Chernobyl legacy to linger long after most humans have gone
Chernobyl fallout covered the entire Northern Hemisphere
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The explosion at Chernobyl nuclear power plant 26 years ago has so far claimed at least a million lives, and counting. The core meltdown, which occurred on Saturday, April 26, 1986 at reactor No. 4 of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station, as it was then called, left entire regions in three countries—Ukraine, Russia and Belarus—unlivable.
The long-term consequences of the Chernobyl disaster are still disputed.
Birth defects and cancer were the norm for many years following the Chernobyl disaster. By the time residents of Pripyat, a town located near the plant, were ordered to evacuate, about two days after the Chernobyl core meltdown had occurred, many had already been exposed to varying doses of radiation poisoning.
Consequences of the Catastrophe. Authors Alexey Yablokov (Center for Russian Environmental Policy in Moscow), Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko ( Institute of Radiation Safety, Minsk, Belarus) studied about 5,000 reports and scientific papers mostly published in Slavic languages and compiled their finding in the book “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment,” which was published last year on the 24th anniversary of the Chernobyl reactor core meltdown.
“For the past 23 years, it has been clear that there is a danger greater than nuclear weapons concealed within nuclear power. Emissions from this one reactor exceeded a hundred-fold the radioactive contamination of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” They wrote.
“No citizen of any country can be assured that he or she can be protected from radioactive contamination. One nuclear reactor can pollute half the globe,” the authors said. “Chernobyl fallout covers the entire Northern Hemisphere.”
According to the book, a total of about 830,000 people, referred to as the “liquidators,” were responsible for various emergency works at the Chernobyl site including fire extinguishing, decontamination and cleanup.
The authors say between 112,000 and 125,000 of the liquidators had died by 2005. The authors also estimate that between 1986 and 2004 some 985,000 people died as a result of Chernobyl fallout [2011 estimates are well over a million deaths.]
“Official discussions from the International Atomic Energy Agency and associated United Nations’ agencies (e.g. the Chernobyl Forum reports) have largely downplayed or ignored many of the findings reported in the Eastern European scientific literature and consequently have erred by not including these assessments.” The authors said
Chernobyl and Other Nuclear Stats
More than 95% of the radioactive material (180 metric tons with a radioactivity of about 18 million curies) still remains inside the Chernobyl reactor.
The core meltdown at Chernobyl was said to have released radiation esti
mated at 50 million curies. Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations said in 1995 that the meltdown had released about 140 million curies. [Researchers Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko say the radiation released from Chernobyl may have been up to 10 billion curies. In comparison, the Hiroshima bomb released about 3 million curies.]
Immediately after the accident, 237 people suffered from acute radiation sickness, and 31 died within the first 90 days of the disaster.
About 135,000 people were evacuated from the area surrounding the plant, including 50,000 from the town of Pripyat.
The Academy’s estimate for the number of casualties are more than 90,000 deaths and more than a quarter of a million cancer cases.
The Ukrainian National Commission for Radiation Protection calculates the number of radiation casualties at half a million deaths so far.
In their book, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, published by the New York Academy of Sciences on the 24th anniversary of the reactor core meltdown, researchers Yablokov, Nesterenko and Nesterenko maintain that about one million people have died from exposure to radiation released by the Chernobyl reactor [as of 2010 .]
“In the former Soviet Union at least 9 million people have been effected by the accident; 2.5 million in Belarus; 3.5 million in Ukraine; and 3 million in Russia. In total over 160 000 Km2 are contaminated in the three republics.” source
As of April 1, 2011, some 437 nuclear reactors were operating in 31 countries ( total capacity of 376 gigawatts) each of which is potentially as lethal as Chernobyl, if not worse. [The above figure may have changed due to the nuclear reactor shutdowns in Japan.]
An estimated 56 countries operate more than 250 research reactors.
At least 220 nuclear reactors power military ships and submarines.
Fukushima NPP is said to contain about 4,277 tons of nuclear fuel, about 24 times as much as Chernobyl (~ 180 tons).
“The Fukushima Dai-ichi site has a considerable number of fuel rods on hand, according to information provided Thursday by Toyko Electric Power Co., which owns the atomic complex: There are 3,400 tons of fuel in seven spent fuel pools within the six-reactor plant, including one joint pool storing very old fuel from units 3 and 4. There are 877 tons in five of the reactor cores. Officials have said that the fuel in Unit 4′s reactor vessel was transferred to its spent fuel pool when the unit was temporarily shut in November.” AP reported.
On April 12, Japanese authorities raised the measure of severity of the Fukushima NPP disaster to the maximum level of 7 on INES. (See below for details.)
- Fukushima reactor No. 4 vulnerable to catastrophic collapse; could unleash 85 times Cesium-137 radiation of Chernobyl; human civilization on the brink (johnmalcolm.me)
- Chernobyl 2012 (alexanderhiggins.com)
- Top Threat to Humanity: The Fuel Pools of Fukushima (beavercountyblue.org)
- Japanese Culture Caused Fukushima Disaster (israelnationalnews.com)
- 26 years after Chernobyl: the KGB/NEA documentation (pdf) (insomniacanonymous.wordpress.com)
- Nuclear meltdowns 200x more likely than previously estimated (scienceblog.com)
- Fukushima Nuclear Plant Update- Critical! (thetruthsoldier.com)
- Official data now estimates Chernobyl death toll at 1.5 million (nuclear-news.net)
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