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: 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………

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”……..

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.,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

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 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……..


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………

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. …… 

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.  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

Chernobyl’s $1.7B nuclear confinement shelter finally revealed

Chernobyl’s $1.7B nuclear confinement shelter revealed after taking 9 years to complete,  By Paulina Dedaj | Fox News  4 July 19  A new structure built to confine the Chernobyl reactor at the center of the world’s worst nuclear disaster was previewed for the media Tuesday.

Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine exploded and burned April 26, 1986.

The complex construction effort to secure the molten reactor’s core and 200 tons of highly radioactive material has taken 9 years to complete under the auspices of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It was built to cover the temporary concrete and steel Shelter Structure, which was built immediately after the disaster, but which had begun to deteriorate in the 1990s.

The structure itself cost 1.5 billion euros (almost $1.7 billion) and the entire shelter project cost 2.2 billion euros. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development managed a fund with contributions from 45 countries, the European Union and 715 million euros in the bank’s own resources.

The shelter is the largest moveable land-based structure ever built, with a span of 843 feet and a total weight of over 36,000 tonnes.

“This was a very long project,” said Balthasar Lindauer, director of the bank’s Nuclear Safety Department. He noted that preliminary studies began in 1998 and the contract for the structure was placed in 2007.

He said Ukraine was a big contributor, contributing 100 million euros in cash along with expertise and personnel. …….

July 8, 2019 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

The Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe is not over.

You’ve seen the TV series, now understand the Chernobyl catastrophe is far from over. By Helen Caldicott, 4 July 19   It is 33 years since the radioactive accident at Chernobyl. The HBO miniseries Chernobyl has re-awakened interest in this dreadful moment in history. But Chernobyl is by no means over. And with commentators once again flagging the idea of overturning Australia’s long-standing opposition to a home-grown nuclear industry – and even suggesting our own nuclear weapons – it is timely to revisit its consequences.

The Chernobyl death toll is highly contentious, from the absurdly low 31 following the initial blast trauma to 4000 (the conclusion of a joint consortium of the United Nations and the governments of UkraineBelarus, and Russia in 2005 and 2006) to 93,000 (Greenpeace’s prediction in 2006).
However, there is the study Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009, which covers more than 5000 medical and epidemiological papers from the Ukraine, Russia, Europe and Britain. It was authored by three noted scientists: Russian biologist Dr Alexey Yablokov, former environmental adviser to the Russian president; Dr Alexey Nesterenko, a biologist and ecologist in Belarus; and Dr Vassili Nesterenko, a physicist and, at the time of the accident, director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.

Their book – while the subject of both positive and negative reviews, and not peer-reviewed by Western standards – concludes some 985,000 people died prematurely, mainly of cancer, as a result of the Chernobyl accident. Despite its limitations, it “is a treasure trove of data that if taken as a whole is overwhelming”, according to the noted evolutionary biologist Tim Mousseau.

Millions were initially exposed to very high doses of radiation from short-lived isotopes. But the report indicates that medical effects will continue to impact millions of exposed people because 40 per cent of the European land mass is polluted , and will remain contaminated for thousands of years by long-lived isotopes – plutonium 239, 238 and 241, americium 241, cobalt 60 and technetium 132. Parts of Turkey and Britain also received high fallout, which affected their crops and livestock.

A large body of literature now records the medical impact. In Belarus and nearby regions, 90 per cent of children were once healthy, now only 20 per cent, says the Chernobyl study. A million children still live in highly radioactive areas.

The study reports ongoing abnormalities of the immune system led to increased cases of bacterial and fungal infections, chronic joint and bone pain, osteoporosis, periodontal disease and fractures. Strontium 90 and plutonium concentrate in bones and teeth.

Premature ageing with heart attacks, hypertension, strokes and type 2 diabetes and alopecia are recorded in children. Multiple endocrine abnormalities including diabetes, hypo and hyperthyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease, as well as menstrual disorders, have increased as cesium concentrates in endocrine organs and cardiac muscle.

Intellectual retardation was recorded in babies who were in utero at the time of the accident. A noted embryologist, Wladimir Werteleki, recorded high incidences of microcephaly and microphthalmia in babies and severe neural tube defects in the Polissia region of the Ukraine related to very high levels of cesium 137 and 134 in the food eaten by pregnant women. Increased incidence of congenital cataracts, retinal pathology and adult cataracts occur in many European countries.

The Chernobyl study indicated that thyroid carcinoma arose two to four years after the accident, in Belarus increasing to 7000 cases by 2000 and, despite surgery, 30 per cent were aggressive and had metastasised. Congenital thyroid cancer in newborns also was documented.

Increases in a wide range of cancers – including stomach, colon, bladder, pancreas, breast and leukemia – are still recorded in the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Germany, the UK, Greece, Rumania and Europe.

Many thousands of children have been born with severe teratogenic deformities and homes around the Chernobyl area house hundreds of these children.

The Chernobyl study also found that of the 830,000 mainly young men known as ‘‘liquidators’’ – who were recruited from all over the Soviet Union to help clean up the contaminated area and were exposed to massive doses of radiation –112,000 to 125,000 died within the first 19 years.

Tim Mousseau has also conducted surveys of wildlife and birds in the exclusion zones, revealing genetic and chromosomal abnormalities, sterility in male swallows, small brains, tumours, and other anatomical abnormalities.

A huge and ill-informed debate persists about how many people have died as a result of Chernobyl. Sadly, the World Health Organisation has supported the International Atomic Energy Agency, which promotes nuclear power, in the estimate of about 4000 deaths related to Chernobyl.

Much of the data is more than a decade old. There is an urgent need for further extensive epidemiological studies on the exposed populations in Russia, the Ukraine, Europe, England, Turkey and other countries, and for treatment and support to be instituted for the many thousands of victims now and in the future. Because the long-lived radiological contamination of the soil and subsequent bio-concentration of the radioactive isotopes in the food chain will continue to poison children and adults for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Dr Helen Caldicott is an Australian physician, author and founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, which was among the international groups of doctors awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

July 4, 2019 Posted by | children, environment, health, history, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment