they are comfortable throwing away. If they’re going to be touching or disturbing anything, she recommends a mask and gloves. Most importantly, Steen says, Chernobyl tourists should avoid plant life, and especially the depths of the forests.

Those areas were not cleaned in the aftermath of the disaster and remain highly contaminated by radiation. Research has showed that the fungus, moss and mushrooms growing there are radioactive. Eating or drinking from the area is not safe.

Those who stay on the paved pathways, which officials cleaned, are much less likely to absorb harmful toxins.

Generally speaking, Chernobyl can be safe, Steen said, “but it depends on how people behave.”

And so far, the accounts of tourists behaving badly are abundant.

Timothy Mousseau, a biologist and University of South Carolina professor, has been studying the ecological and evolutionary consequences of radioactive contaminants on wildlife and organisms at Chernobyl for 20 years. He just recently returned from his annual, month-long trip to the Exclusion Zone and said he was shocked to see 250 tourists in street clothes wandering Pripyat.

Some hopped in bumper cars at the abandoned amusement park there to take selfies.

“Part of the reason people don’t think twice about it is because there is this highly organized tourism operation,” Mousseau said. “A lot of people don’t give it a second thought.”

He is concerned that the government’s tourism campaign could only make that worse.

“The negative aspects that are being completely ignored are the health and safety issues of bringing this many people, exposing this many people to what is a small risk, albeit a significant risk, to this kind of contamination,” Mousseau said. “The more traffic there is, the most dust there is, and the dust here is contaminated.”

[We’re in the age of the overtourist. You can avoid being one of them.]

But Mousseau’s worries, and the anxieties of his colleagues, extend beyond health factors.

For decades, biologists, ecologists and medical researchers have been studying the mostly undisturbed expanse that is the Exclusion Zone. They’ve studied DNA mutations in plants and insects, birds and fish. As larger mammals, like moose, wolves and fox, have slowly re-occupied the surrounding forests, biologists have searched for clues about the ways short-term and long-term radiation exposure have altered their health.

Scientifically, there is no place on earth like Chernobyl. Beasley, who studies wolves there, calls it a “living laboratory.” An influx of humans — especially reckless ones — could destroy it.

“This is really the only accessible place on the planet where this kind of research can be conducted at a scale both spatial and temporal that allows for important scientific discovery,” Mousseau said. “Given increased use of radiation in technology and medicine, in going to Mars and space, we need to know more about radiation and its effects on biology and organisms.”

“And Chernobyl provides a unique laboratory to do this kind of research,” he said.

Tourism’s negative footprint in the Exclusion Zone is not theoretical, either.

They are leaving behind trash, rummaging through abandoned homes and buildings and, in Mousseau’s experience, stealing his research equipment. Cameras he has hidden in the depths of the most radioactive parts of the zone to capture the wildlife he studies have been vandalized or gone missing, he said.

It’s something that absolutely astounds me,” he said.

Theoretically, more government oversight at Chernobyl could help curb this kind of interference, especially if a financial investment in the zone will help preserve the ghost town there and bring in more guards and checkpoints to patrol who comes and goes.

None of that will prevent tourists from disturbing Chernobyl’s spirit.

“I think it is important to not lose sight of the fact that Chernobyl represents an area of tremendous human suffering,” Beasley said, “as hundreds of thousands of people were forever displaced from their homes or otherwise impacted by the accident.”

July 15, 2019 Posted by | culture and arts, environment, Reference, safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment