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Radioactive tourism in Ukraine

HOW RADIOACTIVE UKRAINE IS BRINGING IN THE TOURISTS, FINANCIAL REVIEW  AUG 4 2017 A
by Cheryl L. Reed

The button that could have started a nuclear holocaust is grey – not red.

I learned this after climbing into a nuclear rocket command silo, 12 floors below ground, and sitting in the same green chair at the same yellow metal console at which former Soviet officers once presided.

Here, they practised entering secret codes into their grey keyboards, pushing the launch button and turning a key – all within seven seconds – to fire up to 10 ballistic missiles. The officers never knew what day their practice codes might become real, nor did they know their targets.

This base in Pervomaysk, Ukraine – about a four-hour drive from Kiev – once had 86 intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of destroying cities in Europe and the United States. Though the nuclear warheads have been removed, the command silo with much of its equipment, giant trucks that carried the rockets to the base and an empty silo were preserved so that people could see what had been secretly going on at nuclear missile bases in the former Soviet Union.

Tourists go to Paris to marvel at the majesty of the Eiffel Tower, to Rome to stroll the cobbled streets of the Vatican, to Moscow to behold the magnificent domes of Red Square. And while Ukraine has its own plethora of domed cathedrals, including monasteries with underground caves, thousands of tourists are trekking to this country for a uniquely Soviet experience.

Here, they stand outside an exploded nuclear reactor at Chernobyl and rifle through the remains of a nearby abandoned city – Geiger counter in hand. In Chernobyl’s shadow, they marvel at the giant “Moscow Eye”, an anti-ballistic-missile detector that rises 50 storeys high and looks like a giant roller coaster.

Every day, a handful of travel companies ferry mostly foreigners to Chernobyl’s 30-kilometre “exclusion zone”. In 2016, Solo East Travel hauled 7500 people there, up from only one trip in 2000………

The museum tour guides are all former Soviet officers who once worked at the missile base. Ours, Gennadiy Fil’, once manned the nuclear controls. When American tourists dallied, snapping photos of the rockets above ground, he barked, “Ledz go!”

Then he darted through a heavy door of a squat building, down a series of winding stairs and through an underground tunnel, navigating by memory through the narrow, 150-metre-long passageway to the control centre in a silo. The narrow cylinder is suspended from the ground – theoretically, to withstand the shock of a counter-attack…….

No moral objections

Fil’, 55, said he never knew when he would be ordered to input real codes. It was his job, he said, shrugging. He said he had no moral objections to pushing the button. Launching nuclear missiles was a “political decision”, something that people on top of the ground decided, not him……..

In 1994, three years after Ukraine became independent, it joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty and agreed to dismantle its 1900 Soviet missiles. At the time, Ukraine boasted the world’s third-largest stockpile of nuclear warheads after Russia and the United States. Ukraine shipped its nuclear warheads to Russia and dismantled its silos, often blowing them up or filling them with cement. The control silo at Pervomaysk was the only one spared – so it could become a museum. The 46th Rocket Division, part of the 43rd Rocket Army, was disbanded in 2001……..

Nuclear ghost town

The city of Pripyat was once a secret Soviet city, closed to anyone but workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and their families. Now the city, an hour-and-a-half drive from Kiev, is a nuclear ghost town. Forty-nine thousand people were forced to evacuate the day after Chernobyl’s Reactor No.4 exploded on April 26, 1986.

Nearly all the first responders and soldiers died from radiation poisoning while trying to contain the graphite fire and the radioactive particles spewing from the destroyed reactor, explained Bodnarchuk, our tour guide. Officially, only 31 firemen and soldiers were killed. But some believe that the disaster claimed at least 10,000 lives as wind carried radioactive material into Belarus and Northern Europe.

Even though critics have said that the designs of Chernobyl are outmoded and inherently unsafe, Russia reportedly is still using 11 similar nuclear reactors.

Today, visitors can stand across the street from the damaged reactor at Chernobyl, which recently was covered by a huge, $US2.3 billion shield. But the highlight of the tour is, by far, the crumbling city of Pripyat. Though tour operators are warned to stay out of Pripyat’s buildings, tourists routinely stomp through the city, including the hospital where dying first responders were taken……..

driving through the red forest near the Chernobyl reactor – where the radiation burned up all the trees, which were then bulldozed and buried. Our Geiger counters went crazy as we drove through the new-growth forest, registering 26 sieverts per hour.

Our guide tried to calm fears about our exposure to radiation by assuring us that any high levels on our body would be detected by the machines we had to pass through on the way out of Chernobyl’s exclusion zone. Those machines – old Soviet steel contraptions that look like retro airport metal detectors – hardly inspire confidence……..http://www.afr.com/lifestyle/travel/how-radioactive-ukraine-is-bringing-in-the-tourists-20170729-gxlk6k

August 5, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, marketing, Ukraine | Leave a comment

HBO announces five-part miniseries on Chernobyl accident

  https://www.apnews.com/70c22c24c7d343118dedd9cf82f94124BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — HBO says production will begin next year on a miniseries about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The five-part series will star Jared Harris as a Soviet scientist tapped by the Kremlin to investigate the accident.

The series will dramatize the events of the 1986 Ukrainian nuclear catastrophe that resulted in widespread radioactive fallout. Thirty people were killed and more than 100,000 had to be relocated.

HBO announced at the Television Critics Association’s summer meeting on Wednesday that production on “Chernobyl” is set to begin in Lithuania in spring of 2018.

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Resources -audiovicual, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Ukraine’s dangerous nuclear industry: theft of 100s of containers with radioactive materials

Specter of Chernobyl: Ukraine ‘Losing Control’ of Its Nuclear Facilities https://sputniknews.com/europe/201707191055679086-ukraine-radioactivity-theft/ 19.07.2017 Hundreds of containers with radioactive materials inside have been reportedly stolen from a nuclear storage facility in central Ukraine. An expert told Sputnik about the consequences this and other such cases could have for people in and outside the country.

According to 1+1 TV channel, the containers with Cesium-137-contaminated soil and metals, which had spent the past 30 years buried at an unguarded storage site near the city of Krapivnitsky in Kirovograd region, were supposed to stay there for at least 300 years more.After the unknown thieves dug up the containers, the radiation level in the area jumped 10 times above normal.

In an interview with Radio Sputnik, Valery Menshikov, a member of the Environmental Policy Center in Moscow, shared his fears about the dangerous situation in Ukraine.

“What is now happening is Ukraine is bedlam, period. The stringent Soviet-era controls are gone and not only there. All nuclear storage facilities in Ukraine pose a very serious radiation threat. It’s a very alarming situation we have there now,” Menshikov warned.

He underscored the need to place such nuclear storage sites under strict control.

“Such places must be fenced off, have adequate alarm systems, etc. However, it looks like [the Krapivnitsky facility] had none of these things. In addition to vials with Cesium, there was also metal there and this metal could now be used in construction or smelted, which means that radiation will keep spreading,” Valery Menshikov added.

He blamed the sorry state of Ukraine’s nuclear energy sector on the erratic policy of the Kiev government.

“There are regulations, both domestic and international, drawn up by the IAEA, but the problem is that the current political situation in Ukraine has made it possible to get rid of experienced managers and specialists  in the nuclear energy and other economic sectors and replace them (with incompetent ones),” Valery Menshikov emphasized.

“The loss of radiation safety is also evident at Ukrainian nuclear power plants, hence the strange things that keep happening there,” Menshikov concluded.

Ukraine’s nuclear industry has been in dire straits since Kiev ended nuclear energy cooperation with Russia in 2015 and specialists fear that the recurrent cases of thefts of radioactive materials and lax security at the country’s nuclear facilities are dangerously fraught with a repetition of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Solar park for Chernobyl nuclear site

Chernobyl nuclear reactor slated for billion-pound solar park despite radiation fears
Chernobyl was the scene of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, Independent, Fiona Keating, 10 July 17 Ukraine is in talks with one of France’s biggest energy businesses to construct a £969m solar facility at the derelict Chernobyl nuclear reactor plant and its surrounding area.

Ostap Semerak, Ukraine’s minister of ecology, said Engie is starting a pre-feasibility survey, bankrolled by the French government, next week. The results should be published by the end of the year.

“France’s experience in nuclear is one of the reasons that we wanted to work with them,” Mr Semerak told The Washington Post. “They approached us after we announced our intention to develop renewables in Chernobyl.”   An Engie spokesman verified that the company is in consultation with the Ukrainian government but refused to reveal any further details on the project.

July 10, 2017 Posted by | renewable, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Forest fire near Chernobyl Nuclear Plant

Ukrainian Firefighters Battle Forest Fire Near Chernobyl Nuclear Plant, https://www.rferl.org/a/firefighters-battle-forest-fire-near-chernobyl/28588006.html   June 30, 2017   RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Ukrainian firefighters are battling to contain a forest fire inside the irradiated exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, officials say.

The fire erupted around midday on June 29 during tree cutting works at the Lubyanskoye Forestry and spread to an area of some 25 hectares by early June 30, the emergency services said.

More than 100 firefighters and scores of trucks and aircraft were dispatched to the area, a statement said.

It is not the first wildfire to break out near the site of the 1986 reactor explosion and fire, the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster. In 2015 alone, fires engulfed some 400 hectares of forests in the exclusion zone.

July 1, 2017 Posted by | climate change, safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Cyber attack knocks out the radiation monitoring system of Chernobyl nuclear plant

Chernobyl nuclear plant’s radiation monitoring hit by cyber attack: Officials http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2017/jun/28/chernobyl-nuclear-plants-radiation-monitoring-hit-by-cyber-attack-officials-1621663.html  By AFP  28th June 2017 UKRAINE: The radiation monitoring system at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear site has been taken offline after a massive cyber attack, forcing employees to use hand-held counters to measure levels, officials said on Tuesday.

“Due to the cyber attack, the website of the Chernobyl nuclear plant is not working,” said Ukraine’s exclusion zone agency which oversees the Soviet plant that exploded in 1986 and is now surrounded by an uninhabited contaminated zone.

“Due to the temporary shutdown of the Windows system, the radiation monitoring of the industrial area is being done manually,” the agency said on its website.

“That means that our measurers go out with hand-held meters on the Chernobyl plant like it was decades ago,” a spokeswoman for the agency, Olena Kovalchuk, told AFP.

The plant’s destroyed reactor was enclosed in a huge metal structure last year in a bid to stop radiation leaks at the site, where more than 200 tonnes of uranium remain.

 Ukraine, along with Russia and companies across Europe, was hit on Tuesday in a wave of cyberattacks which IT experts identified as a modified version of the Petya ransomware that struck last year.

Ukraine’s exclusion zone agency said that Chernobyl’s “technological systems are working as usual” and that radiation control is “without delays”.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | incidents, Ukraine | 2 Comments

Media coverage of Ukraine dictated by USA political interests?

It also remains a question why the U.S. mainstream media feels that it must protect the American people from alternative views even as the risks of nuclear confrontation escalate.

Why Don’t the U.S. Mainstream Media Report Vladimir Putin’s Take on the Ukraine Crisis? http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/why_doesnt_mainstream_media_report_putins_take_on_ukraine_20170614 By Robert Parry / ConsortiumnewsA prime example of how today’s mainstream media paradigm works in the U.S. is the case of Ukraine, where Americans have been shielded from evidence that the 2014 ouster of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a U.S.-supported coup d’etat spearheaded by violent neo-Nazi extremists.

As The New York Times has instructed us, there was no coup in Ukraine; there was no U.S. interference; and there weren’t even that many neo-Nazis. And, the ensuing civil conflict wasn’t a resistance among Yanukovych’s supporters to his illegal ouster; no, it was “Russian aggression” or a “Russian invasion.”

If you deviate from this groupthink – if you point out how U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland talked about the U.S. spending $5 billion on Ukraine; if you mention her pre-coup intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who the new leaders would be and how “to glue” or how “to “midwife this thing”; if you note how Nuland and Sen. John McCain urged on the violent anti-Yanukovych protesters; if you recognize that snipers firing from far-right-controlled buildings killed both police and protesters to provoke the climactic ouster of Yanukovych; and if you think all that indeed looks like a coup – you obviously are the victim of “Russian propaganda and disinformation.”

But most Americans probably haven’t heard any of that evidence revealing a coup, thanks to the mainstream U.S. media, which has essentially banned those deviant facts from the public discourse. If they are mentioned at all, they are lumped together with “fake news” amid the reassuring hope that soon there will be algorithms to purge such troublesome information from the Internet.

So, if Americans tune in to Part Three of Oliver Stone’s “The Putin Interviews” on “Showtime” and hear Russian President Vladimir Putin explain his perspective on the Ukraine crisis, they may become alarmed that Putin, leader of a nuclear-armed country, is delusional.

A Nuanced Perspective

In reality, Putin’s account of the Ukraine crisis is fairly nuanced. He notes that there was genuine popular anger over the corruption that came to dominate Ukraine after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 and the selling off of the nation’s assets to well-connected “oligarchs.”

Putin recognizes that many Ukrainians felt that an association with the European Union could help solve their problems. But that created a problem for Russia because of the absence of tariffs between Russia and Ukraine and concerns about the future of bilateral trade that is especially important to Ukraine, which stood to lose some $160 billion.

When Yanukovych decided to postpone the E.U. agreement so he could iron out that problem, protests erupted, Putin said. But — from that point on — Putin’s narrative deviates from what the U.S. government and mainstream media tell the American people.

“Our European and American partners managed to mount this horse of discontent of the people and instead of trying to find out what was really happening, they decided to support the coup d’etat,” Putin said.

Contrary to the U.S. claims blaming Yanukovych for the violence in the Maidan protests, Putin said, “Yanukovych didn’t give an order to use weapons against civilians. And incidentally, our Western partners, including the United States, asked us to influence him so that he did not give any orders to use weapons. They told us, ‘We ask you to prevent President Yanukovych from using the armed forces.’ And they promised … they were going to do everything for the opposition to clear the squares and the administrative buildings.

“We said, ‘Very well, that is a good proposal. We are going to work on it.’ And, as you know, President Yanukovych didn’t resort to using the Armed Forces. And President Yanukovych said that he couldn’t imagine any other way of dealing with this situation. He couldn’t sign an order on the use of weapons.”

Though Putin did not specifically finger blame for the sniper fire on Feb. 20, 2014, which killed more than a dozen police and scores of protesters, he said, “Well, who could have placed these snipers? Interested parties, parties who wanted to escalate the situation. … We have information available to us that armed groups were trained in the western parts of Ukraine itself, in Poland, and in a number of other places.”

After the bloodshed of Feb. 20, Yanukovych and opposition leaders on Feb. 21 signed an accord, brokered and guaranteed by three European governments, for early elections and, in the meantime, a reduction of Yanukovych’s powers.

Ignoring a Political Deal

But the opposition, led by neo-Nazi and other extreme nationalist street fighters, brushed aside the agreement and escalated their seizing of government buildings, although The New York Times and other U.S. accounts would have the American people believe that Yanukovych simply abandoned his office.

“That’s the version used to justify the support granted to the coup,” Putin said. “Once the President left for Kharkov, the second largest city in the country to attend an internal political event, armed men seized the Presidential Residence. Imagine something like that in the U.S., if the White House was seized, what would you call that? A coup d’etat? Or say that they just came to sweep the floors?

“The Prosecutor General was shot at, one of the security officers was wounded. And the motorcade of President Yanukovych himself was shot at. So it’s nothing short of an armed seizure of power. Moreover, one day afterwards he used our support and relocated to Crimea (where he stayed for more than a week) thinking that there was still a chance that those who put their signatures on the (Feb. 21) agreement with the opposition would make an attempt to settle this conflict by civilized democratic legal means. But that never happened and it became clear that if he were taken he would be killed.

“Everything can be perverted and distorted, millions of people can be deceived, if you use the monopoly of the media. But in the end, I believe that for an impartial spectator it is clear what has happened – a coup d’etat had taken place.”

Putin noted how the new regime in Kiev immediately sought to limit use of the Russian language and allowed extreme nationalist elements to move against eastern provinces known as the Donbass where ethnic Russians were the vast majority of the population.

Putin continued, “First, there were attempts at arresting them [ethnic Russians] using the police, but the police defected to their side quite quickly. Then the central authorities started to use Special Forces and in the night, people were snatched and taken to prison. Certainly, people in Donbass, after that, they took up arms.

“But once this happened, hostilities started so instead of engaging in dialogue with people in the southeast part of Ukraine, they [Ukraine government officials] used Special Forces, and started to use weapons directly – tanks and even military aircraft. There were strikes from multiple rocket launchers against residential neighborhoods. … We repeatedly appealed to this new leadership asking them to abstain from extreme actions.”

However, the civil conflict only grew worse with thousands of people killed in some of the worst violence that Europe has seen since World War II. In the U.S. mainstream media, however, the crisis was blamed entirely on Putin and Russia.

The Crimea Case

As for the so-called “annexation” of Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea that was historically part of Russia and that even after the Soviet break-up hosted a major Russian naval base at Sevastopol, Putin’s account also deviated sharply from what Americans have been told.

When Stone asked about the “annexation,” Putin responded: “We were not the ones to annex Crimea. The citizens of Crimea decided to join Russia. The legitimate parliament of Crimea, which was elected based on the Ukrainian legislation, announced a referendum. The Parliament, by an overwhelming majority, voted to join Russia.

“The coup d’etat in Ukraine was accompanied by a surge in violence. And there was even the threat that violence would be perpetrated by nationalists against Crimea, against those who consider themselves to be Russian and who think Russian is their mother language. And people got concerned — they were preoccupied by their own safety.

“According to the corresponding international agreement [with Ukraine], we had a right to have 20,000 people at our military base in the Crimea. We had to facilitate the work of the Parliament of Crimea, the representative government body, in order for this Parliament to be able to assemble and affect actions in accordance with the law.

“The people had to feel they were safe. Yes, we created conditions for people to go to polling stations, but we did not engage in any hostilities. More than 90 percent of the Crimean population turned out, they voted, and once the ballot was cast, the [Crimean] Parliament, based on the outcome of the referendum, addressed the Russian parliament, asking to incorporate it into the Russian Federation.

“Moreover, Ukraine lost the territory, not due to Russia’s position, but due to the position assumed by those who are living in Crimea. These people didn’t want to live under the banner of nationalists.”

Stone challenged some of Putin’s concerns that Ukraine might have turned the Russian naval base over to NATO. “Even if NATO made an agreement with Ukraine, I still don’t see a threat to Russia with the new weaponry,” Stone said.

Putin responded: “I see a threat. The threat consists in the fact that once NATO comes to this or that country, the political leadership of that country as a whole, along with its population, cannot influence the decisions NATO takes, including the decisions related to stationing the military infrastructure. Even very sensitive weapons systems can be deployed. I’m also talking about the anti-ballistic missile systems.”

Putin also argued that the U.S. government exploited the situation in Ukraine to spread hostile propaganda against Russia, saying:

”Through initiating the crisis in Ukraine, they’ve [American officials] managed to stimulate such an attitude towards Russia, viewing Russia as an enemy, a possible potential aggressor. But very soon everyone is going to understand, that there is no threat whatsoever emanating from Russia, either to the Baltic countries, or to Eastern Europe, or to Western Europe.”

A Dangerous Standoff

Putin shed light, too, on a little-noticed confrontation involving a U.S. destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, that steamed through the Black Sea toward Crimea in the middle of the crisis but turned back when Russian aircraft buzzed the ship and Russia activated its shoreline defense systems.

Stone compared the situation to the Cuban Missile Crisis when a Soviet ship turned back rather than challenge the blockade that President John Kennedy had established around the island. But Putin didn’t see the confrontation with the U.S. destroyers as grave as that.

Putin said, “Once Crimea became a full-fledged part of the Russian Federation, our attitude toward this territory changed dramatically. If we see a threat to our territory, and Crimea is now part of Russia, just as any other country, we will have to protect our territory by all means at our disposal. …

“I wouldn’t draw an analogy with the Cuban Missile Crisis, because back then the world was on the brink of a nuclear apocalypse. Luckily, the situation didn’t go so far this time. Even though we did indeed deploy our most sophisticated, our cutting-edge systems for the coastal defense,” known as the Bastion.

“Certainly – against such missiles as the ones we’ve deployed in Crimea – such a ship as the Destroyer Donald Cook is simply defenseless. … Our Commanders always have the authorization to use any means for the defense of the Russian Federation. … Yes , certainly it would have been very bad. What was the Donald Cook doing so close to our land? Who was trying to provoke whom? And we are determined to protect our territory. …

“Once the destroyer was located and detected, they [the U.S. crew] saw that there was a threat, and the ship itself saw that it was the target of the missile systems. I don’t know who the Captain was, but he showed much restraint, I think he is a responsible man, and a courageous officer to boot. I think it was the right decision that he took. He decided not to escalate the situation. He decided not to proceed. It doesn’t at all mean that it would have been attacked by our missiles, but we had to show them that our coast was protected by the missile systems.

“The Captain sees right away that his ship has become the target of missile systems – he has special equipment to detect such kinds of situations. … But indeed we were brought to the brink, so to speak. … Yes, certainly. We had to respond somehow. Yes, we were open to positive dialogue. We did everything to achieve a political settlement. But they [U.S. officials] had to give their support to this unconstitutional seizure of power. I still wonder why they had to do that?”

It also remains a question why the U.S. mainstream media feels that it must protect the American people from alternative views even as the risks of nuclear confrontation escalate.

Regarding other issues discussed by Putin, click here. For more on Stone’s style in interviewing Putin, click here.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, “America’s Stolen Narrative,” either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

June 19, 2017 Posted by | media, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine, USA | Leave a comment

Chernobyl nuclear station – smoke detected at crippled Unit 3

Smoke detected at crippled Chernobyl power plant – Ukraine nuclear watchdog, Rt.com  13 Jun, 2017 Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory body reported smoke at one of the rooms at Unit 3 in Chernobyl, adding that it was briefly “liquidated” by the state emergency personnel and the radiological situation at the site has not changed following the incident.
“At 15:57 pm we’ve received information from Chernobyl nuclear power plant about smoke in room 509 of Power Unit Three. At 16:00 the smoke was liquidated by the State Emergency Service staff,” a statement issued by the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine reads.

“The radiological situation in the third power unit and the station’s territory has not changed,” it added.

No further details were immediately available……..https://www.rt.com/news/392114-smoke-chernobyl-nuclear-plant/

June 14, 2017 Posted by | incidents, Ukraine | Leave a comment

2,397,863 registered Chernobyl-related health victims. 453,391 ARE CHILDREN

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/04/17/clinic-ukraine-chernobyl-30th-anniversary-health-impact/82892592/  THERE ARE 2,397,863 PEOPLE REGISTERED WITH UKRAINE’S HEALTH MINISTRY TO RECEIVE ONGOING CHERNOBYL-RELATED HEALTH TREATMENT. OF THESE, 453,391 ARE CHILDREN.  Kim Hjelmgaard , USA TODAY There are 2,397,863 people registered with Ukraine’s health ministry to receive ongoing Chernobyl-related health care. Of these, 453,391 are children — none born at the time of the accident. Their parents were children in 1986. These children have a range of illnesses: respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, eye diseases, blood diseases, cancer, congenital malformations, genetic abnormalities, trauma. 

KIEV, Ukraine — Daryna Bizilya, 10, wants to be a singer. During a visit with her and about a dozen other children at Ukraine’s largest medical clinic for people living with the consequences of Chernobyl, that’s what she did: She sang.

Bizilya walked directly into the middle of the room, signaled to her friend in the corner holding a cellphone to crank up its digital beatbox, and just went for it. She sang with feeling, dramatic facial expressions and large, sweeping arm gestures that occasionally ended with a clenched fist.

This clinic had an elaborate name, even by former Communist-bloc standards — the Institute of Specialized Radiation Protection of the Ukraine Population. It was full of sick children whose entire lives had only known illness.

The halls were long and dark and seemed, however improbably, to be lit chiefly by fading avocado-colored paint. The children’s bedrooms were neat but gloomy. Textbook orphanage-interior. Not every room was heated, and it was cold outside.

The number she performed was by Ukrainian artist Ani Lorak, a hero of Bizilya’s. On her website, Lorak describes herself as the “singer who became the idol of Ukrainians.”

Bizilya, whose favorite subjects are math and English, said she admired Lorak mostly because she “sings from her heart, and she feels her songs with her heart.”

Bizilya has a heart condition brought on by eating contaminated food, her doctors said. Too much physical exercise makes her condition worse.

“They told us at school that some children were left without a home, and that they were very ill,” she said when asked to explain what she knew about Chernobyl. “I would like to help those children who are without parents. There are children in our village like this,” she added.

Daryna does not think of herself as especially ill.

Artemchuk also has ambitions to be a singer.

“Probably a pop singer, like Michael Jackson,” he said.

He had some other things to say: Favorite food (meatballs), soccer team (Dynamo Kiev) and player (Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo).

“The doctor says I have very bad blood circulation,” he suddenly volunteered. “My parents say that Chernobyl was a big disaster and many people perished because of it.”

A girl named Alina Aponchuk, also 14, was too nervous to speak and fiddled with the sleeves of her dress. There was something on her mind. After a few minutes, she said she was going home the next day.

Aponchuk’s doctor said she had two left kidneys, both twice the normal size. She had chronic gastroduodenitis, which produces sharp stomach pains, lethargy and headaches. She also had “vegetative dysfunction,” a nervous system syndrome that causes anxiety, depression and other emotional stresses.

Vadim Bozhenko, the doctor who runs the clinic, said children stay at the institute from a few days to several weeks and all come from areas located on radioactive land.

“The (children) eat and drink contaminated milk products because cattle that live there eat that grass,” he said, adding that the clinic was underfunded by at least 30%.

Looking around the grounds that evoked a disheveled college campus, it was hard to believe the shortfall was that modest.

“Tell them we need beds and blankets,” Bozhenko said. “Tell them the Institute of Specialized Radiation Protection of the Ukraine Population needs this and a lot more.”

May 5, 2017 Posted by | children, PERSONAL STORIES, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Consequences of Chernobyl

Hidden Radiation Secrets of the World Health Organization, CounterPunch  MAY 2, 2017

“………..WHO held a Chernobyl Forum in 2004 designed to “end the debate about the impact of Chernobyl radiation” whilst WHO maintains that 50 people died.

Here’s the final conclusion of that Chernobyl Forum ‘04: The mental health of those who live in the area is the most serious aftereffect, leading to strong negative attitudes and exaggerated sense of dangers to health and of exposure to radiation. Mental health was thus identified as the biggest negative aftereffect.

Because that conclusion is so brazenly bizarre, the Chernobyl Forum ‘04 must’ve been part of an alternative universe, way out there beyond the wild blue yonder, maybe the Twilight Zone or maybe like entering a scene in Jan Švankmajer’s Alice, a dark fantasy film loose adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Here’s reality: Chernobyl Liquidators fought the Chernobyl disaster. Eight hundred thousand (800,000) Liquidators from the former USSR, largely recruits from the army, with average age of 33, fought the Chernobyl disaster.

According to an interview (2016) with a Liquidator, “We were tasked with the deactivation of the third and fourth reactors, but we also helped build the containment sarcophagus. We worked in three shifts, but only for five to seven minutes at a time because of the danger. After finishing, we’d throw our clothes in the garbage” (Source: Return to Chernobyl With Ukraine’s Liquidators, Aljazeera, April 25, 2016).

“Estimates of the number of liquidators who died or became ill as a result of their work vary substantially, but the men of the 633rd say that out of the 259 from their group, 71 have died. Melnik says that 68 have been designated as invalids by a state committee, which investigates their health and determines whether or not their diseases are attributable to Chernobyl… Dr Dimitry Bazyka, the current director-general of the National Research Centre for Radiation Medicine in Kiev, says that approximately 20,000 liquidators die each year,” Ibid.

As for total deaths, the Chief Medical Officer of the Russian Federation reported that 10% of its Chernobyl Liquidators were dead by 2001. The disaster occurred in 1986 with 80,000 dead within 16 years. Authorities out of Ukraine and Belarus confirmed Russian death numbers. Yet, WHO claims 50 died.

Eighty-thousand (80,000) Liquidators, as of 16 years ago, dead from Chernobyl, and that body count, according to Ms Katz, leaves out the people most contaminated by Chernobyl, meaning evacuees and also 57% of the fallout for Chernobyl came down outside of the USSR, Belarus, and Ukraine, and in 13 European countries 50% of the countryside was dangerously contaminated.

As for studies of the radiation impact of Chernobyl: “Thousands of independent studies in Ukraine, Belarus, and the Russian Federation and in many other countries, that were contaminated to varying degrees by radionuclides, have established that there has been significant increase in all types of cancer, in diseases of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital, endocrine immune, lymph node nervous systems, prenatal, perinatal, infant child mortality, spontaneous abortions, deformities and genetic anomalies….” (Katz)

Hence, WHO’s handling and analysis and work on Chernobyl leaves the curious-minded speechless, open-mouthed, agape, and confounded……..http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/02/hidden-radiation-secrets-of-the-world-health-organization/

May 3, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Belarus, Reference, spinbuster, Ukraine | Leave a comment

The radioactive berry harvests of Chernobyl

The harvests of Chernobyl, Aeon, Thirty years after the nuclear disaster, local berry-pickers earn a good living. What’s the hidden cost of their wares?, Kate Brown, is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of Plutopia (2013). Olha Martynyuk is a historian at the National Technical University of Ukraine.

You can’t miss the berry-pickers in the remote forests of northern Ukraine, a region known as Polesia. They ride along on bicycles or pile out of cargo vans. They are young, mostly women and children, lean and suntanned, with hands stained a deep purple. And they are changing the landscape around them. Rural communities across eastern Europe are struggling economically, but the Polesian towns are booming with new construction. Two hundred miles west of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, thousands of mushroom- and berry-pickers are revving up the local economy. As they forage, they are even changing the European diet, in ways both culinary and radiological.
The rise of the Polesian pickers adds a strange twist to the story that began on 26 April 1986, when an explosion at the Chernobyl plant blew out at least 50 million curies of radioactive isotopes. Soviet leaders traced out a 30 kilometre radius around the stricken reactor and emptied it of its residents. Roughly 28,000 square kilometres outside this exclusion zone were also contaminated. In total, 130,000 people were resettled, but hundreds of thousands remained on irradiated territory, including the Polesian towns of Ukraine’s Rivne Province. In 1990, Soviet officials resolved to resettle several hundred thousand more residents but ran out of money to carry out new mass evacuations.

Last summer, we went to Rivnе to talk to people who in the late 1980s wrote petitions begging for resettlement. In the letters, which we had found in state archives in Kiev and Moscow, writers expressed worries about their health and that of their children, while describing a sense of abandonment. Help never arrived; the Chernobyl accident came just as the Soviet state began to topple economically and politically……..

Anyone in Polesia can pick anywhere, as long as they are willing to brave the radioactive isotopes. After Chernobyl, Soviet officials strongly discouraged picking berries in contaminated forest areas, which promised to remain radioactive for decades. As the years passed, fewer and fewer people heeded the warnings. In the past five years, picking has grown into a booming business as new global market connections have enabled the mass sale of berries abroad. A person willing to do the hard work of stooping 10 hours a day and heaving 40-pound boxes of fruit to the road can earn good money. The women and child pickers are revitalising the Polesian economy on a modest, human-powered scale. They are quietly and unceremoniously doing what development agencies and government programmes failed to do: restoring commercial activity to the contaminated territory around the Chernobyl Zone.

We followed the pickers into the woods. …….

Reliance on the forest for a living is an ancestral tradition in Polesia. Because of the mineral-poor soils, traditional farming never thrived here. Instead, Polesians subsisted on game, fish, berries, herbs and mushrooms while making their tools and homes from wood and clay. What is new in the past few years is the industrial-sized scale of berry harvesting. A typical roadside berry-buyer purchases about two tons of berries a day in season, and there are hundreds of buyers. In 2015, Ukraine exported 1,300 tons of fresh berries and 17,251 tons of frozen berries to the European market – more than 30 times as much as in 2014. Ukraine is now one of biggest exporters of blueberries to the EU.

That success is all the more remarkable because Polesian berries are not just any berries. They grow in radioactive soils, which means that they carry some of Chernobyl’s legacy in them. We showed up at a berry wholesaler in the boom town of Rokytne and noticed a radiation monitor who was stationed to meet buyers at the loading dock. The situation there was tense. As the monitor waved a wand over each box of berries, measuring their gamma ray emission, she set aside about half of the boxes. The buyers argued with her, trying to lower the count on their berries: ‘It’s not the berries that are radiating. It’s my trailer. Measure it over there.’

We asked the monitor, a young townswoman, how many berries come up radioactive. ‘All the berries from Polesia are radioactive,’ she replied, ‘but some are really radioactive. We’ve had berries measure over 3,000!’ She could not describe what units she was referring to, microsieverts or microrems; she only knew which numbers were bad. ‘The needle has to be between 10 and 15,’ she said, vaguely pointing to her wand, ‘and then I place it in this machine.’ She gestured toward a small mass spectrometer. ‘If the readout is more than 450, then the berries are over the permissible level.’

Contrary to our assumption, the berries rejected as too radioactive were not discarded, but were merely placed aside. Then they, too, were weighed and sold, just at lower prices. The wholesalers we spoke to said that the radioactive berries were used for natural dyes. The pickers claimed the hot berries were mixed with cooler berries until the assortment came in under the permissible level. The berries could then legally be sold to Poland to enter the European Union (EU) market, even if some individual berries measured five times higher than the permissible level. Such mixing is legal as long as the overall mix of berries falls within the generous limit of 600 becquerel per kilogram set by the EU after the Chernobyl disaster.

No one, certainly no official, ever envisioned revitalising the economy by exploiting berries and mushrooms. Months after the 1986 accident, Soviet scientists determined that forest products were the most radioactive of all edible crops, and banned their consumption. However, villagers in Polesia never stopped harvesting berries and mushrooms (as well as game and fish) from the forests outside the fenced-off Chernobyl Zone. Women sold their produce surreptitiously at regional markets, deftly avoiding the police who learned to identify Polesians by their homemade baskets……..

AQlthough the Polesian berries meet EU standards, it remains unclear how healthy life is for those living in the Rivne Province. Official publications of the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency assert that radiation levels in Polesia are too low to cause health damage other than a slight rise in the chance of cancer. However, that judgment is based on reference studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims, not on local research in the Chernobyl zones. Wladimir Wertelecki, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, has spent the past 16 years tracking every recorded birth in the Rivne Province. ‘Hiroshima was just one big X-ray. It doesn’t compare to the doses of people in Polesia who ingest radioactive isotopes every day,’ he says. He thinks that the slow-drip exposure of organs to radioactive isotopes over decades makes for a far more damaging exposure than the single, external Hiroshima dose.

Researchers in Wertelecki’s group and those working on small, usually minimally financed medical studies have found that low doses of ingested radiation tend to concentrate in vital organs that keenly impact on important body functions. Yury Bandazhevsky, a pioneer in studying the health impacts of Chernobyl, has recorded a correlation between the incorporation of radioactive cesium in children’s bodies and heart disease in Belarus and Ukraine. Wertelecki and the Ukrainian medical researcher Lyubov Yevtushok discovered that in the six Polesian regions of the Rivne Province, certain birth defects, such as microcephaly, conjoined twins and neural-tube disorders occur three times more frequently than is the European norm. ‘We did not prove with this study that radiation causes birth defects. We just have a concurrence, not proof, of cause and effect,’ Wertelecki says. Nevertheless, he considers the concurrence statistically strong enough to warrant large-scale epidemiological studies that could prove or disprove whether the birth defects were caused by radiation.

Despite the fact that the nuclear disaster presented scientists with a unique living laboratory, few funding agencies have been willing to finance Chernobyl studies on non-cancerous health effects; based on Japanese bomb-survivor research, industry scientists have insisted that there would be no measurable non-malignant impacts. In Chernobyl-contaminated Polesia, however, few people doubt that ingesting radioactive toxins over decades has a biological cost.

Galina, the woman who declared that there was ‘no Chernobyl’, changed her view later when talking about her own health. Trim and fit at the age of 50, she had a stroke followed by two surgeries for ‘women’s cancer’. About her cancers, she said: ‘All of a sudden, they started growing day by day. I asked the doctors if they’d hold up the operation until autumn [after the harvest], but they said I’d be dead by then. Probably, these problems were caused by radiation. It does have an effect, apparently.’ Even less is known about non-cancer health impacts from Chernobyl. Many locals complain of aching and swollen joints, headaches, chronic fatigue and legs that mysteriously stop moving. There have been almost no studies investigating these vague complaints…….

here has been little public discussion and almost no medical research on the long-term, low-dose ingestion of radioactive isotopes. Presumably exporting the berries helps the people of Polesia, but for now there is no hard proof……

The mass marketing of radioactive Polesian forest products is an unexpected outcome of policies aimed at finalising the disaster. It is a development that disputes the focus on Chernobyl as a ‘place’. Rather, Chernobyl is an event, an ongoing occurrence that transpires as long as the radioactive energy released in the accident continues to decay…….https://aeon.co/essays/ukraine-s-berry-pickers-are-reaping-a-radioactive-bount

April 28, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, Ukraine | 1 Comment

Time to pay attention to long term effects of low dose ionising radiation

The numbers of cases rose into the thousands, too high to dismiss, and in 1996 the WHO and the IAEA finally admitted that skyrocketing rates of childhood thyroid cancer were most likely due to Chernobyl exposures.

Today we know little about the non-cancerous effects that Soviet scientists working in contaminated zones reported in the late 1980s, and which they attributed to internal and external exposures to ionizing radiation. Are these effects as real as the childhood thyroid cancers proved to be? The Soviet post-Chernobyl medical records suggest that it is time to ask a new set of questions about long-term, low-dose exposures.

Chernobyl’s hidden legacy http://live.iop-pp01.agh.sleek.net/physicsworld/reader/#!edition/editions_Nuclear_2017/article/page-19330 Kate
Brown
 is a historian at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, US, e-mail kbrown@umbc.edu
 Historian Kate Brown argues that scientists should re-examine Soviet-era evidence of health effects from low doses of radiation

In June 1980 a doctor with the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in the US wrote a letter to a colleague at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in upstate New York. The pair were corresponding about a forthcoming study of employee health at the Knolls reactor, and the doctor, C C Lushbaugh, wrote that he expected “little ‘useful’ knowledge” from this study “because radiation doses have been so low”. Even so, he agreed that the study had to be done because “both the workers and their management need to be assured that a career involving exposures to low levels of nuclear radiation is not hazardous to one’s health”. The results of such a study, he surmised, would help to counter anti-nuclear propaganda and resolve workers’ claims. However, they could also be a liability. If a competing union or regulatory agency got hold of the employees’ health data, Lushbaugh fretted, it could be weaponized. “I believe,” he continued, “that a study designed to show the transgressions of management will usually succeed.”

Lushbaugh’s dilemma is characteristic of research on the human health effects of exposure to low doses of radiation. He assumed he knew the results – good or bad – before the study began, because those results depended on how the study was designed. The field was so politicized, in other words, that scientists were using health studies as polemical tools and, consequently, asking few open-ended scientific questions.

A few years after Lushbaugh posted this letter, reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blew up, killing 31 workers and firefighters and spreading radioactive material across a broad area of what was then the Soviet Union (now Ukraine and Belarus) and beyond. The accident also exploded the field of radiation medicine and, for a while, promised to rejuvenate it. In August 1986, months after the accident, the chief of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), Giovanni Silini, advocated an enduring epidemiological investigation similar to research on atomic-bomb survivors in Japan [1]. Many other scientists concurred, hoping that Chernobyl could clear up ongoing controversies and uncertainties surrounding low-dose exposures.

It never happened. No long-term epidemiological study took place. That’s not to say there isn’t any information. A few summers ago I went to the Ukrainian national archives in the dusty, bustling outskirts of Kiev and asked the archivists for files on Chernobyl from Soviet Ukraine’s Ministry of Health. They laughed, telling me Chernobyl was a banned topic in the Soviet Union. “You won’t find anything,” they said.

They were wrong. I found dozens of collections labelled “The medical effects of the Chernobyl disaster”. I started reading and have not yet been able to stop.

The aftermath

In the years between 1986 and 1991, doctors and sanitation officials wrote to the Ministry of Health in Kiev with alarming accounts of widespread, chronic illness among the hundreds of thousands of children and adults living in contaminated territories. They recorded increases in tonsillitis, upper respiratory disease and disorders of the digestive tract and immune system. Between 1985 and 1988, cases of anaemia doubled. Physicians from almost every region in the zone of contamination reported a leap in the number of reproductive problems, including miscarriages, stillbirths and birth malformations. Nervous-system disorders surged. So did diseases of the circulatory system. In 1988, in the heavily contaminated Polesie region of northern Ukraine, 80% of children examined had upper respiratory diseases and 28% had endocrine problems. In Ivankiv, where many cleanup workers lived, 92% of all children examined had a chronic illness.

I also went to Minsk to check the archives in Belarus. There, I read reports that sounded eerily similar to the Ukrainian documents. These reports were classified “for office use only”, meaning that at the time, scientists were not free to exchange this information across districts or republics of the Soviet Union. Even so, independently, they were reporting similar, bad news. The problem grew so dire in Belarus that in 1990 officials declared the entire republic, which received more than 60% of Chernobyl fallout, a “zone of national ecological disaster”.

The Ukrainian and Belarusian reports, hundreds of them, read like a dirge from a post-catastrophic world. Doctors wrote from clinics in Kharkiv, far outside the contaminated zone, and described similar health problems among evacuees who had settled there. Physicians sent telegrams from Donetsk, where they were treating a complex of illnesses among young miners who had burrowed under the smouldering reactor in the days after the accident. Medical workers sent in to examine people in contaminated regions also fell ill.

In response, the Union of Soviet Radiologists penned a petition to alert Soviet leaders of the ongoing public health disaster. The president of the Belarusian Academy of Science sent a detailed summary of scientists’ findings to Minsk and Moscow. Even a KGB general, Mikhailo Zakharash, sounded the alarm. Zakharash, who was also a medical doctor, conducted a study of 2000 cleanup workers and their family members in a specially equipped KGB clinic in Kiev. In 1990, summing up four years of medical investigation, he wrote, “We have shown that long term, internal exposures of low doses of radiation to a practically healthy individual leads to a decline of his immune system and to a whole series of pathological illnesses.”

Chronic radiation

These findings track with what Soviet doctors had long described as chronic radiation syndrome, a complex of symptoms derived from chronic exposure to low doses of radiation. Researchers working on Chernobyl discerned a pattern of disease that tracked with pathways of radioactive isotopes entering the body, paths that began in either the mouth and headed towards the gastrointestinal tract or started in the lungs and followed blood into circulatory systems. Radioactive iodine sped to thyroids, they hypothesized, causing endocrinal and hormonal damage.

Critics, mostly in Moscow and the ministries of health, acknowledged the growth in health problems, but denied a connection to Chernobyl. A E Romanenko, the Ukrainian Minister of Health, is credited with inventing the word “radiophobia” to describe a public fear of radiation that induced stress-related illness. He and his colleagues also pointed to a screening effect from mass medical monitoring. Local doctors, they said, were projecting the diagnoses of chronic radiation syndrome onto their patients, blaming it for any illness found after Chernobyl.

There are some problems with these arguments. From 1986 to 1989, Chernobyl was a censored topic in the Soviet Union. Doctors could not exchange information about health problems, nor did they have access to maps of radioactive contamination. They only learned to be “radiophobic” by judging the bodies they examined. In the same years, doctors were also fleeing contaminated areas en masse, leaving hospitals and clinics in those regions staffed at 60%. As physicians left, so too did the chance for diagnosis, meaning that under-reporting of illnesses was more likely than a screening effect. Moreover, doctors from the northern regions of the Rivne province, which were at first judged clean and only in late 1989 designated contaminated, reported the same growth of illness as areas originally deemed “control zones,” regions with counts of more than 5 curies per square kilometre. The president of the Belarusian Academy of Science, V P Platonov, pointed to a vacuum of knowledge: “Until this time, no population has ever lived with continual internal and external exposures of this size.” Risk assessments assuring safe levels in the contaminated zones were extrapolated from the Japanese Atomic Bomb Survivor Lifespan Study, but these began only in 1950, five years after exposure. “Much is uncertain,” Platonov continued, “about fundamental aspects of the effects of low doses of radiation on human organs,” [2].

What happened to the 1980s Chernobyl health studies, which might have led to a renaissance in the field of radioecology? Essentially, they were overlooked. To figure out why, I went to the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, to the UN’s archives in New York and the archives of UNSCEAR in Vienna. There, I found evidence of a conflict between branches of the WHO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over which organization would control the studies of Chernobyl health effects.

By 1989 angry crowds were questioning the Soviet Union’s handling of Chernobyl, and Soviet leaders asked foreign experts for help in assessing the disaster’s health impacts. The IAEA agreed, and Fred Mettler, a radiologist and American delegate to UNSCEAR, was appointed to head the medical section of an IAEA team. In 1990, as he and his team examined 1726 people in six contaminated zones and six control zones, Soviet doctors gave him 20 slides from children diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is very rare in children: before the Chernobyl accident, doctors saw eight or nine cases per year in all of Ukraine. Twenty cases in just three provinces was hard to believe. Dubious, Mettler brought the slides to the US to have them verified. They indeed indicated thyroid cancer.

Cancer cluster

Mettler mentioned this major medical finding in the 1991 International Chernobyl Project (ICP) technical report, but strangely, he also stated that there was “no clear pathologically documented evidence of an increase in thyroid cancer” [3]. The report concluded that there were no detectable Chernobyl health effects and only a probable chance of childhood thyroid cancers in the future. In a 1992 publication on thyroid nodules in the Chernobyl territories, Mettler failed to mention the 20 verified cases at all [4].

How could such a lapse occur? I found a confidential 1990 UN memo that seems relevant, particularly in light of the study-design problem set out in Lushbaugh’s letter a decade earlier. The memo suggests that the IAEA was conducting the ICP study to “allay the fears of the public” in service of “its own institutional interest for the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy” [5]. The experiences of Keith Baverstock, then head of the radiation protection programme in the WHO’s European office, likewise reveal an institutional aversion to bad news. In July 1992 Baverstock planned to go to Minsk to examine childhood thyroid cases in Belarus, where doctors reported an astounding 102 new cases. At the last minute, officials from the WHO and the Commission of European Communities inexplicably pulled out of the mission. In an interview with me, Baverstock, an expert on the effects of ionizing radiation, said that a WHO official told him he could get fired if he went to Minsk.

He went anyway. With Belarusian scientists, he published news of the thyroid cancer epidemic in Nature. A top IAEA official complained angrily to the WHO, and the two agencies put pressure on Baverstock to retract his article. He refused, and a barrage of letters followed in Nature disputing the connection between the cancers and Chernobyl exposures [6]. Leading scientists from the US Department of Energy, the National Cancer Institute, Japan’s Radiation Effects Research Foundation and the IAEA argued that cancers were found because of increased surveillance. They called for a suspension of judgment and for further study. Repetitive and dismissive, their letters read like an orchestrated pile-on.

We now know that these global leaders in radiology were wrong. The numbers of cases rose into the thousands, too high to dismiss, and in 1996 the WHO and the IAEA finally admitted that skyrocketing rates of childhood thyroid cancer were most likely due to Chernobyl exposures. Today, the UNSCEAR maintains that the health consequences of the Chernobyl accident are limited to 31 direct fatalities – plus 6000 cases of children’s thyroid cancer [7].

Lingering questions

The question is – so what? Despite the 1991 ICP report’s erroneous claim of no health effects, UN agencies eventually recognized the cancer epidemic. What difference did a few years make? A great deal, it turns out. The ICP report also recommended that resettlements from the most contaminated regions should cease [8]. Consequently, the planned resettlement of 200,000 people living in areas contaminated with high levels of radiation (between 15 and 40 curies per square kilometre) slowed tremendously. The UN General Assembly had also been waiting for the report before raising funds for Chernobyl relief. The $646m budget (equivalent to about $1.1bn today) included medical aid, resettlement funds and a large-scale epidemiological study of Chernobyl health effects. The assertion by important UN agencies that there were no detectable health effects deflated that effort. Before the report, Japan had given $20m to the WHO, but afterwards it gave no more and complained about the funds being wasted. A few other countries gave sums totalling less than $1m, while the US and the European Community begged off entirely, citing the ICP report as a “factor in their reluctance to pledge” [9].

In subsequent years, IAEA and UNSCEAR officials cited the ICP report when discouraging Chernobyl-related health projects. In 1993 UNSCEAR scientific secretary Burton Bennett recommended that UN agencies suspend all programmes aimed at Chernobyl relief because they were unnecessary. He and IAEA administrator Abel Gonzalez, who led the ICP assessment, widely shared their views among UN agencies about “misinformation surrounding the Chernobyl accident” [10]. When the WHO, nonetheless, started a pilot study on Chernobyl health effects, Gonzalez wrote that he could not imagine what the WHO “expects to be able to detect for the level of doses in question”. Irked that WHO officials would examine any effects but psychological ones, he charged, “The World Health Organization seems to ignore, expressly or tacitly, the conclusions and recommendations of the International Chernobyl Project,” [11].The consequences of this moment of deviant science continue 30 years later. Today we know little about the non-cancerous effects that Soviet scientists working in contaminated zones reported in the late 1980s, and which they attributed to internal and external exposures to ionizing radiation. Are these effects as real as the childhood thyroid cancers proved to be? The Soviet post-Chernobyl medical records suggest that it is time to ask a new set of questions about long-term, low-dose exposures.

References

  1. Giovanni Silini 1986 “Concerning proposed draft for long-term Chernobyl studies” Correspondence Files, UNSCEAR Archive
  2. V P Platonov and E F Konoplia 1989 “Informatsiia ob osnovynkh rezul’tatakh nauchnykh rabot, sviazannykh s likvidatsiei posledstvii avarii na ChAES” RGAE 4372/67/9743: 490
  3. International Chernobyl Project, Proceedings of an International Conference (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 47. Mettler also admitted that the slides checked out at the Vienna conference convened to discuss the report. For a discussion of thyroid cancer, see The International Chernobyl Project, Technical Report, Assessment of Radiological Consequences and Evaluation of Protective Measures (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 388
  4. Fred Mettler et al. 1992 “Thyroid nodules in population around Chernobyl” Journal of American Medical Association 268 616
  5. From Enrique ter Horst, Asst Sec Gen, ODG/DIEC to Virendra Daya, Chef de Cabinet, EOSG, 16 April 1990, United Nations Archive, New York S-1046 box 14, file 4, acc. 2001/0001
  6. Baverstock et al. 1992 “Thyroid cancer after Chernobyl” Nature 359 21; Kazakov et al. 1992 “Thyroid cancer after Chernobyl” Nature 359 21; I Shigematsu and J W Thiessen 1992 “Childhood thyroid cancer in Belarus” Nature 359 680; V Beral and G Reeves 1992 “Childhood thyroid cancer in Belarus” Nature 359 680; E Ron, J Lubin, A B Scheider 1992 “Thyroid cancer incidence” Nature 360 113
  7. The Chernobyl accident: UNSCEAR’s assessments of the radiation effects” UNSCEAR website
  8. The International Chernobyl Project: an Overview (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 44
  9. “International co-operation in the elimination of the consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident” 24 May 1990, UNA S-1046/14/4; “Third meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl” 19–23 September 1991, WHO E16-445-11, 5; “Briefing note on the activities relating to Chernobyl” 3 June 1993, Department of Humanitarian Affairs DHA, UNA s-1082/35/6/, acc 2002/0207; Anstee to Napalkov, 17 Jan 1992, WHO E16-445-11, 7
  10. Gonzalez to Napalkov, 10 August 1993, WHO E16-445-11, 19; B G Bennett 1993 “Background information for UNEP representative to the meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Coordination on Chernobyl” 17 November 1993, New York, Correspondence Files, UNSCEAR Archive, Vienna
  11. Gonzalez to Napalkov, 10 August 1993, WHO E16-445-11, 19

April 26, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Problems in Europe with Westinghouse nuclear fuel assemblies

A Bankruptcy That Wrecked Global Prospects Of American Nuclear Energy, Forbes, Kenneth Rapoza , 13 Apr 17  “……….Unlike with fossil fuels, in nuclear, fuel assemblies are a high-tech and R&D-intensive product. These assemblies can make even reactors run more efficiently, sometimes exceeding their original lifespan. But under investment impacted the quality and comparative performance of WEC versus their main rival, Russian owned TVEL, a unit of Rosatom. In some markets fuel rods supplied by Westinghouse have failure rates almost 1.5 times greater than those manufactured by its competitors, according to at least one utility in Finland that has a Russian reactor.

Westinghouse supplies fuel assemblies mainly to Europe where it has always used its mighty lobbying clout in Brussels to prop their market share. Back in 2003, the European Commission adopted directive 2003/54/EC which made it compulsory for EDF, the French energy giant, to buy nuclear fuel from an “alternative vendor”. This completely opened the door to WEC, with wheels already in motion a year earlier.  EDF buys about 15-20% of its fuel from Westinghouse today.

WEC had Washington’s help within companies operating Rosatom reactors, fiercely lobbying for nuclear fuel supply diversification in Eastern Europe. They tried to supply fuel assemblies to Finland and Czech Republic, but both countries eventually chose TVEL. The Czech even had to cancel their contract with Westinghouse amid safety concerns at their Temelin site, despite a large-scale lobbying push which involved letters from the European Commission to utilities encouraging them to switch to WEC. As of now, even after Washington’s cheerleading Toshiba, Westinghouse’s biggest star as far as nuclear fuel assembly diversification goes is Ukraine.

It’s quite understandable that Ukraine, effectively at war with Russia, may be tempted to turn a blind eye to the issues facing Westinghouse. But concerns over incident risks are growing amid reports that plants using WEC’s fuel have had frequent emergency outages. Many claim that corruption and lack of safety culture in Ukraine make it a really dangerous game potentially leading to another Chernobyl, according to a Washington Times columnist with a flare for the dramatic.

Westinghouse told me that their recent contracts with Ukraine to supply Russian built reactors with fuel assemblies was still intact……….

For Westinghouse’s global ambitions, China was the really big picture and Europe was its hub to challenge Russia’s market in the lucrative fuel assembly business. WEC says that the bankruptcy here will not affect their businesses there, but judge Michael Wiles rejected a request by the company to allow for Apollo’s loan to go towards WEC’s European units. Without those loans, the European companies could face their own funding woes now. AxilPartners said that a cash pool the European affiliates normally draws from was halted by the Swedish bank that serves as its monitor. It is unclear who this monitor is, or what that means precisely, Debtwire’s Tracy says. But without that bank, pensions in Europe could become a problem for Westinghouse, as well as tax and payroll issues cropping up in the U.K.

Westinghouse, meanwhile, is hoping for the best. Or as industry cynics would say: Westinghouse is hoping for pixie dust……https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2017/04/13/a-bankruptcy-that-wrecked-global-prospects-of-american-nuclear-energy/#608e8b7e17a1

April 14, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, technology, Ukraine | 2 Comments

Danger to Europe of Ukraine’s nuclear corruption

Ukrainian corruption casts a nuclear pall over all of Europe http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/30/ukrainian-corruption-casts-nuclear-pall-over-all-e/ Lack of oversight, regulatory control make for clear danger,  – – Thursday, March 30, 2017

In 2016, the No. 1 tourist destination of Ukraine was the lifeless town of Pripyat, evacuated after the deadly reactor meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986. Today, Ukraine relies on nuclear power for 53 percent of its power generation, but is risking another nuclear accident on a scale greater than Europe — and the world — could imagine.

The problems facing Ukraine’s nuclear power industry are multi-faceted, but the main issue is the same one plaguing the whole of the former Soviet republic — corruption, which is breeding a lack of accountability and mismanagement of the sector’s critical infrastructure.

Ukraine’s nuclear power plants are supposed to be regulated by the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU), which by law is an independent regulatory body. In recent years, however, it has become standard practice for the leaders of SNRIU to be appointed by the state nuclear power plant operator, Energoatom, instead of through a rigorous, independent selection process.

This, perversely, subjugates the regulator to the whims of the operator. If Energoatom cannot meet certain safety standards or deadlines, its bosses simply inform the regulator of such, and the deadlines are extended or eliminated, public safety be damned.

In addition, many positions at the regulatory body remain empty. For example, the position of the chief state inspector of nuclear and radiation safety has been vacant for three years. Other key posts of the Ukrainian nuclear regulator remain vacant.

March 31, 2017 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Not true that Russia is to blame for Ukraine violence

truthflag-UkraineOliver Stone: Reports Russia to blame for Ukraine violence are fake news, Belfast Telegraph 04/02/2017 Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone has branded reports that Russia is responsible for the escalating violence in Ukraine as “fake news”.   The American film-maker said claims Russia was “aggravating the situation” in the warzone were untrue and insisted the United States had a “huge responsibility” for the continuing conflict.

Stone, who interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin for his new documentary, Ukraine On Fire, also backed President Donald Trump’s bid to improve US-Russian relations.

Speaking at a screening of the film in Los Angeles, Stone claimed America had used the Ukrainian conflict to “blackball” Russia and “keep the concept of Nato alive”.

He told the Press Association: “(America) has a huge role, a huge responsibility and has denied it. It’s completely denied the whole truth of the situation.

“It’s a very painful situation for the people who live in that area but at the same time it’s used by the United States to blackball Russia as much as possible and keep the concept of Nato alive.

“It’s a very important film and a very important subject that has been swept under the rug by our country. “Frankly today I’m shocked they published fake news that the Russians are aggravating the situation when all the casualties are in (rebel-held) Donetsk.   He added: “It’s a horrible situation and totally fake.”………

Stone, who won best director Oscars for Platoon and Born On The Fourth Of July, produced the documentary Ukraine On Fire which looks at the country’s revolution in 2014.

The film features an interview with ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych and argues he was the victim of a US-inspired coup with the intent of pushing back against Russia. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/entertainment/film-tv/news/oliver-stone-reports-russia-to-blame-for-ukraine-violence-are-fake-news-35422955.html

February 8, 2017 Posted by | politics international, Russia, Ukraine | Leave a comment