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Chernobyl: a tragedy for the world

Author : Polina Davydova

09:32, 26 April 2016
Chernobyl: a tragedy for the world

Author : Polina Davydova

The real consequences of the Chernobyl disaster proved far bigger than originally thought

09:32, 26 April 2016

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The measure of the nuclear Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 shocked the imagination of the Soviet elite so much, that all the leaders headed by Mykhailo Gorbachov immediately concealed all the information regarding the health and environment consequences of the accident. As a result, the USSR and its leadership have been subjected to harsh criticism from Western countries. After all, it turned out, that as a result of the Chernobyl disaster 17 countries in Europe were contaminated with cesium-137, including Austria, Germany, Italy, UK, Sweden, Finland, and Norway - the total area of contamination was 207.5 thousand sq. km. And the radiation spread very fast - just in one day a radioactive "smoke" has already reached the coast of Denmark.

The first most comprehensive alternative report on radioactive contamination of European countries and its impact on human health and the environment was introduced 20 years after the Chernobyl accident. Its authors are a group of independent European scientists under the auspices of the European Parliament. This report focuses on the differences in the estimates of independent scientists and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) - in relation to human health and environmental pollution in Europe.

The alternative report states that the proportion of cesium-137 and iodine-131 taken off from the reactor is respectively, 30% and 15% higher than the IAEA experts estimated. These figures are fundamental, they determine the correct evaluation of the collective dose and deaths predictions. Also in this report at the first time was noted that 40% of the territory of Europe was contaminated by cesium-137 much stronger than indicated in the IAEA report.

Moreover, the IAEA and the WHO report did not discuss the Chernobyl fallout and radiation dose in any other countries, except in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. 80% of the territory of Moldova, as well as European part of Turkey, Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria and Slovakia have been contaminated by cesium-137 with more than 4 kBq per square meter. 44% of Germany's land and 34% of the UK were hit at the same radiation doze. 5% of Belarus, Austria, Ukraine, Finland and Sweden were contaminated with more than 5 kBq per square meter. In the southeast of Bavaria, in the most affected region in Germany, the level of soil contamination with cesium-137 reached 2 curies per square kilometer. However, this region has not received the formal status of contaminated areas. At the same time in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, the territories with the same contamination levels were found affected, their inhabitants could get some preferences.

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Quite a high level of cesium contamination was also proved in the UK and the Scandinavian countries. According to the scientists, for all the years after the accident, these figures have not become much lower. And today, plants and freshwater fish are still radioactively contaminated there. The report also notes that after the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in many European countries measures to ban the consumption of the contaminated products were made. In some places, these measures are relevant and valid, even decades later. In Finland and Sweden, this applies mainly to wild animals. Wild boars, mooses, as well as mushrooms, berries and fish in certain regions of Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland still have high levels of radioactive cesium contamination. In Sweden in 1993 two hundred tons of the venison meat were disposed.

In 2001, the Swedish National Institute of Radiation Protection issued a new warning about the dangers of eating venison and mushrooms due to increased levels of cesium in them. In 2003 the Finnish Office for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety also warned the public about radiation contamination of reindeer meat and mushrooms.Its level was above allowed in the EU at 600 becquerels per kilogram.

An independent report of the German Office of "International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War" complements first alternative Chernobyl report have been made officially in the European Parliament. It has some sensational information, where it is noted that "collective dose (this is a common assessment of the radioactive damage) for Europe was even higher that for the Chernobyl region in the former USSR. Europe received 53% of the collective dose from Chernobyl, affected regions of the former Soviet Union - 36%, Asia – 8%, Africa – 2%, America – 0.3%. If we take the data used by the World Health Organization and the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), even of them, it follows that it is expected from 28 000 to 69 000 deaths in the world of cancer and leukemia due to Chernobyl accident. And if count also cancerogenic diseases, this amount could be much higher.

In an independent report of German doctors it is noted that the IAEA and the WHO says almost nothing about the impact of the Chernobyl disaster on the health of Europe's population. WHO and IAEA experts claim that most of the diseases traditionally associated with the disaster in Chernobyl, in fact, can be explained by "psychological disorders, radiophobia or poverty and unhealthy way of life." Meanwhile, independent researches show that in Europe since 1986 child mortality has increased. It is estimated in 5000 infants whose death is associated with the consequences of Chernobyl. Even the IAEA has concluded that after the explosion in Chernobyl from 100 000 to 200 000 women in Western Europe had made abortions being afraid of the consequences of radioactive fallout for the fetal health. According to UNSCEAR reports, in the Chernobyl zone it is expected a birth of 12 000 to 83 000 children with congenital deformities and from 30 000 to 207 000 children with genetic damage worldwide. Only 10% of the expected damage can be seen on the first after-Chernobyl generation.

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In turn, the Environment Institute in Munich noted a statistically increased incidence of children cancer of patients living in the contaminated by cesium German territories. Also the British scientists after years have revised their estimates of the Chernobyl radiation impact on the UK. According to their acknowledgments, Chernobyl consequences will affect Britain at the time a hundred times longer than previously thought.It is about the mountains and highlands of Wales, Scotland and northern England, where sheep graze. As a result of these studies, more than 230 000 sheep on nearly 400 farms got under a mandatory check for radiocesium.

The conclusions of independent experts as well as German doctors are not so encouraging. They believe that the countries of the rest of the world, especially Europe, in the future will suffer not less than Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.

Talking about the countries of the former Soviet Union, significantly contaminated with cesium-137 are  the territories of Ukraine (37,630 square kilometers), Belarus (43,500 square kilometers), and also the European part of Russia (59.3 million square kilometers). Almost 52 000 sq. km. of agricultural lands were affected by cesium-137 and strontium-90 with a half life of 30 and 28 years respectively.

Immediately after the Chernobyl disaster 31 people were perished and 600 thousand liquidators who participated in fire fighting and cleaning, received high doses of radiation. Almost 8.4 million people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia were subjected to radiation exposure, nearly 404,000 of them were relocated.

Due to the very high radioactivity after the accident, the nuclear power plant was stopped. After the decontamination procedures on the location and the Shelter Object construction in October 1986 the first power unit of the Chernobyl NPP was launched. In November 1986 was launched the second and in December, 1987 the third power unit of the station started functioning.

In accordance with the Memorandum signed in 1995 between Ukraine, G7 countries and the European Commission, in November, 1996, the decision was made to completely stop the first unit, and in March, 1999 - the second unit. Chernobyl nuclear power plant stopped producing electricity in December, 2000, when the third unit was stopped forever.

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