Consequences of Chernobyl: still worse

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#330
06/04/1990
Article

(April 6, 1990) On 3 March the government of the Ukraine announced that the three operating reactors at the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station will be phased out of operation over the next five years and the station will then be completely closed.

(330.3294) WISE Amsterdam - The regional government also said it would halt construction of all nuclear plants in the Ukraine and that no more reactors will be built there. Whether the central government will allow the decision to stand is unclear. Soviet officials have resisted all previous efforts to close the Chernobyl station, site of the disasterous accident on 26 April 1986, but it is now believed that they are unlikely to interfere with the Ukraine's decision. Though the central government has generally reserved to itself the right to make decisions regarding nuclear power, the Soviets are granting increasing power to the regional legislatures and may allow the decision to stand partly just because Chernobyl remains such an emotional issue in the Ukraine. A complete shutdown does not, of course, solve the problem of the damaged reactor: a proposal to seal it in concrete will safely contain the radioactive core for no more than 25 years. As to the other problems, well, as you can see from the following summary of a report presented at the IPPNW Congress in March, the accident just goes on.

At the Congress on Nuclear Phase Out held by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War at Kiel (FRG) on March 2-4, Gundula Bahro, in her lecture, presented new details on radioactive contamination and its consequences in the Soviet Union after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

 

Last year, on the third anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, Dr. Rosalie Bertell visited Chernobyl at the invitation of the Ukrainian Peace Committee, sponsor of the All-European Chernobyl Conference in Kiev, April 1989. Among Dr. Bertell's notes on the Kiev Conference were the following entries:

  1. 1,000 pregnant women were evacuated; only 65 of them eventually had "successful labour"; of these 65 there are 37 surviving children;
  2. Of about 4,000 workers at Chernobyl Unit 4 prior to the accident, 85% have since been retired either because of age or ill health;
  3. Evacuation of the city of Pripyat (about 50,000 population) was relatively smooth, but evacuation of the countryside was difficult. Some villagers hid in the woods to avoid evacuation. Others refused to leave until their farm animals were evacuated;
  4. Overall, there were about 640,000 evacuees, 215,000 of them children.

Dr. Bertell's full paper, entitled "Side trip to Chernobyl April 1989", is available from the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, 830 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario M5R 3G1, Canada.
Source: Health 2000 (Canada), December 1989

The invisible danger not only threatens the Ukraine but also the Russian SSR: 11 areas with 17 mi]lion inhabitants (among them 2.5 million children) are affected, and about one quarter of Byelorussia. Four hundred and twenty villages should have been evacuated immediately. The writer Ales Adamovich told the Latvian newspaper Atmoda (19 June 1989) that in the early days of the accident, one of several clouds of cesium and strontium moving across Byelorussia seemed to be moving toward Moscow and was dispersed over Mogilev using aircraft. This was kept secret. Now the pollution at Mogilev amounts to 45 - 100 curies of Cesium-137 per square kilometer. More than 100,000 people (among them 10,000 children) are said to have fallen sick. Twenty-five percent of the children suffer from thyroid gland diseases and children below the age of two are reported to have died from cancer.

And the secrecy continues. It was only in 1989 that a map of the most affected areas was published. For Byelorussia and Ukraine it shows the areas where mushroom picking is prohibited: In these areas, mushrooms can be located using a dosimeter. Nobody follows the prohibitions.

Thanks, however, to tireless journalists and documentary film reporters, the situation can no longer be kept secret. But their films ("Porog", "Za predel", "Mikrophon") still cannot be shown in public.

In the Chernobyl zone, 2700-3000 people have fallen seriously ill, 17 million suffer acutely from the consequences of the disaster, and one million have already suffered genetic damage.

At Cherkassy, one in five babies is born with deformities: Limbs, eyes and ears are missing. Among children, three main types of diseases have been observed: grey cataracts, blood diseases and liver diseases (up to severe hepatitis), and cancer and collapse of the immune system (already seen in three-year-olds).

In the Mogtlev area, the numbers of babies born with deformities are as follows (according to "Soy. Kul'tura", Oct. 1989):

1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 (Jan - Jul)
5 21 39 84 50

One of the most affected areas is that of Narodichi (Zitomir). The film "Maximum Limit" deals with the present situation there: It shows pictures of deformed calves, two-headed foals, etc.; the pollution in this area mounts to 15 - 1000 curies of Cesium-137 per square kilometer. Every second child suffers from hyperthyroidism. After strong protests by the local populace, 12 villages of the Narodichi area are to be evacuated between now and 1993. Ninety-three thousand inhat4tants live in the whole area, 18,000 of whom are children.

Sources:

  • Abstract of Dr. Bahro's paper prepared by Peter Diehl (FRG)
  • The Nuclear Monitor (US), 12 Mar. 1990
  • Guardian (US), 14 Mar. 1990.

Contact: The full lecture is available from Dr.Phil. Gundula Bahro, Grandweg 91, D-2000 Hamburg 54, FRG, tel: +49-40-567259.
For a map of the affected areas, write to Earth Island Journal, 300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Francisco CA 94133-3312, US, tel: +1-415-788- 3666, fax: 415-788-7324.