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Fallout from the HBO Chernobyl miniseries

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

HBO's five-part miniseries Chernobyl has been watched by millions and it tops IMDB's list of the greatest TV shows of all time.1,2 Visits to the Wikipedia 'Chernobyl disaster' page increased exponentially once the miniseries began screening, peaking at over half a million visits per day.3

Adi Roche, founder of Chernobyl Children International, said the miniseries "is helping us all to see Chernobyl with fresh eyes, ears, hearts, understanding, and with fresh compassion and solidarity, retelling the story as you do to a new and wider audience like never before. It truly, truly honors and gives justice to the many, many victims and the heroes of Chernobyl."4

Film critic Craig Mathieson had this to say in the Sydney Morning Herald:5

"With its sallow green hallways, brutalist concrete edifices, and rampant moustaches Chernobyl looks like another time, but it doesn't sound that different. "So I should leave now because of something I can't see at all," an 82-year-old farmer rhetorically asks the young soldier come to evacuate her after an explosion sends vast amounts of radiation spewing into the sky. "No," she concludes, and it's difficult not to see climate change as the allegory behind these repeated moments of intransigence.

""I prefer my opinion to yours," a local party boss dismissively tells Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson), a nuclear physicist who tries to raise the alarm about how serious the accident is. Chernobyl is an indictment on the official fictions of Russia's one party communist state, a system of crippling shortcuts and absurd obeisance to power, but the blank and bureaucratic system has a familiar feel. One dissenter is threatened not with the bullet but professional obliteration, so that there's no trace of their life's work. That's only more relevant now.

"Like all historic recreations it changes details and amalgamates characters into fictionalised representations such as Watson's Khomyuk, but it succeeds through a dry tone that has the bitterest of aftertaste. … The show is exceptional in revealing – in steady, shocking increments – how a large-scale disaster distorts everything it encounters. At first it is the truth, but the human casualties soon follow. Firefighters who pick up pieces of the reactor casing are so contaminated that their very cells tear themselves apart. "He's my husband," one desperate wife tells a nurse trying to evict her from the hospital. "He's something else now," the nurse replies, and horrific transformations are a recurring motif."

Film critic Dani Di Placido wrote in Forbes:6

"As Chernobyl's reactor explodes, condemning the surrounding area and its citizens to radiation poisoning, the first instinct of the men running the nuclear plant is to downplay the severity of the crisis. As the death toll rises, the effort to conceal the truth becomes ever more desperate.

"Much like the climate crisis we face today, Chernobyl's conflict wasn't really about facts; the terrible nuclear accident was right there for the world to see. But the scale of the problem was deliberately concealed, the wellbeing of not only the citizens of the Soviet Union, but of Europe and beyond, completely disregarded in favor of maintaining the illusion of control. …

"Chernobyl shows that despite the terrible, inescapable tragedy that was unfolding, the countless lives lost, the only action that the institution was motivated to act upon was self-preservation and denial. Sound familiar?"

The miniseries also received a positive review from UK-based radiation biologist Dr. Ian Fairlie, author of the comprehensive 'TORCH' reports7 on the adverse health impacts of the Chernobyl disaster. Fairlie writes:8

"I have yet to see the final episode, but the first four are pretty accurate in their portrayal of the accident and the suffering which followed. Some dramatic licences have been taken in collapsing large events into easy-to-digest sequences or single characters, but overall, it is remarkably truthful and reliable in its depictions.

"Perhaps the most important aspect of the programmes is that they inform a new generation about the potential dangers of nuclear reactors. The UK still has 15 of them operating, with 2 more under construction and the Government thinking about more.

"Another aspect is that they educate people about the dangers of radiation, a subject on which most people are very poorly informed, and which the Government and its agencies avoid discussing honestly."

In a perceptive and well-worth-reading critique, which we won't attempt to summarize here, Masha Gessen, author of the book 'The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia', argues that the miniseries falls back on disaster-movie clichés and thus fails to explore and explain the systemic causes of the Chernobyl disaster.9

Reactionary reactions in Russia

The miniseries has generated a great deal of interest and discussion in former Soviet states. The Belarussian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich ‒ whose book 'Voices from Chernobyl' was used by the filmmakers for information and inspiration ‒ said the miniseries is having a positive effect:10

"We are now witnessing a new phenomenon that Belarusians, who suffered greatly and thought they knew a lot about the tragedy, have completely changed their perception about Chernobyl and are interpreting this tragedy in a whole new way. The authors accomplished this, even though they are from a completely different world ‒ not from Belarus, not from our region. It's no accident that a lot of young people have watched this film. They say that they watch it together in clubs and discuss it."

Vladimir Putin has reportedly dismissed the HBO miniseries as American misinformation.11 Dmitry Yevseyev, leader of a local branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, said the miniseries "is packed with petty anti-Soviet filth, which poisons viewers' brains, thus becoming a deliberate, well-thought-out distortion of Soviet reality."12

Leonid Bershidsky wrote in Moscow Times: "The pro-Kremlin daily Komsomolskaya Pravda published a column suggesting that the series is an attempt to undermine Russia's leadership in nuclear reactor exports, one of the few areas in which Russia is ahead of the U.S. and actively competing for European and Asian markets. The idea, Komsomolskaya Pravda journalist Dmitry Steshin wrote, is to incite the European public against Russian nuclear projects. I've read plenty of similar comments on social media; the series has been accused of that ultimate sin, "Russophobia.""13

Bershidsky added: "The question that keeps popping up in my mind is why none of the three ex-Soviet countries most affected by Chernobyl has produced such a powerful re-creation of the 1986 events for the world's edification. It would have made sense for Russia, with its current nuclear leadership, to show that it has learned the lessons … It would have made sense for Ukraine, too; when I visited the Chernobyl zone in 2012, an illicit trade in potentially contaminated scrap metal was flourishing there amid the ruins and overgrown, abandoned villages. Belarus, heavily victimized by the Chernobyl fallout, would have been a fitting messenger, too."13

In fact, a miniseries about the Chernobyl disaster is being made by the Russian pro-government TV channel NTV, with the assistance of a grant of 30 million rubles (US$475,000) from the Ministry of Culture.12,14,15 The plot revolves around a CIA agent dispatched to Pripyat to gather intelligence on the Chernobyl plant, and the Russian counterintelligence agents sent to track him down! NTV director Alexey Muradov said the show "will tell viewers about what really happened back then", adding: "There is a theory that the Americans had infiltrated the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and many historians do not deny that on the day of the explosion an agent of the enemy's intelligence services was present at the station."15

Pro-nuclear responses to the miniseries

Pro-nuclear propagandists ‒ inside and outside the industry ‒ have used the interest generated by the HBO miniseries to repeat their tired old lies about Chernobyl (dissected in some detail in Nuclear Monitor #82116).

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) states that the HBO miniseries has resulted a large increase in traffic to its online 'information paper' about the Chernobyl disaster where "viewers are taking the opportunity to learn more about modern nuclear safety practices and just how important nuclear energy is for addressing climate change and meeting sustainable development objectives."17

A separate article published by the WNA blathers on about 'modern nuclear safety practices' and states that "an effective nuclear safety culture requires well-informed and empowered operators and transparency as well as competent, independent oversight."18 But it is silent about inadequate nuclear safety cultures and regulation in Russia19, the US20, China21, India22 and elsewhere. It is silent about South Korea's corrupt 'nuclear mafia'23 and the post-Fukushima resurrection of Japan's corrupt 'nuclear village'.24 The article18 claims that "Ukraine has made huge progress in its approach to nuclear safety" … which is dangerous nonsense.25,26

Matt Wald from the US Nuclear Energy Institute, in a response to the Chernobyl miniseries, blames the nuclear disaster on "self-deception and cutting corners" in the Soviet nuclear industry and also takes aim at the "poor industrial safety record … shared by the other nominally communist player in international nuclear markets, China."27 Happily, the US "doesn't work that way" and a nuclear disaster "can't happen here".

Wald demonstrates the hubris that partly explains the Chernobyl disaster, partly explains the Fukushima disaster, and presumably explains some of the 50+ nuclear accidents in the US that have resulted in more than US$50,000 of property damage.28

Notorious pro-nuclear liar Michael Shellenberger29 says "it's obvious that the mini-series terrified millions of people" about nuclear power and that it "runs across the line into sensational in the first episode and never looks back."30

Shellenberger claims that "under 200" people have died and will die from the Chernobyl disaster.31 Likewise, in its commentary on the HBO miniseries the World Nuclear Association states that "fewer than 100 people are believed to have died from radiation as a result of the Chernobyl accident to date".17

In fact, as noted at the end of the HBO miniseries, the very lowest of the estimates of the Chernobyl death toll is 4,000 eventual deaths among the higher-exposed populations, and credible estimates of the death toll across Europe range up to 93,000.16,32

Shellenberger dismisses estimates of thousands of deaths on the basis of the views of one contrarian scientist.33 By that logic, we could ignore climate change, and speculation that planet Earth may be spherical, on the basis of one contrarian opinion.

Shellenberger states: "In the end, HBO's "Chernobyl" gets nuclear wrong for the same reason humankind as a whole has been getting it wrong for over 60 years, which is that we've displaced our fears of nuclear weapons onto nuclear power plants."30 But Shellenberger has himself written at length about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons proliferation.35 He notes that "at least 20 nations sought nuclear power at least in part to give themselves the option of creating a nuclear weapon"36 and that "having a weapons option is often the most important factor in a state pursuing peaceful nuclear energy".37

More information

The HBO website has the miniseries trailer, scripts and other information (and the miniseries can be streamed online for those with an HBO subscription):

A companion podcast for the miniseries hosted by Craig Mazin (writer and executive producer of the miniseries) and Peter Sagal:

The Nuclear Information & Resource Service has a resources webpage on the Chernobyl disaster:

Following the success of miniseries, Sky (which collaborated with HBO in its production) released a 49-minute documentary featuring people involved in responding to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. It is freely available online:




3. The Economist, 4 June 2019, '"Chernobyl" is the highest-rated TV series ever',

4. Rebecca Shafer, 'Remembering the Impact of Chernobyl, 33 Years Later',

5. Craig Mathieson, 11 June 2019, 'Apocalyptic mini-series Chernobyl is the year's unlikely TV hit',

6. Dani Di Placido, 17 June 2019, ''Chernobyl' Provided The Climate Change Metaphor That 'Game Of Thrones' Failed To Deliver',

7. Ian Fairlie, March 2016, 'TORCH-2016: An independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster',

8. Ian Fairlie, 4 June 2019, 'Chernobyl TV series',

9. Masha Gessen, 4 June 2019, 'What HBO’s "Chernobyl" Got Right, and What It Got Terribly Wrong',

10. Anna Sous, 13 June 2019, 'Belarusian Nobel Laureate Says HBO Series Has 'Completely Changed Perception' Of Chernobyl',

11. Kim Willsher, 16 Jun 2019, 'The truth about Chernobyl? I saw it with my own eyes …',

12. Fatima Tlis, 17 June 2019, 'Russian Politician Calls HBO Chernobyl 'Anti-Soviet Filth', Falsely Accuses Producers of Distortion',

13. Leonid Bershidsky, 31 May 2019, 'Russia Should Have Made HBO's 'Chernobyl'',


15. Andrew Roth, 7 June 2019, 'Russian TV to air its own patriotic retelling of Chernobyl story',

16. Nuclear Monitor #821, 6 April 2016, ''Pro-nuclear environmentalists and the Chernobyl death toll'',

17. World Nuclear Association, 5 June 2019, 'The drama and the facts about Chernobyl',

18. World Nuclear Association, 10 June 2019, 'Viewpoint: Chernobyl and a very modern safety culture',

19. Vladimir Slivyak, 2014, 'Russian Nuclear Industry Overview',

20. Gregory Jaczko, 17 May 2019, 'I Oversaw the US Nuclear Power Industry. Now I Think It Should Be Banned',

21. Emma Graham-Harrison, 25 May 2015, 'China warned over 'insane' plans for new nuclear power plants',

22. A. Gopalakrishnan, 13 Nov 2017, 'India Should Halt Further Expansion of its Nuclear Power Program', The Citizen,

23. Nuclear Monitor #844, 25 May 2017, 'South Korea's 'nuclear mafia'',

24. Nuclear Monitor #800, 19 March 2015, 'Japan's 'nuclear village' reasserting control',

25. L. Todd Wood, 30 March 2017, 'Ukrainian corruption casts nuclear pall over Europe',

26. Nuclear Monitor #832, 19 Oct 2016, 'Ukraine's nuclear power program going from bad to worse',

27. Matt Wald, 1 May 2019, 'A Viewer's Guide to HBO's Chernobyl Miniseries',

28. Benjamin Sovacool, Aug 2010, 'A Critical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity in Asia', Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 40 No.3, pp.369−400,

See also: Spencer Wheatley, Benjamin Sovacool and Didier Sornette, April 2015, 'Of Disasters and Dragon Kings: A Statistical Analysis of Nuclear Power Incidents & Accidents', Physics and Society,

29. Nuclear Monitor #852, 30 Oct 2017, 'Exposing the misinformation of Michael Shellenberger and 'Environmental Progress'',

30. Michael Shellenberger, 6 June 2019, 'Why HBO's "Chernobyl" Gets Nuclear So Wrong',

31. Michael Shellenberger, 16 Oct 2017, 'Enemies of the Earth: Unmasking the Dirty War Against Clean Energy in South Korea by Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Greenpeace',

32. Nuclear Monitor #785, 24 April 2014, 'The Chernobyl death toll',

33. Michael Shellenberger, 11 March 2019, 'It Sounds Crazy, But Fukushima, Chernobyl, And Three Mile Island Show Why Nuclear Is Inherently Safe',

34. Michael Shellenberger, 6 June 2019, 'Why HBO's "Chernobyl" Gets Nuclear So Wrong',

35. Nuclear Monitor #865, 6 Sept 2018, 'Nuclear lobbyist Michael Shellenberger learns to love the bomb, goes down a rabbit hole',

36. Michael Shellenberger, 29 Aug 2018, 'For Nations Seeking Nuclear Energy, The Option To Build A Weapon Remains A Feature Not A Bug',

37. Michael Shellenberger, 28 Aug 2018, 'How Nations Go Nuclear: An Interview With M.I.T.'s Vipin Narang',

Bellona report on Ukraine's nuclear industry

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charles Digges ‒ Bellona

It won't come as a surprise that safety would be a critical challenge still facing the nuclear industry in Ukraine, which inherited the infamous Chernobyl plant when the Soviet Union collapsed. Nearly as surprising has been the comparative lack of concise information on a national industry that supplies more than half of its country's electricity in conditions of political and economic turmoil.

With this in mind, Bellona has published its report, The Ukrainian Nuclear Industry: An Expert Review. The report is a collective effort by experts and academics on the inside of the country's ailing industry, and Bellona hopes it will serve as a guidepost to international non-profits and policymakers who aim to assure the industry's safety and eventual decommissioning while Ukraine makes its arduous transition to cleaner energy sources.

There's much to be done.

Many of the problems surrounding Ukraine's nuclear industry are ones of youth. It didn't really exist before Kiev declared its independence from Moscow in 1991, but when it did, it put itself in charge of some of Europe's most elderly reactors, as well as nuclear power's original sin: Chernobyl's number 4 reactor, which exploded in 1986.

And while the bulk of international attention and funding for Ukraine has been focused on bringing that disaster and its lingering aftereffects to heel – efforts that spurred engineering achievements like Chernobyl's New Safe Confinement – Ukraine's 15 other Soviet-built reactors have begun to hobble unsteadily toward retirement.

At the same time, these reactors, running at four separate nuclear power plants, supply 52 percent of the country's electricity. It's unlikely that Kiev will find the political will, let alone the funding, to retire any of these reactors anytime soon. This means most if not all of them will likely receive extensions of several years' time on their engineered life expectancies, and continue to add to a supply of radioactive waste that is the second biggest in Europe for decades longer.

In 2018, this problem will only get more burdensome when Russia, as per a long-standing agreement, returns to Ukraine the spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste it has been accepting and reprocessing since the Soviet Union's dissolution.

The problem of Ukraine's overabundant radioactive waste would seem less critical if the country were taking steps to build a long-term repository, such as finding a suitable location for one – or indeed even had plans to do so. But as our report reveals, the bureaucracies in Kiev that are responsible for this are inefficient if not, in some instance, entirely lacking, and in any case have little in the way of public faith in their competent operation.

Prospects are slightly brighter when it comes to dealing with spent fuel from Ukraine's nuclear reactors. Officials know how much there is and are wise to the fact that they have to build a centralized facility to store it. But as is the case in other parts of the industry, Kiev has little hope of building it without significant funding from other countries.

Overseeing all of Ukraine's nuclear reactors and the waste and spent fuel they produce is a national nuclear regulator whose basic structure is, like the industry itself, a hand-me-down from Moscow, and it lacks independence from the structures it is supposed to be regulating. And even this imperfect arrangement is suffering financially. As our report reveals, even the computers the regulator uses are donated from abroad.

Those among the Ukrainian public who could raise awareness about these issues face dismal prospects as well. What few environmental organizations there are tend to be poorly funded and lack the expertise they need to engage effectively with policymakers within government.

Finding ways to manage its nuclear inheritance from Russia is, in crucial ways, also a question of Ukraine's ongoing political independence. It is, after all, Russian fuel that runs Soviet reactors. Kiev has started buying more specially fabricated nuclear fuel from western corporations, but further untying the country's tangled nuclear knot will require other forms of international engagement.

Kiev seems to be grasping the rudiments of that, and dozens of countries from Europe to China are investing in a solar farm, which, emblematically, is set to open within the irradiated wastes of the Chernobyl exclusion zone this year.

Yet there is much more rubble to build on. With our new report, we hope to provide safer foundations so Kiev can build a safer energy future less dependent on its Soviet nuclear past.

The report is online in English and Ukrainian:

Bellona, December 2017, 'The Ukrainian Nuclear Industry: An Expert Review',

Reprinted from Bellona, 24 Jan 2018,

Ukraine's nuclear power program going from bad to worse

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Author: Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

Ukraine's nuclear regulator, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate Council, has approved further reactor lifespan extensions despite the country's failure to implement safety-related requirements under international conventions and safety-related obligations attached to loan funding.1

The 30-year-old Zaporizhye-1 reactor was taken offline when it reached its design lifespan in December 2015, but restarted following approval of an extension in September 2016. Then in October 2016, the Zaporizhye-2 reactor, shut down when it reached its 30-year lifespan in February 2016, received approval for a 10-year extension.

This is the latest chapter in a long-running saga. Iryna Holovko from Bankwatch / National Ecological Centre of Ukraine takes up the story:2

"Here's how this atomic debacle unfolded so far. In December 2010 the Ukrainian authorities approved the first lifetime extension. Unit 1 in the Rivne power plant, working since three decades, was allowed to continue operations for 20 more years. Barely a month later an accident happened, and the reactor's output had to be reduced by half.

"Unit 2 in the Rivne power plant was also granted a 20 years lifetime extension. Activists and civil society organisations criticised the decision-making process allowing these nuclear reactors' expiry dates to be rewritten. In March 2013, the Espoo Convention's Implementation Committee ruled the decision indeed was in breach of the treaty, since Ukraine did not carry out assessments of the impacts the project can have on people and the environment in neighbouring countries.

"But this did not deter the Ukrainian government. In December 2013 it approved another lifetime extension, this time for unit 1 in the South Ukraine power station. Energoatom, Ukraine's national energy operator, conducted technical checks of the nuclear reactor prior to the decision, but these might not have been thorough enough. An independent expert assessment3 released in March 2015 criticised the re-licensing process that led to the approval of the lifetime extension, and warned that the reactor is suffering critical vulnerabilities.

"South Ukraine's unit 2 was suspended in May 2015 when it reached its original expiry date. But this was only temporary, to allow necessary safety improvements. Seven months later, in December 2015, Ukraine's nuclear regulator decided the reactor can be brought back online and continue working for ten more years, even though 11 safety measures4 of the highest priority had not been implemented."

And now two Zaporizhye reactors have been granted lifespan extensions, bringing the total number of extensions to six. Kiev plans another six lifespan extensions.5 Until the extension program kicked in, 12 out of Ukraine's 15 power reactors were scheduled for permanent shut-down by the end of this decade.

Espoo and Aarhus Conventions

Disputes remain unresolved regarding Ukraine's compliance (or non-compliance) with both the Espoo Convention (the UN Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context) and the Aarhus Convention (the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters) yet Kiev continues to approve reactor lifespan extensions.

In 2013, Ukraine was found to have breached the Espoo Convention for failing to adequately assess the potential impacts of lifespan extensions of the Rivne 1 and 2 reactors on neighboring countries, failing to consult neighboring countries, and failing to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment.6

Ukraine's neighbours ‒ Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria ‒ have sent multiple questions for clarification and requests for participation in trans-boundary consultations regarding Ukraine's reactor lifespan extension program. But Kiev, in response, has denied its obligation to conduct any such consultations.2

The Espoo Convention's Implementation Committee is the only body with the power to rule on violations of the Convention. The Committee is currently preparing a report, for the June 2017 Meeting of the Parties, on Ukraine's adherence to (or violation of) the Convention.7

Obligations attached to European funding

Numerous European institutions are involved in this complex saga. In March 2013, the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) announced a €300 million loan for reactor safety upgrading in Ukraine, matching €300 million from Euratom. That €600 million (US$660m) amounts to one-quarter of the total EU support to Ukraine's energy sector between 2007-2014.8

Funding for safety upgrades is welcome ‒ but the program is badly undermined by Ukraine's failure to abide by safety-related obligations attached to the funding.

Earlier this year, Bankwatch approached the European Commission requesting documents related to Euratom's loans to Ukraine. Bankwatch believes that Ukraine has not met the loan conditions, that it is violating the Espoo and Aarhus Conventions, and that the Espoo Committee's 2013 ruling regarding Ukraine's non-compliance should be considered a precedent applicable to similar cases. Following an inadequate response from the European Commission, Bankwatch took the case to the European Court of Justice. That case is still pending ‒ yet reactor lifespan extension decisions are still being made in Ukraine.7

In addition to obligations arising under the Espoo and Aarhus Conventions, each of the two €300 million loans for safety upgrades is conditional on full compliance with international environmental law, include the Espoo Convention. The European Commission has reiterated this obligation on several occasions.7

Iryna Holovko from Bankwatch / National Ecological Centre of Ukraine said: "Ukrainian authorities need a clear message from the European Commission that disrespect for international obligations comes with consequences. No respect for conventions, no money."1

Energy Community

Ukraine is also under scrutiny by the Energy Community (established by an international treaty in 2005) for its failure to implement the EU's Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, one of the obligations tied to the safety upgrade funding.9

Ukraine was required to transpose the Energy Community's Environmental Impact Assessment Directive into national law by 1 January 2013 but still hasn't done so. Issues of concern include, in the Energy Community's words, "provisions on transboundary environmental impact assessment and the improper or incomplete transposition of the provisions on the projects to be covered by an environmental impact assessment, on the information to be included in the impact assessment report and on public participation."9

In a 6 September 2016 statement, the Energy Community gave Ukraine two months to "react to the allegation of non-compliance with Energy Community law".9

Growing accident rate at Ukrainian nuclear plants

Nuclear Engineering International reported in August 2016:10

"[T]here is growing concern about the condition of Ukraine's NPPs. Former Chernobyl NPP director Mikhail Umanets told a recent press conference in Kiev that he is concerned by the growing number of emergency situations being reported at the plants. He warned that the possibility of an accident at one of Ukraine's four operating NPPs nuclear power plants is increasing.

"The Ukrainian nuclear industry has faced several high-profile incidents recently. In July, a unit at Khmelnitsky NPP was disconnected from the grid following a steam generator leak. In late May, unit 2 at the South Ukraine NPP was forced to stop operations, after operators tripped the station's safety systems. In April, energy production at the Zaporozhye and Rovno plants stopped while faults were investigated. In the spring, all the reactors were at risk of being closed, after Energoatom's foreign currency accounts were frozen and there were no funds to pay for nuclear fuel.

"Umanets noted out that 15 violations were recorded at the plants in 2015, based on the International Nuclear and Radiological Events Scale (INES), which documents both minor incidents and major accidents. That is 1.5 times more than the number of recorded in 2014. In 2016, he added, the INES has already recorded seven violations, double the amount reported during the same period in 2015.

""We run the risk of a serious incident. Since 16 October 2014, Ukraine has not had a chief inspector for nuclear and radiation safety. The position was eliminated, and no self-respecting professional would agree to take it after the cabinet proposed a bill to Ukraine's parliament which stated that 'the inspector's decisions may be cancelled by the head of the state regulator or his designated representative'," he said."

Build them on Mars

Any number of scenarios could potentially develop from the simmering Ukrainian‒Russian conflict and the broader geopolitical conflicts surrounding the regional conflict ‒ attacks or accidental strikes on nuclear plants by sub-national groups or nation-states, regional conflict sparking conflict between nuclear-armed superpowers, cyberattacks11, insider attacks12, the possibility that Ukraine's small atomic bomb lobby will grow in strength, etc. Most of those scenarios are low probability but potentially very high impact.

Nuclear waste is another concern. Poorly shielded spent fuel casks, lacking a secondary containment system, at the Zaporizhye plant ‒ the closest of Ukraine's nuclear plants to the conflict in eastern Ukraine ‒ are potential targets of a deliberate attack or a stray missile. The Guardian reported in May 2015 that more than 3,000 spent fuel rods are kept inside metal casks and concrete containers in an open-air yard close to the perimeter fence at Zaporizhye. Gustav Gressel from the European Council of Foreign Relations said "the Russians use a large amount of multiple rocket-propelled systems that are not entirely precise, and they don't really care where they land." Around 770,000 people live in the city of Zaporizhye.13

There was nothing reassuring in the comments of Sergiy Bozhko, chair of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, to The Guardian in May 2015: "Given the current state of warfare, I cannot say what could be done to completely protect installations from attack, except to build them on Mars."13

Numerous security incidents have been reported since 2014. For example, in May 2014, the Zaporizhye nuclear plant was the backdrop to an armed confrontation between men from Right Sector (a pro-Ukrainian paramilitary force), security guards from the plant and police. The Right Sector men said they had come to remove pro-Russian agitators who, they claimed, had been operating inside the plant. The Right Sector men were eventually disarmed.14

But it's near-impossible to accurately gauge the scale of the nuclear security problem over the past 2.5 years ‒ too much of the available 'information' is colored by the Ukrainian and Russian governments' attempts to downplay or exaggerate risks and problems.

And while much of the discussion focuses on sub-national groups threatening nuclear plants, nation-states also need to be considered. Bennett Ramberg, a former policy analyst with the US State Department, wrote in an April 2014 article:15

"History offers little guidance as to whether warring countries would avoid damaging nuclear sites. With the exception of the 1990s' Balkan conflict, wars have not been fought against or within countries with nuclear reactors. In the case of the Balkans, Serbian military jets overflew Slovenia's Krško nuclear power plant in a threatening gesture early in the conflict, while radical Serbian nationalists called for attacks to release the radioactive contents. Serbia itself later issued a plea to Nato not to bomb its large research reactor in Belgrade. Fortunately, the war ended with both reactors untouched.

"While that case provides some assurance that military and political leaders will think twice about attacking nuclear reactors, the sheer scale of Ukraine's nuclear enterprise calls for far greater global concern. ... Concentrated in four locations, Ukraine's pressurized water reactors differ from the less stable Chernobyl RBMK design, yet still remain capable of releasing radioactive contents should safeguards fail. Given that Russia, too, suffered serious consequences from the Chernobyl accident, it is to be hoped that the Kremlin would recoil at the idea of bombing the plants intentionally. But warfare is rife with accidents and human error, and such an event involving a nuclear plant could cause a meltdown.

"A loss of off-site power, for example, could be an issue of serious concern. Although nuclear plants are copious producers of electricity, they also require electrical power from other sources to operate. Without incoming energy, cooling pumps will cease functioning and the flow of water that carries heat away from the reactor core ‒ required even when the reactor is in shutdown mode ‒ will stop.

"To meet that risk, nuclear plants maintain large emergency diesel generators, which can operate for days ‒ until their fuel runs out. The reactor meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power station in 2011 demonstrated what happens when primary and emergency operating power are cut.

"Such vulnerabilities raise troubling questions in the event of a war. Fighting could disrupt off-site power plants or transmission lines servicing the reactor, and could also prevent diesel fuel from reaching the plant to replenish standby generators. Operators could abandon their posts should violence encroach.

"Moreover, combatants could invade nuclear plants and threaten sabotage to release radioactive elements to intimidate their opponents. Others might take refuge there, creating a dangerous standoff. A failure of military command and control or the fog of war could bring plants under bombardment.

"Serious radiological contamination could result in each of these scenarios. And, though no one stands to gain from a radioactive release, if war breaks out, we must anticipate the unexpected.

"In Ukraine, nuclear emissions could exceed both Chernobyl and Fukushima. Wartime conditions would prevent emergency crews from getting to an affected plant to contain radiological releases should reactor containments fail. And, with government services shut down in the midst of fighting, civilians attempting to escape radioactive contamination would not know what to do or where to go to protect themselves."

Clean energy solutions

Clean energy solutions ‒ renewables and energy efficiency and conservation ‒ offer a way to reduce the myriad risks associated with Ukraine's nuclear power program. Ukraine is highly energy inefficient due to decades of subsidies that artificially reduce energy costs to the public and frequent failure to even collect on the energy bills that are charged to consumers and institutions.16 So there's plenty of low-hanging fruit in the fields of energy efficiency and conservation.

And there's plenty of untapped renewable energy potential. Jan Haverkamp and Iryna Holovko wrote in an April 2016 paper: "Ukraine could cover its entire energy demand in 2050 with wind, solar and water and a 32% decrease in primary energy need. A move towards clean, renewable energy sources (such as wind, water, sun, biomass and geothermal) would seem a logical route, especially given the potential savings in health costs and increase in energy independence. Here, in these countries most afflicted by Chernobyl, economic realities make this switch to a clean energy future inevitable: the old centralised energy economy is collapsing, slowly but surely, and an awareness movement is growing."17


1. Bankwatch, 3 Oct. 2016, 'New life for old nukes in Ukraine means more risk for people and planet',

2. Iryna Holovko, 18 May 2016, 'Time for Europe to stop supporting Ukraine's risky nuclear power sector',

3. Bankwatch, 17 March 2015, 'Summary of an independent review of the proposed lifetime extension of Unit 1 at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant and its compliance with relevant nuclear safety standards',

4. Bankwatch, 8 Dec. 2015, 'Ukraine snubs safety concerns and European donors, extends lifetime of fourth Soviet-era nuclear reactor',


6. Bankwatch, 22 April 2013, 'Ukraine's Nukes Are in Breach of UN Convention',

7. Dana Marekova, 5 Sept. 2016, 'Ukraine's nuclear energy fixation puts its European financiers to a test',

 8. Bankwatch, 17 Nov. 2015, 'Analysis of EU investments in Ukraine's energy sector, 2007-2014',

9. Energy Community, 6 Sept. 2016, 'Secretariat initiates dispute settlement case against Ukraine for non-compliance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive',

10. Nuclear Engineering International, 24 Aug. 2016, 'Ukraine looks to NPP life extension amid safety concerns',

11. Michael Toecker, 1 May 2016, 'Why Power Generators Can't Ignore the Ukraine Cyberattack',

12. Matthew Bunn and Scott Sagan, April 2014, 'A Worst Practices Guide to Insider Threats: Lessons from Past Mistakes', Occasional Paper, American Academy of Arts & Sciences,

13. Arthur Neslen, 13 May 2015, 'Nuclear waste stored in 'shocking' way 120 miles from Ukrainian front line',

14. Oliver Carroll, 28 Dec. 2014, 'Ukraine turns off reactor at its most powerful nuclear plant after 'accident'',

15. Bennett Ramberg, 16 April 2014, 'The Chernobyl factor in the Ukraine crisis',
16. Michael Mariotte, 25 March 2014, 'Nuclear industry's wishful thinking knows no bounds: No, Ukraine crisis is not going to boost nukes in Europe',

17. Jan Haverkamp and Iryna Holovko, 25 April 2016, 'Towards a post-nuclear Ukraine',

Study finds increased leukemia among Chernobyl cleanup workers

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

On November 8, 2012 a study entitled “Radiation and Risks of Chronic Lymphocytic and Other Leukemias  among Chernobyl Cleanup Workers,” was released examining the risks of leukemia, specifically, the most common type, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), in Chernobyl cleanup workers  exposed to  protracted low dose radiation (1).  The findings of this study, which examined 110,645 Ukrainian cleanup workers between 1986-2006, demonstrated that exposure to low doses of radiation from post-Chernobyl clean-up caused a significant increase in the risk of leukemia. This study was significant because while the risks of high levels of exposure are well known, the risks of low doses have been more controversial. This is crucial because during the Chernobyl disaster approximately 500,000 people were registered as emergency and recovery workers, receiving low, continuous doses.

The Ukrainian male workers examined were between the ages of 20-60 years during cleanup activities in 1986-1990 following the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, were registered in the Chernobyl State Registry of Ukraine (SRU)before 1992, who resided in Kyiv City or in any one of five study oblasts (areas similar to a state or province: Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv) at the time of registration. Of those 110,645 a total of 162 cases of leukemia were found. This was found by examining cancer registries, conducting expert hematologic (blood) review and case ascertainment coupled with radiation dose estimates. For all leukemia cases a significant positive association existed with continuous radiation dosage. 

The proportion of chronic lymphocytic leukemia cases in the study (roughly 58% of all leukemia cases) was higher than the 40% figure reported by most population based cancer registries and the 44% of all diagnosed leukemia ca-ses among males. The cancer registries were estimated to be missing as much as 38% of all of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia cases. 

This study confirmed and strengthened previous studies which showed significant associations between protracted radiation exposure at low doses and leukemia incidence. Increased risks of leukemia, although not statistically significant, were also reported from a study of Chernobyl cleanup workers from Belarus, Russia and Baltic countries. Additionally, the results indicate that radiation risk estimates are elevated for both chronic and non-chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL and non-CLL).  However, examining CLL is crucial given that this is the most prevalent form of leukemia and incidents of CLL are expected to rise when the population ages. Generally, studies had looked at high doses of radiation and it has been assumed that protraction of radiation dose results in a reduction of adverse biological effects; however this study has demonstrated quite the opposite. 

This study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives (2012; doi:10.1289/ehp.1204996): 


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

African nuclear commission takes shape.
Afcone, a new commission to coordinate and promote the development of nuclear energy in Africa, is set to become fully operational after key founding documents were finalized and adopted. South Africa has agreed to host the commission. The African Union (AU) established the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (Afcone) in November 2010, following the entry into force of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in July 2009, which required the parties to establish a commission for the purpose of ensuring states' compliance with their treaty obligations and promoting peaceful nuclear cooperation, both regionally and internationally. 
At a meeting in Addis Ababa on 26 July, the elected commissioners adopted the rules of procedure, structure, program of work and budget of Afcone. The commission will focus on the following four areas: monitoring of compliance with non-proliferation obligations; nuclear and radiation safety and security; nuclear sciences and applications; and, partnerships and technical cooperation, including outreach and promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The meeting agreed to a budget of some US$800,000 per year for the period 2012-2014. It also agreed on a scale of assessment for contributions to Afcone's funding. South Africa is currently the only African country to operate nuclear power plants for electricity generation, but several others - including Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria - are considering building such plants. Namibia, Niger and South Africa are major uranium producers, accounting for about 15% of world output in 2011. Other African countries have significant uranium deposits, with some having prospective uranium mines.
World Nuclear News, 13 August 2012

Koodankulam: Clearance for fuel loading.
The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) condemns the undemocratic and authoritarian decision of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to grant clearance for the 'Initial Fuel Loading' and 'First Approach to Criticality' of Unit-1 of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project. 
Even as the country is awaiting the Madras High Court's judgment on a batch of petitions that have challenged the legality and appropriateness of the Environmental Clearance granted to the Koodankulam project, this decision amounts to contempt of court and outright insult of the rule of law in our country. More interestingly, the AERB has given assurance to the Madras High Court that the post-Fukushima taskforce's recommendations would be fully implemented in all the nuclear installations in India and that no fuel loading decision at the Koodankulam nuclear power project would be taken until then. The current permission to load fuel is a gross violation of that commitment made at the Court and the sentiments of the struggling people.
This attitude and functioning style, however, is very much in congruence with the undemocratic, authoritarian and anti-people nature of the atomic energy department. The political parties and leaders in India, especially in Tamil Nadu, the civil society leaders and the media must take a stand and protect the interests of the 'ordinary citizens' of India and reassert the rule of law in our country. 
The struggling people will do whatever democratically possible to oppose the  authoritarian and illegal decision of the Indian nuclear establishment.
Press release, The Struggle Committee PMANE, 10 August 2012

No permanent resettlement Chernobyl Exclusion zone in next 20 years.
Despite earlier reports, the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant remains unfit for habitation, said Dmytro Bobro, the acting head of the State Agency for the Chernobyl Zone. Short visits to the exclusive zone are not banned, and up to 10,000 visitors arrive there on memorial days, he said at a press conference in Kyiv. Concerning people who returned to the zone of their own accord and live there, relatives are allowed to come and see them for not more than five days, but if a longer term is requested, they are placed under radiological control, he said.
Experts said at a press conference on August 15 that part of the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and Chernobyl itself are already fit for living. Chernobyl could be opened to personnel working under the Shelter project to construct the new confinement shelter. These people work in shifts now. 
But a few days later, Bobro said that some 200 square kilometers in the total area of 2,000 square kilometers are relatively safe. "But again, there is no infrastructure there, and the territory has "contaminated spots" and should not be populated, although it could be sown with crops to be used as biological fuel," he said. Humans could return to this territory in about 30 years. But if rehabilitation measures are taken, people would be able to come back even earlier to an area of 200 or even 500 square kilometers, he said. "Half of the exclusion zone will remain unfit for habitation forever as it is contaminated with plutonium isotopes," Bobro said.
Interfax, 17 August 2012 / ForUm, 17 August 2012

South Africa: develop 'Plan B'.
South Africa should work on a ‘Plan B’ if nuclear build proves too costly, the newly released National Development Plan 2030 asserts. The plan, which was handed to President Jacob Zuma on August 15, acknowledged that the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity proposed that new nuclear energy plants be commissioned from 2023/24. But it also argued that South Africa needed a “thorough investigation” of the implications of nuclear energy, including its costs, financing options, institutional arrangements, safety, environmental costs and benefits, localisation and employment opportunities, and uranium-enrichment and fuel fabrication possibilities.
The National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordinating Committee (NNEECCa), which was set up late last year, had its inaugural meeting in early August, when it began deliberation on the findings of a so-called ‘integrated nuclear infrastructure review’. The review is a self-assessment of the country’s readiness to proceed with a new nuclear build and reportedly covers 19 areas. But the 26-member National Planning Commission (NPC) argued that an alternative plan be developed in the event that sufficient financing was unavailable, or timelines became too tight. The NPC did not say which entity or organ should conduct the cost/benefit analysis, only that one should be completed ahead of any decision to proceed to a procurement phase. The analysis should also not be confined to the economics of the project and should include social and environmental aspects.
Engineering News (South Africa), 15 August 2012

Sellafield: record number of hotspots found on beaches.
A record number of radioactive hotspots have been found contaminating public beaches near the Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria, according to a report by the site's operator. As many as 383 radioactive particles and stones were detected and removed from seven beaches in 2010-11, bringing the total retrieved since 2006 to 1,233. Although Sellafield insists that the health risks for beach users are "very low", there are concerns that some potentially dangerous particles may remain undetected and that contamination keeps being found. Anti-nuclear campaigners have called for beaches to be closed, or for signs to be  erected warning the public of the pollution. But the government's Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said "no special precautionary actions are required at this time to limit access to, or use of, beaches". But it also pointed to a series of "uncertainties" in the beach monitoring that could lead to its risk assessment being reviewed. The latest equipment might miss tiny specks that could be inhaled, it said, as well as buried alpha radioactivity that "could give rise to a significant risk to health if ingested".
Adding to the attempts to down play the radioactive state of the beaches, the official monitoring of the coast has been deliberately abandoned - at the specific request of some local authorities - during the peak periods of school and public Bank Holidays for fear of alarming the tourists.
The Guardian, 4 July 2012 / CORE press release, 4 July 2012

At Chernobyl and Fukushima, radioactivity has seriously harmed wildlife

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Timothy A. Mousseau ‒ Professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina

The largest nuclear disaster in history occurred 30 years ago at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in what was then the Soviet Union. The meltdown, explosions and nuclear fire that burned for 10 days injected enormous quantities of radioactivity into the atmosphere and contaminated vast areas of Europe and Eurasia. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that Chernobyl released 400 times more radioactivity into the atmosphere than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.1

Radioactive cesium from Chernobyl can still be detected in some food products today. And in parts of central, eastern and northern Europe many animals2, plants and mushrooms still contain so much radioactivity that they are unsafe for human consumption.

The first atomic bomb exploded at Alamogordo, New Mexico more than 70 years ago. Since then, more than 2,000 atomic bombs have been tested, injecting radioactive materials into the atmosphere.3 And over 200 small and large accidents have occurred at nuclear facilities.4 But experts and advocacy groups are still fiercely debating the health and environmental consequences of radioactivity.5

However, in the past decade population biologists have made considerable progress in documenting how radioactivity affects plants, animals and microbes. My colleagues and6 I have analyzed these impacts at Chernobyl7, Fukushima7 and naturally radioactive regions of the planet.8

Our studies provide new fundamental insights about consequences of chronic, multigenerational exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation. Most importantly, we have found that individual organisms are injured by radiation in a variety of ways. The cumulative effects of these injuries result in lower population sizes and reduced biodiversity in high-radiation areas.

Broad impacts at Chernobyl

Radiation exposure has caused genetic damage and increased mutation rates in many organisms in the Chernobyl region.9 So far, we have found little convincing evidence that many organisms there are evolving to become more resistant to radiation.10

Organisms' evolutionary history may play a large role in determining how vulnerable they are to radiation. In our studies, species that have historically shown high mutation rates11, such as the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), the icterine warbler (Hippolais icterina) and the Eurasian blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), are among the most likely to show population declines in Chernobyl.12 Our hypothesis is that species differ in their ability to repair DNA, and this affects both DNA substitution rates and susceptibility to radiation from Chernobyl.

Much like human survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, birds13 and mammals14 at Chernobyl have cataracts in their eyes and smaller brains15. These are direct consequences of exposure to ionizing radiation in air, water and food. Like some cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, many of the birds have malformed sperm.16 In the most radioactive areas, up to 40 percent of male birds are completely sterile17, with no sperm or just a few dead sperm in their reproductive tracts during the breeding season.

Tumors18, presumably cancerous, are obvious on some birds in high-radiation areas. So are developmental abnormalities in some plants19 and insects20.

Given overwhelming evidence of genetic damage and injury to individuals, it is not surprising that populations of many organisms in highly contaminated areas have shrunk. In Chernobyl, all major groups of animals that we surveyed were less abundant in more radioactive areas.21 This includes birds22; butterflies, dragonflies, bees, grasshoppers, spiders;23 and large and small mammals24.

Not every species shows the same pattern of decline. Many species, including wolves, show no effects of radiation on their population density. A few species of birds appear to be more abundant in more radioactive areas. In both cases, higher numbers may reflect the fact that there are fewer competitors or predators for these species in highly radioactive areas.

Moreover, vast areas of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are not presently heavily contaminated, and appear to provide a refuge for many species. One report published in 2015 described game animals such as wild boar and elk as thriving in the Chernobyl ecosystem.25 But nearly all documented consequences of radiation in Chernobyl and Fukushima have found that individual organisms exposed to radiation suffer serious harm.26

There may be exceptions. For example, substances called antioxidants can defend against the damage to DNA, proteins and lipids caused by ionizing radiation. The levels of antioxidants that individuals have available in their bodies may play an important role in reducing the damage caused by radiation.27 There is evidence that some birds may have adapted to radiation by changing the way they use antioxidants in their bodies.28

Parallels at Fukushima

Recently we have tested the validity of our Chernobyl studies by repeating them in Fukushima, Japan. The 2011 power loss and core meltdown at three nuclear reactors there released about one-tenth as much radioactive material as the Chernobyl disaster.29

Overall, we have found similar patterns of declines in abundance and diversity30 of birds, although some species31 are more sensitive to radiation than others. We have also found declines in some insects, such as butterflies32, which may reflect the accumulation of harmful mutations33 over multiple generations.

Our most recent studies at Fukushima have benefited from more sophisticated analyses of radiation doses34 received by animals. In our most recent paper, we teamed up with radioecologists to reconstruct the doses received by about 7,000 birds. The parallels we have found between Chernobyl and Fukushima provide strong evidence that radiation is the underlying cause of the effects we have observed in both locations.

Some members of the radiation regulatory community have been slow to acknowledge how nuclear accidents have harmed wildlife. For example, the U.N.-sponsored Chernobyl Forum instigated the notion that the accident has had a positive impact on living organisms in the exclusion zone because of the lack of human activities.35 A more recent report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation predicts minimal consequences for the biota animal and plant life of the Fukushima region.36

Unfortunately these official assessments were largely based on predictions from theoretical models, not on direct empirical observations of the plants and animals living in these regions. Based on our research, and that of others, it is now known that animals living under the full range of stresses in nature are far more sensitive to the effects of radiation than previously believed.37 Although field studies sometimes lack the controlled settings needed for precise scientific experimentation, they make up for this with a more realistic description of natural processes.

Our emphasis on documenting radiation effects under "natural" conditions using wild organisms has provided many discoveries that will help us to prepare for the next nuclear accident38 or act of nuclear terrorism39. This information is absolutely needed if we are to protect the environment not just for man, but also for the living organisms and ecosystem services that sustain all life on this planet.

There are currently more than 400 nuclear reactors in operation around the world, with 65 new ones under construction and another 165 on order or planned. All operating nuclear power plants are generating large quantities of nuclear waste that will need to be stored for thousands of years to come. Given this, and the probability of future accidents or nuclear terrorism, it is important that scientists learn as much as possible about the effects of these contaminants in the environment, both for remediation of the effects of future incidents and for evidenced-based risk assessment and energy policy development.

Reprinted from The Conversation,









































Chernobyl remembered; and costing the nuclear disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attended a ceremony at the Chernobyl plant on April 26 to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the nuclear disaster. "The issue of the consequences of the catastrophe is not resolved," he said. "They have been a heavy burden on the shoulders of the Ukrainian people and we are still a long way off from overcoming them."1

Poroshenko added: "In a certain sense, Chernobyl accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union, helping opposition and anti-imperialist movements to emerge in Ukraine and bringing our independence a step closer. At the same time, it created powerful fears of nuclear energy and anti-nuclear sentiments."1

Poroshenko later attended a memorial service in the town of Slavutych, which was built to re-house people evacuated from Pripyat, the town built close to the Chernobyl nuclear plant to house workers and their families.

Speaking at a ceremony in the Ukrainian capital Kiev before heading to Chernobyl, Poroshenko said the nuclear disaster had been Ukraine's biggest challenge between the Nazi occupation in World War Two and the recent conflict in eastern Ukraine. "At a time when we still need immense resources to tackle the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, when we need funding for social support to fire-fighters and victims, we have to spend almost one-fifth of our budget expenses on defence and security," he said.2

On the eve of the Chernobyl anniversary, some survivors returned to Pripyat. "I barely found my apartment, I mean it's a forest now ‒ trees growing through the pavement, on the roofs. All the rooms are empty, the glass is gone from the windows and everything's destroyed," said Zoya Perevozchenko.3

At a ceremony in their honor in Kiev, some of the former liquidators spoke of their ordeal and surprise that they lived through it. "My soul hurts when I think of those days," said Dmitry Mikhailov, 56. He was on a crew sent to evacuate a village where residents knew nothing of the accident. "They didn't understand what was happening," he said. "I wish I knew where and how they are now. I just can't forget them."4

In Minsk, the capital of Belarus, more than 1,000 people held a protest march through the city center. Belarus routinely cracks down on dissent, but authorities allowed the march. "Chernobyl is continuing today. Our relatives and friends are dying of cancer," said 21-year-old protester Andrei Ostrovtsov.4

The Ukrainian government has scaled back benefits for Chernobyl survivors, making many feel betrayed by their own country. "I went in there when everyone was fleeing. We were going right into the heat," said Mykola Bludchiy. "And today everything is forgotten. It's a disgrace."4

Estimating the costs of Chernobyl

In a report commissioned by Green Cross Switzerland, Prof. Jonathan Samet and Joann Seo from University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine have taken on the near-impossible task of quantifying the costs of the Chernobyl disaster.5

The authors note that some of the costs are obvious (even if accurate cost figures are not available or estimates vary widely) including the costs of managing the accident, including decommissioning the plant and decontaminating surrounding areas; destruction and loss of property, e.g., loss of agricultural products; costs associated the relocating many thousands of people; and costs of replacement power. Other costs are less obvious and/or more difficult to quantify, such as loss of economic opportunities, out-migration, and long-term neuropsychological consequences.

Social costs (e.g., crime, violence, suicide) can be difficult to identify and even more difficult to quantify. Costing premature mortality is particularly fraught, as is the costing of disability and impairment.

As an example of how arbitrary some of the costings necessarily are, Samet and Seo point to arbitrary U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) costings of the risk of fatality from radiation exposure. The NRC multiplies the value of a statistical life (currently determined to be US$9 million) by a nominal risk coefficient (5.7 x 10-4 per person-rem) giving a result of US$5100 per person-rem (or US$510 per person-millisievert). Unless the figures are inflation-adjusted, our value is decreasing all the time. And for people living outside the U.S., the value of a human life fluctuates with the exchange rate!

Samet and Seo outline the range of different sources of costs and stratify them by timeframe (short- or long-term) and mechanism (direct or indirect). Notwithstanding the many, profound uncertainties, they estimate costs of US$700 billion (€607 billion) over the 30 years since the Chernobyl disaster.

Samet and Seo write:

"Nonetheless, we can make some general comments about the costs by major category based on the data available. First, regardless of uncertainties, the information tabulated shows clearly that the indirect and long-terms costs far exceed the immediate and direct costs. Health costs represent the largest proportion of the indirect costs, particularly when consideration is given to the long-time period over which these costs are manifest ‒ amounting to the full lifespans of those exposed and possibly extending to the next generation.

"Second, although the costs of clean-up and maintenance are the most certain and substantial, they are far lower than the indirect costs. Third, simply extending some of the estimates to cover the full 30 years since the disaster leads to notably high estimates.

"Based on the estimates found in our review, we have made extrapolations to gauge approximately the costs that may have been incurred by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident to date. Clearly, the estimates gathered are limited by the degree of documentation, the range of costs covered, and their geographic and temporal coverage.

"For Belarus, there is a national estimate of $235B for 1986-2015 attributed to "aggregate damage" and for Ukraine, there is a 25-year estimate for "total economic loss" of $198B. Scaled to 30 years, the Ukraine estimate of around $240B is quite comparable to that for Belarus.

"In our 2013 report, we identified a population of 10,000,000 as "exposed" in a relatively broad sense to radiation and the disaster, approximately one-third each from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Thus, tripling either the Ukraine or Belarus 30-year estimates to cover the full exposed population leads to a total of around $700B in costs for the 30 years, assuming the same cost figures apply to Russia. This estimate involves a number of assumptions and must be considered as uncertain, but it is based on governmental figures.

"However, regardless of the inherent uncertainty the figure is high and existing estimates would support overall costs of hundreds of billions. Of course, the costs will continue to mount, reflecting the need to maintain the plant, the withdrawn land, and persistent health consequences."

Towards a post-nuclear Ukraine

Jan Haverkamp from Greenpeace and Iryna Holovko from the CEE Bankwatch Network and the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine have published a useful analysis of energy politics in Ukraine and neighboring states.6 They summarize:

"Thirty years on from the world's largest nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl, people are often astonished that Ukraine is still highly dependent on an ageing nuclear fleet for its electricity provision. Indeed, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine continue to face the trauma of Chernobyl on a daily basis ‒ both in the form of human tragedy and on-going economic losses.

"You might expect the governments of these states to have turned away from nuclear energy and, in the light of the latest climate science, from fossil fuels too. But Russia continues to promote nuclear power, and Belarus is trying to introduce nuclear reactors at home. Belarus and Ukraine share a high dependence on Russia for nuclear technology, fuel, gas, oil and coal — a problem that has only been exacerbated by the crisis in the Donbas.

"Ukraine could cover its entire energy demand in 2050 with wind, solar and water and a 32% decrease in primary energy need. A move towards clean, renewable energy sources (such as wind, water, sun, biomass and geothermal) would seem a logical route, especially given the potential savings in health costs and increase in energy independence. Here, in these countries most afflicted by Chernobyl, economic realities make this switch to a clean energy future inevitable: the old centralised energy economy is collapsing, slowly but surely, and an awareness movement is growing."






5. Jonathan Samet and Joann Seo, 2016, 'The Financial Costs of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Disaster: A Review of the Literature',

6. Jan Haverkamp and Iryna Holovko, 25 April 2016, 'Towards a post-nuclear Ukraine',

Pro-nuclear environmentalists and the Chernobyl death toll

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

With few if any exceptions, self-styled pro-nuclear environmentalists peddle misinformation regarding the Chernobyl death toll.

Before considering their propaganda, a brief summary of credible positions regarding the Chernobyl cancer death toll (see Nuclear Monitor #785 for a detailed discussion).1

Epidemiological studies are not much use: the Chernobyl death toll is lost in the statistical noise of widespread cancer incidence.

Estimates of collective radiation exposure are available ‒ for example the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimates a total collective dose of 600,000 person-Sieverts over 50 years from Chernobyl fallout.2 And the collective radiation dose can be used to arrive at a death toll using the Linear No Threshold (LNT) model.

If we use the IAEA's collective radiation dose estimate, and a risk estimate derived from LNT (0.1 cancer deaths per person-Sievert), we get an estimate of 60,000 cancer deaths. Sometimes a risk estimate of 0.05 is used to account for the possibility of decreased risks at low doses and/or low dose rates (in other words, 0.05 is the risk estimate when applying a 'dose and dose rate effectiveness factor' or DDREF of two). That gives an estimate of 30,000 deaths.

Any number of scientific studies use LNT ‒ or LNT with a DDREF ‒ to estimate the Chernobyl death toll. These studies produce estimates of the Chernobyl cancer death toll varying from 9,000 (in the most contaminated parts of the former Soviet Union) to 93,000 deaths (across Europe).1,3

Moreover, LNT may underestimate risks. The 2006 report of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences' Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation (BEIR) states: "The committee recognizes that its risk estimates become more uncertain when applied to very low doses. Departures from a linear model at low doses, however, could either increase or decrease the risk per unit dose."4 Likewise the BEIR report states that "combined analyses are compatible with a range of possibilities, from a reduction of risk at low doses to risks twice those upon which current radiation protection recommendations are based."

So the true Chernobyl cancer death toll could be lower or higher than the LNT-derived estimate of 60,000 deaths.

Those are the credible estimates of the cancer death toll from Chernobyl. None of them are conclusive but that's the nature of the problem we're dealing with.

Another defensible position (or non-position) is that the death toll is unknown and unknowable because of the uncertainties associated with the science. The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) states:5

"The Committee has decided not to use models to project absolute numbers of effects in populations exposed to low radiation doses from the Chernobyl accident, because of unacceptable uncertainties in the predictions. It should be stressed that the approach outlined in no way contradicts the application of the LNT model for the purposes of radiation protection, where a cautious approach is conventionally and consciously applied."

Pro-nuclear environmentalists

So there are two defensible positions regarding the Chernobyl cancer death toll ‒ estimates based on collective dose estimates (with or without a DDREF or a margin of error in either direction), and UNSCEAR's position that the death toll is uncertain because of "unacceptable uncertainties in the predictions".

The third of the two defensible positions ‒ unqualified claims that the Chernobyl death toll was just 50 or so ‒ should be rejected as dishonest or uninformed spin from the nuclear industry and some of its scientifically-illiterate supporters. Those illiterate supporters include every last one of the self-styled pro-nuclear environmentalists (PNEs). (We should note in passing that some PNE's have genuine environmental credentials while others ‒ such as Patrick Moore6 and Ben Heard7 ‒ are in the pay of the nuclear industry.)

James Hansen8 and George Monbiot9 cite UNSCEAR to justify a Chernobyl death toll of 43, without noting that the UNSCEAR report5 did not attempt to calculate long-term deaths. James Lovelock asserts that "in fact, only 42 people died" from the Chernobyl disaster.10

Patrick Moore, citing the UN Chernobyl Forum (which included UN agencies such as the IAEA, UNSCEAR, and WHO), states that Chernobyl resulted in 56 deaths.11 In fact, the UN Chernobyl Forum's 2005 report12 estimated up to 4,000 long-term cancer deaths among the higher-exposed Chernobyl populations, and a follow-up study13 by the World Health Organization in 2006 estimated an additional 5,000 deaths among populations exposed to lower doses in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Australian 'ecomodernist' Barry Brook says the "credible literature (WHO, IAEA) puts the total Chernobyl death toll at less than 60."14 Ben Heard, another Australian 'ecomodernist' (in fact a uranium and nuclear industry consultant ‒ a fact that, like Patrick Moore, he rarely discloses) gives a Chernobyl death toll of 43.15

In 2010, Mark Lynas said the Chernobyl death toll "has likely been only around 65."16 Two years earlier, Lynas cited a WHO estimate of "a few thousand deaths" (actually 9,000 deaths) but attempted to trivialize the death toll by saying that Chernobyl had an "indiscernible" impact on overall deaths.17 The WHO uses the term indiscernible in a technical sense: the Chernobyl death toll can't be picked up by epidemiological studies. When the nuclear industry and its PNE apologists use the term, they're usually trying to leave you with the impression that there is no long-term death toll from exposure to Chernobyl fallout.

There doesn't appear to be a single example of a PNE ‒ or a comparable organisation ‒ providing a credible account of the Chernobyl death toll. The Breakthrough Institute comes closest, stating that "UN officials say that the death toll could be as high as 4,000".18 However the Breakthrough Institute ignores: the follow-up UN/WHO study13 that estimated an additional 5,000 deaths in ex-Soviet states; scientific estimates of the death toll beyond ex-Soviet countries1; scientific literature regarding diseases other than cancer linked to radiation exposure3; and indirect deaths associated with the permanent relocation of over 350,000 people after the Chernobyl disaster.

Ignorance or deceit?

How to explain the misinformation of the PNEs: ignorance or deceit, cock-up or conspiracy? Dishonest cherry-picking certainly seems to be at work. In a review of Robert Stone's 'Pandora's Promise' propaganda film19,20, physicist Dr Ed Lyman from the Union of Concerned Scientists writes:21

"One after another, the film's interviewees talk about how shocked they were to read the 2005 report of the Chernobyl Forum − a group under of U.N. agencies under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the governments of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine − and discover that "the health effects of Chernobyl were nothing like what was expected." The film shows pages from that report with certain reassuring sentences underlined.

"But there is no mention of the fact that the Chernobyl Forum only estimated the number of cancer deaths expected among the most highly exposed populations in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and not the many thousands more predicted by published studies to occur in other parts of Europe that received high levels of fallout. Nor is there mention of the actual health consequences from Chernobyl, including the more than 6,000 thyroid cancers that had occurred by 2005 in individuals who were children or adolescents at the time of the accident. And the film is silent on the results of more recent published studies that report evidence of excesses in other cancers, as well as cardiovascular diseases, are beginning to emerge.22

"Insult is then added to injury when Lynas then accuses the anti-nuclear movement of "cherry-picking of scientific data" to support their claims. Yet the film had just engaged in some pretty deceptive cherry-picking of its own. Lynas then goes on to assert that the Fukushima accident will probably never kill anyone from radiation, also ignoring studies estimating cancer death tolls ranging from several hundred to several thousand."

Perhaps some PNEs are deceitful ‒ there's no way of knowing without getting inside their heads. On the other hand, evidence of their ignorance abounds. For the most part, PNEs had a shaky understanding of the radiation/health debates (and other nuclear issues) before they joined the pro-nuclear club, and they have a shaky understanding now. Ed Lyman writes:21

"When Lynas says that in his previous life as an anti-nuclear environmentalist he didn't know that there was such a thing as natural background radiation, or Michael Shellenberger [Breakthrough Institute] admitted to once taking on faith the claim that Chernobyl caused a million casualties, the audience may reasonably wonder why it should accept what they believe now that they are pro-nuclear."

George Monbiot23 berates anti-nuclear campaigners for citing a Russian study that used a flawed methodology to reach a flawed estimate of around one million deaths. But most don't cite the study and some have explicitly rejected it. By contrast, every last one of the PNEs peddles misinformation regarding the Chernobyl death toll.

James Hansen's understanding of the radiation/health debates is shaky, to say the least. He falsely claims there is a "generally accepted 100 millisievert threshold for fatal disease development."8 But the accepted scientific position is that there is no threshold. Thus a 2010 UNSCEAR report states that "the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation-associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates."24

And Hansen claims that his estimate "for global deaths caused by historical nuclear power (~4,900) could be a major overestimate relative to the empirical value (by 2 orders of magnitude)."8 In fact, his figure is comparable to the very lowest of the estimates of the Chernobyl death toll alone ‒ the UN Chernobyl Forum's estimate of 4,000 deaths amongst those most heavily exposed.12

Barry Brook is another example of someone whose understanding was shaky before and after he joined the PNE club. Brook says that before 2009 he hadn't given much thought to nuclear power because of the 'peak uranium' argument.25 By 2010, Brook was in full flight, asserting that the LNT model is "discredited" and has "no relevance to the real world", and that the "health physics community is preponderantly in agreement that LNT has no valid empirical foundation".26

In fact, LNT enjoys heavy-hitting scientific support. For example the U.S. National Academy of Sciences' BEIR report states that "the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and … the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans."4 Likewise, a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states: "Given that it is supported by experimentally grounded, quantifiable, biophysical arguments, a linear extrapolation of cancer risks from intermediate to very low doses currently appears to be the most appropriate methodology."27

On Chernobyl, Brook said: "The credible literature (WHO, IAEA) puts the total Chernobyl death toll at less than 60. The 'conspiracy theories' drummed up against these authoritative organisations rings a disturbingly similar bell in my mind to the crank attacks on the IPCC, NASA and WMO in climate science."26 But the UN agencies estimated 9,000 deaths in ex-Soviet states in their 2005/06 reports, and more recently UNSCEAR has declined to provide an estimate.

Brook promotes the work of Ted Rockwell from 'Radiation, Science, and Health', a crank organisation that promotes bizarre ‒ and dangerous ‒ conspiracy theories such as this: "Government agencies suppress data, including radiation hormesis, and foster radiation fear. They support extreme, costly, radiation protection policies; and preclude using low-dose radiation for health and medical benefits that apply hormesis, in favor of using (more profitable) drug therapies."28

Brook promotes29 the discredited30 'hormesis' theory that low doses of radiation are beneficial to human health. Mark Lynas lends support to the hormesis theory and uncritically quotes a dangerous quack scientist who argues that annual public radiation dose limits should be increased from 1 mSv to 1,200 mSv!31

Good for wildlife?

If Brook, Lynas and contrarian quack scientists are right, Chernobyl (and Fukushima) have been beneficial by spreading health-giving, life-affirming radiation far and wide. And according to some PNEs, Chernobyl has been a boon for wildlife and biodiversity. The region surrounding Chernobyl is one of Europe's "finest natural preserves" according to Stewart Brand.32 Lynas says the Chernobyl "explosion has even been good for wildlife, which has thrived in the 30km exclusion zone"17 (and that restrictions on fishing around the Fukushima plant "will improve the marine environment there"33). James Lovelock says the land around Chernobyl "is now rich in wildlife" and he follows this bizarre argument to its logical conclusion: "We call the ash from nuclear power nuclear waste and worry about its safe disposal. I wonder if instead we should use it as an incorruptible guardian of the beautiful places on Earth. Who would dare cut down a forest which was a storage place of nuclear ash?"34

According to most PNE's, radiation exposure from Chernobyl has been harmless (except for those exposed to extremely high doses in the immediate aftermath of the disaster), and according to some it has been beneficial to human health. And Chernobyl has been good for wildlife and biodiversity (mutations aside). Follow the PNEs down these rabbit-holes and you come up with Hansen's conclusion that the nuclear industry's safety record is "superior to any other major industry"35, or Lynas' claim that nuclear power is "extraordinarily safe"36, or Brook's claim that "nuclear power is the safest energy option".37

Nuclear power the safest energy option? Safer than wind and solar? To arrive at that conclusion, Brook and other propagandists understate the death toll from Chernobyl (and Fukushima) by orders of magnitude. They trivialize or ignore the greatest hazard associated with nuclear power ‒ its repeatedly-demonstrated connection to WMD proliferation.38 And they trivialize or ignore related proliferation/security problems such as conventional military strikes against nuclear plants, nuclear terrorism and sabotage, and nuclear theft and smuggling.

Finally, PNEs also trivialize Chernobyl by peddling the furphy that the psychological distress was greater than the biological impacts. There's no dispute that, as the WHO states, the relocation of more than 350,000 people in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster "proved a deeply traumatic experience because of disruption to social networks and having no possibility to return to their homes."39

How to compare that psychological trauma to estimates of the cancer death toll, such as the UN/WHO estimate of 9,000 deaths in ex-Soviet states? Does the psychological trauma outweigh 9,000 deaths? It does for PNE propagandists. Lynas, for example, asserts that "as Chernobyl showed, fear of radiation is a far greater risk than radiation itself in the low doses experienced by the affected populations" and he goes on to blame anti-nuclear campaigners for contributing to the fear.40

But the trauma isn't simply a result of a fear of radiation ‒ it arises from a myriad of factors, particularly for the 350,000 displaced people. Nor is the fear of radiation necessarily misplaced given that the mainstream scientific view is that there is no threshold below which radiation exposure is risk-free.

Most importantly, why on earth would anyone want to compare the biological effects of Chernobyl to the psychological trauma? Chernobyl resulted in both. One doesn't cancel out the other.


1. 24 April 2014, 'The Chernobyl Death Toll', Nuclear Monitor #785,

2. IAEA Bulletin #381, 'Annual Dose from Natural Radiation Sources in the Environment',

3. Ian Fairlie, March 2016, 'TORCH-2016: An independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster',

4. National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Board on Radiation Research Effects, 2006, "Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VII – Phase 2)", or

5. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, 2011, Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation, UNSCEAR 2008, Report to the General Assembly with Scientific Annexes, Volume II, Scientific Annexes C, D and E, p.64,

6. 'Greenpeace Statement On Patrick Moore - Greenpeace USA',


8. P.A Kharecha and J.E. Hansen, 2013, 'Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power'. Environ. Sci. Technol., 47, pp.4889−4895,

9. George Monbiot, 16 March 2011, 'Atomised',

10. James Lovelock, April 2005, "Our Nuclear Lifeline", Reader's Digest,

11. Patrick Moore, 16 April 2006, 'Going Nuclear',

12. Chernobyl Forum: 2003–2005, 'Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts', p.16,

13. World Health Organization, 2006, 'Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programmes, p 108,

14. Barry Brook, 30 April 2010,

15. Ben Heard, 12 April 2011, 'Giving Green the red light',

16. Mark Lynas, 4 Nov 2010, 'What the Green Movement Got Wrong: A turncoat explains',

17. Mark Lynas, 18 Sept 2008, 'Why greens must learn to love nuclear power',

18. Breakthrough Institute, 1 April 2011, 'Fukushima in Context',

19. 'Pandora's Propaganda', Nuclear Monitor #773, 21 Nov 2013,

20. 'Pandora's Promise' Propaganda, Nuclear Monitor #764, 28 June 2013,

21. Ed Lyman, 12 June 2013, 'Movie Review: Put "Pandora's Promise" Back in the Box',


23. George Monbiot, 4 April 2011, 'Evidence Meltdown',

24. UNSCEAR, 2011, 'Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Ionising Radiation 2010',

25. Barry Brook, 27 Sep 2009, 'Thinking critically about sustainable energy (TCASE) 1: Prologue',

26. Barry Brook, 30 April 2010,

27. David Brenner et al., 2003, 'Cancer risks attributable to low doses of ionizing radiation: Assessing what we really know', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 25, 2003, vol.100, no.24, pp.13761–13766,


29. Barry Brook, 21 July 2011, 'Radiation Hormesis',

30. See for example Appendix D in the BEIR report,

31. Chris Goodall and Mark Lynas, March 2011, 'The dangers of nuclear power in light of Fukushima',

32. Stewart Brand, 'There will be a Chernobyl National Park by 2035',

33. Keith Kloor, 19 Oct 2011, 'Interview: Britain's Mark Lynas Riles His Green Movement Allies',

34. Quoted in Max Walsh, February 2005, "Nuclear parks", The Bulletin.

35. Peter Dykstra, 6 Feb 2015, 'Analysis: Atomic balm',

36. BBC 8 Oct 2013, 'Nuclear power support from former sceptic Mark Lynas',


38. 28 May 2015, 'The myth of the peaceful atom', Nuclear Monitor #804,

39. World Health Organization, 13 April 2016, 'World Health Organization report explains the health impacts of the world's worst-ever civil nuclear accident',

40. Mark Lynas, 18 July 2012, 'Why Fukushima death toll projections are based on junk science',

5 - Postscript


April 26, 2011 will not be the end for the suffering as a consequence of the Chernobyl accident. Ironically, it is likely that Chernobyl's public health impacts will be further down-played at the IAEA-sponsored conference in Kiev (20-22 April): “Chernobyl, 25 Years On: Safety for the Future”. This conference is intended to be "a forum for the scrutiny of the disaster mitigation measures implemented after the Cherno-byl disaster, and the examination of how the lessons learned can be used to improve nuclear and radiation safety around the world." 

Due to further downplaying of the health consequences by organizations linked to the nuclear establishment and the fact that the Chernobyl accident will fade away in the public debate and the collective memory, it will be extremely difficult to raise any public awareness on this matter in the future.

Let's make sure that past and future suffering due to Cher-nobyl will not be in vain by making April 26 the international 'phase-out nuclear' day and increase our efforts to end the nuclear age.


4- Aftermath: no lessons learned


April: At an international conference, "Fifteen Years After the Chernobyl Accident - Lessons Learned" in Kiev, experts, UN organizations and the IAEA reach a minimal consensus in the evaluation of health effects. A direct link between the accident and thyroid cancer among children is recognized internation-ally. Indications for other consequences are being observed, however with limited resources. 
4-8 June: International Sci-entific Conference on “Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident: Results of 15-Year Follow-Up Studies” in Kiev, Ukraine. One of the many findings: Liquidators' state of health worsened consi-derably since the accident, high levels of general somatic diseases, morbidity increased more than 17 times between 1991 and 2000. 
18 June: After being arres-ted in July 1999, Professor Bandazhevsky was brought to trial in Gomel in February 2001. On June 18, 2001, the Military Board of the Belaru-sian Supreme Court convic-ted him and sentenced him to eight years’ imprisonment. His property was confiscated, and he is prohibited from exercising his political rights and assuming any managerial position for five years fol-lowing his release. October: After visiting the affected regions, a delegation of national and international experts sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) calls for a new approach in aid programs. They recommend a develop-mental approach, shifting the emphasis from "help for vic-tims" towards helping people to help themselves. 

6 February:
The United Nations calls for an entirely new approach to helping millions of people impacted by the Chernobyl accident, saying that 16 years after the incident those affected remain in a state of “chronic dependency,” with few opportunities and little control over their destinies. The report “The Human Conse-quences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident” notes that some 7 million people are in some way or another recipients of state welfare connected with Chernobyl. 

Human consequences of the Chernobyl accident.
The United Nations calls for an entirely new approach to hel-ping millions of people impacted by the Chernobyl accident, saying that 16 years after the incident those affected remain in a state of “chronic dependency,” with few opportunities and little control over their destinies. The UN warns that populations in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine would continue to experience general decline unless significant new measures are adopted to address health, the environment and unemploy-ment. The study emphasizes the need for the recovery phase to focus attention on two broad groups: 
The first group includes some 100,000 to 200,000 people caught in the downward spiral. These are people who live in severely contaminated areas; people who have been resettled but remain unemployed; and those whose health remains most directly threatened, including victims of thyroid cancer. Some 2,000 people have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and the report states that as many as 8,000 to 10,000 additional cases are expected to develop over the coming years. The report states that this group of up to 200,000 people, spread across all three countries, is “at the core of the cluster of problems created by Chernobyl,” and focusing on their needs and hel-ping them take control of their futures must be a priority. 
The second group identified for priority action includes those whose lives have been directly and significantly affected but who are already in a position to support themselves. This group has found employment, but still must be reintegrated into society as a whole so that their ongoing needs are addressed through the mainstream provision of services using criteria applicable to other members of society. This group includes hundreds of thousands of individuals. 
The report also identifies a third group, encompassing millions of people, who have been indirectly impacted by the stigma, uncertainty and fatalism that have become associated with Chernobyl. This group, too, needs to be aided through clearer information and more open and continuous disclosures about the evolving situation in the region, the report argues. The report notes that some 7 million people are in some way or another recipients of state welfare connected with Chernobyl. The study, carried out by an international panel of experts in July-August 2001, was commissioned by the UNDP and the UNICEF, and was supported by the WHO and the OCHA  (the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

April: secret KGB documents released in Ukraine show that there were problems with the Chernobyl nuclear plant. One 1984 document notes deficiencies in the third and fourth block, and also of poor quality of some equipment sent from Yugoslav companies. 
27 June: The International Chernobyl Research and Informa-tion Network (ICRIN) is launched by the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl in Geneva. The objective of the international network is to make Chernobyl research results systema-tically accessible both to the affected population and to the authorities and decision-makers, and also to identify gaps in existing research findings. The web-site serves as an infor-mation platform for ICRIN members and the public at large. The activities and addresses of scientific institutions and organizati-ons can be accessed in a database on the website.
August: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said it would give Ukraine US$ 85 million this year to cover the gaping hole in reactor 4. The construc-tion of the new shelter will start in 2004. 

27 April: In New York, over 600 invited guests from numerous coun-tries attended the first public viewing of the film "Chernobyl Heart" since it won this year's Academy Award for the best docu-mentary two months ago. November: Scientific evidence that fallout from Chernobyl may have raised cancer rates in western Europe may have emerged. Researchers in Sweden showed a statistically relevant correlation between the degree of fallout and an observed rise in the number of total cancer cases. 

April: European Commission confirms that restrictions in the UK on the transport, sale and slaughtering of sheep remain in force ‘in numerous cattle breeding enterprises especially in the North of Wales” In Ireland and certain Scandinavian regions, monitoring is also still conducted. 
April: In certain game, wild grown berries and mushrooms and in carnivorous fish (from regions in Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland) the levels of Caesium-137 still vastly exceed normal levels. In the regions worst hit by the fall-out from Chernobyl, contamination levels will remain high and relatively unchanged for the next deca-des, the EC believes. 

12 May: At a pledging meeting in London the European Commission announced an additional €49 million to the international Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF). A total of about US$200 million are donated at the donor meeting. The project is estimated to cost US$1,091 million and is planned to be completed by 2009. 
4 August: Alpha-radiation from plutonium-241 decay pro-ducts is increasing. Pu-241 emits Beta-radiation and has a half-life of only 14.4 years. It decays in Americium-241which emits alpha-radiation and has a half life 432.2 years. Result: in Belarus alpha-radiation is currently three-times as high as in 1986 and in the year 2276 the level will still be twice as high as shortly after the 1986 disaster. The zone’s americium-241 will reach its maximum level in 2059. Am-241’s alpha radia-tion is even more powerful than plutonium’s, and it decays to neptunium-237, which also decays by way of an energetic alpha particle and has a half-life of more than 2 million years. However, the vast majority of radiation exposure is from beta-emitting caesium-137 which is declining with a half-life of about 30 years. 
5 August: As a result of amnesties, Professor Bandazhevs-ky's eight-year prison sentence was reduced to seven years in July 2002 and, in early 2004, his sentence was reduced to six years. According to the Belarusian government, Articles 90 and 91 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus stipulate that Professor Bandazhevsky's sentence could be reduced when he had served half of the term of the prison sentence handed down by the court, and conditional early re-lease (“parole”) reportedly was possible after two thirds of the sentence had been served, on January 6, 2005. But it was not until August 5, 2005, under an amnesty declared by President Lukashenka to celebrate the 60th anniversary of World War II, that Professor Bandazhevsky was released. 
30 August: The latest radiation measurements in the area immediately surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant indicate that the levels of radioactive contamination are fal-ling. Ukraine’s authorities are therefore opening some of the evacuation zone of 2,800 square kilometers, from where all inhabitants were relocated after the 1986 nuclear accident, for partial resettlement. However, those who return will lose the welfare benefits they have been entitled to so far. 
31 August: The WHO completes its working draft Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programs Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group "Health". From this report and others in this series, IAEA cre-ates Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-economic Impacts and Recommendations to the Govern-ments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine [date of release: 5 September 2005]. Again the work of the WHO is overshadowed by the so-called WHA 12.40, which is the agreement between WHO and IAEA that allows either to keep information from the other, which would hurt their respective mandates. Since it is the IAEA's mandate "to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world", it is doubtful that IAEA could conduct unbiased health studies on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion. In fact, IAEA has no mandate to conduct health studies at all. 
September: Ukrainian authorities retrieve radioactive fuel believed to be stolen from Chernobyl. A plastic bag, contai-ning 14 pieces of fuel, where fond during a routine search of the reactors perimeter. The material is believed to be stolen in 1995 but left in the plant when additional security measures to detect radiation were installed after the theft in 1995 
5 September: According to the IAEA’s press release Cherno-byl: The True Scale of the Accident, introducing the contro-versial report “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts” a total of up to four thousand people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl accident. And “as of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster”. 

IAEA study “rubbish”
Chernobyl relief organizations and many radiation scien-tists dispute and criticize the data and figures in the re-port, calling them “poor”, “quite inappropriate” or simply “rubbish”. The report is accused of playing down the true dimension of the catastrophe. Some statements of the study are challenged as “demonstrably false”. Experts are also concerned that the UN’s IAEA, may have had “too great an influence” on the study.
Dr. Rosalie Bertell, a well known expert, has made many comments on the IAEA’s press release. One of these comments is on the following quote: “Approximately 1000 on-site reactor staff and emergency workers were heavily exposed to high-level radiation on the first day of the accident; among the more than 200,000 emergency and recovery operation workers exposed during the pe-riod from 1986-1987, an estimated 2200 radiation-caused deaths can be expected during their lifetime”. Bertell: “Radiation-caused deaths is a loaded statement. It assu-mes that only death is considered to be detrimental, and eliminates the consideration of all severe and debilitating morbidity. Moreover, these scientists, trained by the documents released by International Commission on Ra-diological Protection (ICRP) over the last fifty years, have accepted without question that the only health effects “of concern” attributable to radiation are deaths from cancer. Non-fatal cancers are basically of no concern. These are administrative decisions and not science.[..]” 
Dr. Angelica Claussen from the German branch of the IPPNW remarks: “Studies conducted for the International Chernobyl Project of the IAEA took place from January 1990 to the end of February 1991. In 1990 alone the rate of new cases of thyroid cancer in children in Belarus was 30 times higher than the 10 year average.” The IAEA report states however: “The official data that were exa-mined did not indicate a marked increase in the incidence of leukemia or cancers. (..) 
Reported adverse health effects attributed to radiation were not substantiated either by those local studies that were adequately performed or by the studies under the Project.. (..) The children who were examined were found to be generally healthy. (..).” Later independent research by the BBC has proved that the IAEA and its international commission of experts were already in possession of all of the relevant facts at the time of the conference and the presentation of the report, including the histopathological evidence for a marked increase in the rate of thyroid can-cers. It is alarming to ascertain that this deliberate decep-tion of the general public was practiced by such experts as Professor Mettler (Director of the medical expert group of the International Chernobyl Project) and other experts from the EU and Japan.

November: Eleven farms, covering 11,300 hectares in Scot-land, are still so contaminated by the Chernobyl accident that their sheep are considered unsafe to eat. 
15 December: In a official statement Ukraine president Yush-chenko says no foreign fuel will be stored at Chernobyl. A week earlier, he stated that the government was studying the possibility of storing foreign nuclear fuel at Chernobyl. After a loud public outcry he apparently discarded the idea. 
16 December: France: The SCPRI (Central Service for Protection against Radioactive Rays) knew of high levels of contamination in Corsica and southeastern France but kept the information under wraps. The study was commissioned by a magistrate who since 2001 has been examining allegati-ons that the atomic cloud from Chernobyl caused a surge in cases of thyroid cancer in parts of France. According to the report the SCPRI issued imprecise maps that concealed high levels of fallout in certain areas. 

January: The EBRD stated the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) had reached a crucial point, with the awarding of the contract for the NSC (New Safe Confinement) expected within the next few months. The EBRD has said completion of the main construction projects is scheduled for 2008 or 2009. Stabilization work on the sarcophagus has begun, with two of eight stabilization activities already complete. The aim is to make the sarcophagus stable for 15 years, allowing time for the NSC to be constructed. A winner of a tender was said to be announced on a donor conference on February 14. Howe-ver, there were too many unsolved problems to announce the companies name. 
6 April: The New Scientist magazine is quoting two indepen-dent scientists from the UK, Ian Fairlie and David Sumner, who are accusing the IAEA and the WHO of downplaying the impact of the Chernobyl accident. They say that the death toll from cancers caused by Chernobyl will in fact lie some-where between 30,000 and 60,000, up to 15 times as many as officially estimated. Fairlie and Sumner accuse the IAEA/WHO report, released 5 September 2005, of ignoring its own prediction of an extra 5000 cancer deaths in the less conta-minated parts of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and of failing to take account of many thousands more deaths in other coun-tries, where more than half of Chernobyl's fallout ended up. Zhanat Carr, a radiation scientist with the WHO admitted that the deaths were omitted because the report was a “political communication tool”. Fairlie and Sumner's accusations are backed by other experts. 
6 April: Also released on this day is the report Health Ef-fects of Chernobyl – 20 Years After the Reactor Disaster by the IPPNW in Germany and the German Society for Radia-tion Protection (GfS). They also belies the claim by the IAEA that less than 50 people died as a result of the accident at Chernobyl. The facts presented by the composers of the report show that the IAEA figures contain serious inconsisten-cies. For instance, the IAEA claim that future fatalities due to cancer and leukemia in the most heavily exposed groups are expected to number 4000 at the most. However, the study by the WHO, that this claim is based on, forecasts 8930 fatali-ties. “And when one then reviews the reference given in WHO report, one arrives at 10,000 to 25,000 additional deaths due to cancer and leukemia”, says Dr. Pflugbeil from the GfS. The IPPNW report documents the catastrophic dimensions of the reactor accident, using scientific studies, expert estimates and official data. Some of them are mentioned here: 
- 50,000 to 100,000 liquidators (clean-up workers) died in the years up to 2006. Between 540,000 and 900,000 liquidators have become invalids; 
- Congenital defects found in the children of liquidators and people from the contaminated areas could affect future gene-rations to an extent that cannot yet be estimated; 
- Infant mortality has risen significantly in several European countries, including Germany, since Chernobyl. The studies at hand estimated the number of fatalities amongst infants in Europe to be about 5000; 
- In Bavaria alone, between 1000 and 3000 additional birth defects have been found since Chernobyl. It is feared that in Europe more than 10,000 severe abnormalities could have been radiation induced; 
- In Germany, Greece, Scotland and Rumania, there has been a significant increase in cases of leukemia; 
18 April: A new Greenpeace report has revealed that the full consequences of the Chernobyl disaster could top a quarter of a million cancer cases and nearly 100,000 fatal cancers. The challenges the UN IAEA Chernobyl Forum report, which predicted 4,000 additional deaths attributable to the accident as a gross simplification of the real breadth of human suffering. The new data, based on Belarus national cancer statis-tics, predicts approximately 270,000 cancers and 93,000 fatal cancer cases caused by Chernobyl. The report also conclu-des that on the basis of demographic data, during the last 15 years, 60,000 people have additionally died in Russia because of the Chernobyl accident, and estimates of the total death toll for the Ukraine and Belarus could reach another 140,000. The report also looks into the ongoing health impacts of Chernobyl and concludes that radiation from the disaster has had a devastating effect on survivors; damaging immune and endocrine systems, leading to accelerated ageing, cardiovascular and blood illnesses, psychological illnesses, chromosomal aberrations and an increase in fetal deformations.
28 October: There are 36 areas of upland Norway where Chernobyl contamination still requires controls on sheep. 
According to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority 
(NRPA), levels of caesium-137 reached 7 kBq/kg in sheep this year, more than twice the maximum levels in previous years. The discovery of such high levels of radioactivity so long after the Chernobyl accident came as a surprise, a NRPA spokes-man says. 
10 November: Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko issues a decree establishing 14 December as an annual holiday called "Liquidators' Day". 
30 November: Today is the 20th anniversary of the techni-cal acceptance (licensing) of the sarcophagus, built under extreme conditions and designed to last 30 years, though the Ukrainian Institute for Nuclear Power Plant Safety considers it impossible to define a service life for the facility. Currently about 100 contract workers in addition to 80 plant staff work daily on the sarcophagus. The reinforcement work will consi-derably reduce the risk of the sarcophagus's roof collapsing. The next stage in the Shelter work is erection of a so-called New Safe Confinement. A French-led consortium called Novarka and a group led by CH2M Hill of the US are vying for the job. 

21 April: In Science of Superstorms, a BBC2 documentary Russian military pilots describe how they create rain clouds to protect Moscow from radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl disaster. More than 10,000 km2 of Belarus were sacrificed to save the Russian capital from toxic radioactive material. 
23 April: A study of birds around Chernobyl suggests that nuclear fallout, rather than the impact of relocation and stress and deteriorating living conditions, as suggested by the IAEA, may be responsible for human birth defects in the region. Ti-mothy Mousseau, at the University of South Carolina, Colum-bia, and his colleagues examined 7700 barn swallows from Chernobyl and compared them with birds from elsewhere. They found that Chernobyl's swallows were more likely to have tumors, misshapen toes and feather deformities than swallows from uncontaminated parts of Europe. "We don't fully understand the consequences of low doses of radiation," says Mousseau. "We should be more concerned about the human population." 
2 June: The impact of the Chernobyl disaster is often seen as a problem in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. The medical ef-fects of Chernobyl disaster, however, have spread all around the world. Courier-Life Publications reports on a story of a New York based medical specialist: "There are between 150 and 200 thousand people in the NY metropolitan area who come from the affected region, and the 'cancer rates are going up and up'" 
4 June: The incidence of cancer in northern Sweden in-creased following the accident at Chernobyl. This was the finding of a much-debated study from Linköping University in Sweden from 2004. Two studies using different methods has shown a statistically significant increase in the incidence of cancer in northern Sweden, where the fallout of radioactive cesium-137 was at its most intense. 
16 August: Swedish children born in the months following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster suffered mental impairment from the radioactive fallout, a study found. The report by economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund from Columbia University, New York, and their Stockholm University colleague Mårten Palme carried out an analysis of more than 560,000 Swed-ish children born between 1983 and 1988. They found that academic performance was generally weaker in all children still in utero at the time of maternal exposure to Chernobyl fallout, and this effect was most pronounced for those fetuses at 8 to 25 weeks post conception. This is the peak period of brain development when cells may be particularly vulnera-ble to being killed by relatively low doses of radiation. The researchers say it appears prenatal exposure to radiation levels previously considered safe was actually damaging to cognitive ability. 
17 September: The French-led consortium Novarka signs 
a contract to build a new Shelter around the site of Reactor 4 for more than Euro 430 million. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and the French trade minister, Herve Novelli, oversee the signing by the consortium, which includes French builders Bouygues and Vinci. The consortium will build an arch-shaped metal structure 105m tall, 260m wide and 150m long to cover the existing containment structure, which stands over the reactor and radioactive fuel that caused the accident. The new sarcophagus will weigh about 18,000 tons -- more than twice the weight of the Eiffel tower and will res-emble a half-cylinder and slide over the existing sarcophagus. According to official estimates, the reactor still contains about 95% of the original nuclear fuel from the plant. The EBRD is contributing Euro 330 million (about US$460m.) to the project and says it will take about 1,5 years to design the shelter and another four years to build it. 
Officials also signed a US$200m contract with the US firm Holtec International to build a storage facility for spent nu-clear fuel from Chernobyl's NPP three other reactors, which kept operating until the station was shut down in 2000. 

23 February: Publication of "Anecdotes and empirical re-search in Chernobyl" by researchers from the Royal Society in Biology Letters. The scientists mop the floor with all the stu-dies on the consequences of Chernobyl that has been done so far and have received wide attention by the international media. They state: "Although Chernobyl is perhaps the largest environmental disaster ever, there has been minimal monito-ring of the status of free-living organisms or humans in stark contrast to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where careful monitoring has continued for over 60 years." And asking themselves: 
"Why has there been no concerted effort to monitor the long-term effects of Chernobyl on free-living organisms and humans?" Further on: "The official reports by IAEA, WHO and UNDP were narrative renditions of parts of the literature [..]. Scientific enquiry depends on rigorous analysis of data rather than rendition of anecdotal evidence." 
5 March: Atomstroyexport has begun work to extend the service life of the Chernobyl protective concrete shelter. This contract envisages the repair of the roof over the confine-ment, installation of protection systems, and the reinforce-ment of supporting beams. The project will buy time for the next stage: the construction of a new confinement, or arc. The project moderator is the International Chernobyl Shelter Fund and is financed by the G8 and European Union coun-tries. The EBRD has already accumulated US$1b. for the project. 
April: The English Edition of Le Monde Diplomatique states in a background article: "For 50 years dangerous concentrations of radionuclides have been accumulating in earth, air and water from weapons testing and reactor incidents. Yet serious studies of the effects of radiation on health have been obscu-red - not least by the World Health Organization." The whole article, entitled Chernobyl: the great cover-up, can be found at: []
25 April: The Food Standards Agency Wales reveals that 
up to 359 Welsh farms are still operating under restrictions imposed in the wake of Chernobyl, almost 22 years after reactor 4 went into meltdown. Heavy rain washed radioactive material from clouds onto fields. The radiation is absorbed from the soil by plants, which are then eaten by sheep. For the hundreds of Welsh farmers still living with Chernobyl's legacy, the restrictions me an their animals are only allowed to enter the food chain after rigorous safety tests. 
26 April: Ukraine pays homage to victims of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, 22 years after the disaster. "The Cher-nobyl catastrophe became planetary and even now continues to take its toll on people's health and the environment," the Health Ministry said in a statement. 
Activists from across Russia, Ukraine and Belarus turned out in force in urban centers across the former Soviet republics to hold ceremonies commemorating 22nd anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster and express outrage at Russia's current nuclear plans. 
UN chief Ban Ki-moon marks the anniversary by pledging UN assistance for the stricken region's renewal. In a statement to mark the anniversary, he notes that the UN General Assembly has proclaimed 2006-2016 a "decade of recovery and sustai-nable development" for the Chernobyl area. 
2 October: Researchers from Case Western Reserve Univer-sity in Cleveland, Ohio, have tracked the Chernobyl fallout to reveal that much more plutonium was found in the Swedish soil at a depth that corresponded with the nuclear explo-sion than that of Poland. They took soil samples in various locations in the two countries, measuring the presence and location of cesium-137, plutonium (239, 240Pu), and lead- 210Pb. Radionuclides occur in soil both from natural proces-ses and as fallout from nuclear testing. The collected soil samples reveal insights based on several conditions, such as how the radionuclides were delivered to the soil, whether from a one-time event like the Chernobyl disaster or from atmospheric bomb testing. As the team examined a range of soil types from the two countries, they found a spike in 239, 240Pu in Sweden's soil at a depth that coincides with the Chernobyl disaster, yet no similar blip in Poland's soil. Mete-orological research showed that it rained in Sweden while the radioactive cloud was over that country. Leeched of much of its radionuclides, much less plutonium fell on Poland when the cloud later crossed over its borders. 

30 January: President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko signs the law on the government program for decommissioning of the Chernobyl NPP, and transformation of the Shelter confi-nement facility into a safer object. The law, coming into force on January 1, 2010, says the nuclear plant will be finally shut down by 2065. The decommissioning will take four phases. The nuclear fuel rods will be removed in 2010-2013 and the reactor systems will be put in dead storage in 2013-2022. After a cool down of the reactor systems in 2022-2045, the systems will be demounted in 2045-2065 concurrently with decontamination of the nuclear power plant's site. 

January: 'Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment'  written by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko is published by the New York Academy of Sciences. The book is in contrast to findings by the WHO, IAEA and United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) who based their findings on some 300 western research papers, and who found little of concern about the fallout from Chernobyl.
While the most apparent human and environmental damage occurred, and continues to occur, in the Ukraine, Belarus and European Russia, more than 50 percent of the total radioac-tivity spread across the entire northern hemisphere, potentially contaminating some 400 million people. Based on 5000 published articles and studies by multiple researchers and observers, mostly available only in Slavic languages and not available to those outside of the former Soviet Union or Eastern bloc countries, the authors estimated that by 2004, some 985,000 deaths worldwide had been caused by the disaster. All life systems that were studied – humans, voles, livestock, birds, fish, plants, mushrooms, bacteria, viruses, etc., with few exceptions, were changed by radioactive fallout, many irreversibly. Increased cancer incidence is not the only observed adverse effect from the Chernobyl fallout – noted also are birth defects, pregnancy losses, accelerated aging, brain damage, heart, endocrine, kidney, gastrointestinal and lung diseases, and cataracts among the young. Children have been most seriously affected – before the radioactive Chernobyl releases, 80% of children were deemed healthy, now in some areas, only 20% of children are considered healthy. Many have poor development, learning disabilities, and endocrine abnormalities.
September: Clearance of the assembly site for the New Safe Confinement (NSC) right next to the shelter of Unit 4 and excavation work for the foundations have been completed. Pilling for the foundations and the lifting cranes started. Funds for the construction of the NSC are still lacking. The completion of the Shelter Implementation Plan, of which the NSC represents about two thirds of total costs, requires an additional 600 million euro, with current overall cost estimates about 1.6 billion euro. So, despite all positive reports on financial contributions and donor-countries, fact is that only 60% of the necessary funds have been collected. A 'pledging event' will take place in Kiev in April to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the accident.

Ukraine legalizes tourist tours to Chernobyl and Pripyat. Visitors have to sign a waiver, exempting the tour operator from all responsibility in the event that they later suffer radiationrelated health problems. Driven round at breakneck speed, and told not to touch any of the irradiated vegetation or metal structures, "tourists" are invited to briefly inspect the stricken number four reactor as the Geiger counter, which guides carry, clicks ever higher. The most arresting "attraction" is not the ruined plant, however, but nearby Pripyat. Visitors can walk through the debris-strewn corridors of its Palace of Culture, admire its crumbling Olympic-sized swimming pool, and wander through the empty classrooms of one of its biggest schools. 
4 February: Birds living around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident have 5% smaller brains, an effect directly linked to lingering background radiation. The finding comes from a study of 550 birds belonging to 48 different species living in the region. Evidence for developmental errors in the nervous systems of people exposed to radiation is widespread, including reduced head size and brain damage. Low levels of ionizing radiation cause changes in both central and autonomous nervous systems and can cause radiogenic encephalopathy. Electroencephalographic studies revealed changes in brain structure and cognitive disorders. However, psychological effects of radiation from Chernobyl have recently been attributed to post-traumatic stress rather than developmental errors, and increased levels of neural tube defects in contaminated areas may be ascribed to lowdose radiation, folate deficiencies or prenatal alcohol teratogenesis. Surprisingly, studies of high school performance and cognitive abilities among children from contaminated areas in Scandinavia that were in utero during the Chernobyl disaster show reductions in high school attendance, have lower exam results and reduced IQ scores compared to control groups. These cognitive effects are assumed to be due to developmental errors in neural tissue caused by radiation during early pregnancy.



3- Trying to minimize the consequences


Collaboration between Western scientists and experts from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia begins. A delegation of German scientists visits the Chernobyl nuclear power station and the affected regions. 
April: According to Yuri Shcherbak, vice-chairman of the Su-preme Soviet Commission on Environment & Nuclear Energy said some US320 billion will be needed to handle the conse-quences of Chernobyl in the next 10 years. 
26 April: A marathon broadcast of 24 hours to raise aware-ness and money for Chernobyl victims. On soviet national television Telethon Chernobyl on Channel 3 collects about US$100 million. 
19 August: IAEA claims the sarcophagus is due to high tem-peratures and radiation no longer reliable. A new catastrophe cannot be ruled out.
September. Computer data stolen in Minsk and destroyed about health situation and radiation levels from over 670,000 people living in the eastern part of Belarus. Also contamina-tion details from 20,000 settlements were on the disks. 
21 September: The IAEA and the Governments of the Soviet Union, the Belarussian and Ukrainian SSR sign a framework agreement on the international consequences of the accident. “The Chernobyl area affords” according to the IAEA press re-lease, “unique possibilities for carrying out scientific research under post-accident conditions, including some areas where radiation levels have subsides but are still above normal background levels.” 

A specialized enterprise was organized, and all further work in the zone was done on a professional basis. (All people who worked in the zone until 1990, no matter what task, got status as "liquidator" and the right to social benefits.) 
April: Soviet authorities announce 200,000 people have been evacuated, in 1991 another 112,000 will be evacuated and in 1992 about 12,000. 
April: Laka Foundation publishes in the WISE News Commu-nique an extensive list of contaminated foodstuffs dumped on the world market (especially in southern countries) in the first five years. (see:
15 April: rumors circulating since May 1986 about Soviet air force producing artificially rain from radioactive clouds mo-ving towards Moscow in the first days after the accident early May 1986 are confirmed by soviet scientists during a confe-rence in Berlin, Germany. At the same conference Professor Chernousenko claims, already 7,000 – 10,000 people have died as a result of Chernobyl. 
26 April: On the fifth anniversary of Chernobyl there are mass demonstrations in Kiev and Minsk. The world press focuses on the event, highlighting new evacuations, alleged sicknes-ses in contaminated zones, and the continuing operation of Soviet RBMK reactors, including those at Chernobyl. 
26 April: a special stamp to commemorate the accident is launched in the Soviet Union.

Sovjet stamp to commemorate Chernobyl accident, 1991.

21 May: IAEA/IAC releases study: “Assessment of Radio-logical Consequences and Evaluation of Measures for the Chernobyl Accident” 
IAEA conclusions: 
- there were no health disorders that could be directly attri-buted to radiation exposure. There were no indications of an increase in the incidence of leukemia and cancers; 
- there were significant non-radiation related health disorders in the populations of both the surveyed contaminated set-tlements and control settlements; 
- the accident had substantial negative psychological conse-quences in terms of anxiety and stress due to continuing and high levels of uncertainty, relocation and other  measures; 
- early evacuations undertaken by the authorities – in cases which could be assessed by the projects – were broadly reasonable and consistent with internationally-established guidelines 
- protective measures taken or planned for the longer term, generally exceed what would have been strictly necessary - official procedures for estimating doses were significantly sound 
- etc 
Main criticism on the report: 
- study excluded from its subject of investigation the liquida-tors (estimated up to 600,000) 
- study excluded the 30 km contaminated zone 
- study excluded the evacuees from the zone (up to 95,000 – 100,000) 
- study excluded hot spots 
- There is some ambiguousness about the settlements cho-sen for the study: it would seem the selection was deliberate and arbitrary 
- The report substantially underestimate the amount of ex-posure, particularly the lifetime dose. It appears that external exposure is estimated at one-third to one-fourth, and internal exposure at about one-tenth 
- It is not clear how control groups were obtained. Thus, even though the study recognizes many illnesses and deaths, it was not able to link them to radiation 
- Friends of the Earth claims that the IAEA scientists  are scientifically incompetent because they draw concrete con-clusions on the basis of what they themselves admit are “not always adequate data”. 
- The scientist had little or no access to pre-accident health records, leaving them unable to compare pre- and post-acci-dent levels of disease and health disorders 
- Etc. 
According to Greenpeace the only aim of the study was to 
“produce a thirty-second sound-bite which is pleasing to the ear of the Soviet authorities – ‘we didn’t find radiation-induced health effects’ is constructed to avoid implicating radiation in the disaster 
24 August: Ukraine declares independence from the Soviet Union after a failed hard-line coup in Moscow. 
29 August: On top of the ‘want’-list of the independent Uk-raine is the closure of Chernobyl 
12 October: After a fire breaks out in the second Chernobyl reactor, this unit too has to be shut down for good. 
18 November: Ukraine plans to close the remaining reactors at Chernobyl in 1993 at the latest. 
12 December: Two Bulgarian ex-ministers are sentenced to imprisonment of 3 and 2 years, because they found guilty of hushing up the dangers of Chernobyl to the Bulgarian popula-tion after the 1986 accident.

Ukrainian government reports that cracks have ap-peared in the sarcophagus. An international competition is to be held for a design for a replacement roof. 
May & August: forest fires lift radiation levels in Belarus, again 
July: Ukrainian government launches an international compe-tition (‘Shelter-2 competition’) for the best project to prevent the ruins of the reactor from threatening public health and the environment. A new shelter (‘sarcophagus’) is urgently needed. 
18 September: US experts estimate the economic damage for Ukraine due to Chernobyl at about US$150 billion 
15 October: Block 3 is brought back online. Number 2 will follow at the end of the month 
29 November: Ukrainian nuclear experts warn for Ameri-cium-241. This Pu-241 daughter emits alpha-radiation and is seen as more dangerous as its parent. Experts say alpha-ra-diation will be much higher in 50-70 years from now and hope it will not spread outside the 30km zone. (see August 4, 2005) 

January to March: Establishment of a thyroid centre in Gomel by the Otto Hug Strahleninstitut, Munich. Gomel is a large city with a population of 500 000 in the most severely contaminated region of Belarus. 
April: World Health Organization expects sharp rise in both leukemia and cancers, after numbers in both are increasing 18 June: The international Shelter-2 competition ends. But Ukrainian government does not award a first prize. The French consortium Campenon Bernard receives a second prize. None of the 19 concepts on the shortlist fulfils all Uk-rainian requirements. Unclear what happens next. Ukraine is  looking to establish an international fund to raise money. 
22 October: Ukrainian government decided, due to electricity shortage not to close the remaining Chernobyl reactors and suspends a moratorium on new built 
9 December: Russian geochemist Valerin Kopejkin claims that if international radiation limits for Strontium-90 would be installed in the Ukraine, Kiev has to be evacuated. 

February: The U.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) releases report: emissions at Chernobyl five times higher than official IAEA estimate of 50 million curies. MIT claims 185-250 million Curies was released. 
9/10 October: Decision that remaining Chernobyl reactors will not be closed before 1996 at the earliest 

February: The first phase of the European Union-study for stabilizing the sarcophagus ends. The study claims it is a huge open radiation source. The consortium is pointing to the danger of collapse of the first sarcophagus and the problems of radioactive waste in case of constructing a second con-tainment. Start of construction is foreseen in April 1996. March: 100 times more thyroid cancers in Gomel, Belarus, WHO claims in report published in British Medical Journal. 13 April: President Leonid Kuchma declares Ukraine is ready to shut down the remaining reactors of the plant by the year 2000. His statement follows a meeting with European Com-mission officials in Kiev. 
25 April: Ukrainian minister of public health Andrej Serdchuk: 125,000 people died due to Chernobyl, 432,000 still treated, 3.66 million affected. 
July: In a resolution adopted at a Kiev Conference organi-zed amongst others by WHO, it is said that mental disorders spreading among Chernobyl-affected people 
20-23 November: new findings presented at a WHO confe-rence in Geneva, suggest that radiation could also be increa-sing the incidence of strokes, heart attacks and liver disease, as well as damaging the brains of babies at the womb 
22 December: At a meeting in the Canadian capital Ottawa, Ukraine and the G7 group of the world's leading industrialized nations sign a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to close Chernobyl. It involves commitments worth a total of some US$2.3 billion in aid from the G7 to support Cherno-byl's closure by the year 2000. The agreed package of loans for Ukraine's energy sector includes the completion of two more modern nuclear reactors at Rivne (R4) and Khmelnytsky (K2) stations in the west of the country. The aid package includes US$498 million in G7 member grants and $1.8 billion in loan financing from international agencies. Most of the grant money -- US$349 million - will be for nuclear decom-missioning and safety. More than US$1.9 billion will be spent to upgrade nuclear plants and the energy sector as a whole. 

April: 20 seconds before the 1986 accident an earthquake occurred in that region. According to Russian scientists it is not impossible the seriousness of the accident could have been increased as a result of that. 
April: Genetic mutations have occurred twice as often in children of families exposed to the radioactive fallout as elsewhere 
8-12 April: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission (EC), organized the conference "One Decade after Chernobyl: Summing up the Consequences". The conclusions of the IAEA on the health effects of the Cher-nobyl disaster are as follows: 
- The death rate among "liquidators" did not exceed that for a corresponding age group. 
- Thus far, the only admitted health effect due to radiation is an increase in thyroid cancers in children. 890 cases were detected. In the coming decades, several more thousands of cases of thyroid cancer (4,000-8,000) can be expected. 
- No significant increase in leukemia has been found. 
- Future cancer deaths will be about 6,660: 2,200 among liquidators and 4,460 among residents and evacuees of con-taminated areas. 
- Other health effects are related to psychological stress: fear of radiation and a distrust in the government.[1] 

25 April: A French government minister acknowledged that the French were misled about the impact of the disaster. Whether forecasters on state television even told viewers that the radioactive cloud had stopped at France’s borders. 
26 April: The President of the UN General Assembly, Diogo Freitas do Amaral (Portugal), delivers a statement at the spe-cial commemorative meeting on the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. In his speech he states: “There continues to be an acute need for further assistance to the peoples and countries for whom Chernobyl represents a crushing burden [..]. To ignore this continuing humanitarian tragedy would be to reduce these people and the areas most affected to mere objects of scientific research.” 
November: Chernobyl shuts down reactor Number One. Only reactor Number Three remains in operation. 
11 November: Cases of thyroid cancer among children in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are up by roughly 200 per cent compared to the 1980s. The WHO estimates that around 4 million people in these three countries have been affected by the nuclear disaster. Roughly one million are undergoing medical treatment for consequential health impairments.
December: Authorities of Belarus launched a campaign to return people to regions which have suffered from Chernobyl. Nesterenko (director of Institute for Radiation Safety) warns for a serious error. 

April: Belarus has to spent 25% of its national annual budget on dealing with the effects of the 1986 disaster. 
June: President Kuchma says Ukraine is spending US$1 bil-lion a year to combat the aftermath 
November: At a conference in New York, dozens of nations collect $350 million to rebuild the rapidly deteriorating con-crete sarcophagus. The reconstruction cost is estimated at $760 million. 

November: an international assistance program for the affec-ted areas is launched by the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs. The program covers more than 50 projects in such areas as the health sector, social-psychological and econo-mic rehabilitation, and the environment, and is based on the findings of an inter-agency needs assessment mission to Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine, undertaken in May. December: The Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF) was set up with the purpose of funding the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP).  The total costs of the SIP are estimated by the EBRD at US$768 million. Others however think the costs will be much higher. Vladimir Asmolov of the Russian Kurchatov Nuclear In-stitute and involved in the original construction of the shelter thinks that the costs could reach as much as US$2.5 billion. 

26 November: Scientific seminar on: “Thyroid Diseases and Exposure to ionizing Radiation: Lessons learned following the Chernobyl accident” in Luxembourg, organized by the Euro-pean Commission. One of the major health consequences of the Chernobyl disaster is the sudden and great increase in the number of persons, particularly children, with thyroid carcinoma. The presentations made at the seminar reviews the existing knowledge on the subject of radiation induced thy-roid diseases especially in relation to the Chernobyl accident. The subject is treated from the four points of view: genetic and environmental factors influencing the radiation induced cancer risk; thyroid doses reconstruction and risk after the Chernobyl accident; age and molecular biology; and lessons learned following the Chernobyl accident. 
14 December:  for the first time Ukraine speaks about clo-sure of the remaining Chernobyl reactors under conditions: money from the international community to finish construction of two reactors to replace Chernobyl (K2/R4) 

Reconstruction of the sarcophagus begins. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) releases US$130 million in grants for this first phase (improve-ments of the existing shelter). 
14 May: In an internal memo to France prime-minister Jospin environmental Minister Dominique Voynet states: “a program to improve energy efficiency, would fit better to the Memo-randum of Understanding for closure of Chernobyl,  as K2/R4 replacement nuclear reactors”. 
5 August: Belarus: After being arrested on July 13, on August 5, 1999, however, Professor Bandazhevsky was formally charged under Article 169 (3) of the Belarusian Criminal Code with allegedly accepting bribes from students seeking admis-sion to the Gomel Medical Institute. Professor Bandazhevsky founded the Gomel State Medical Institute and was serving as its rector at the time of his arrest. His scientific work fo-cused on the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on the health of the people living in and around the city of Gomel, a region close to the nuclear reactor and thus seriously affected by its radioactive emissions. According to Amnesty International, Bandazhevsky was outspoken in his criticism of the Belarusi-an authorities’ handling of the Chernobyl disaster’s impact on the population’s health and had repeatedly stressed the need to find “innovative solutions” to the problem. He reportedly was particularly critical of the way that the Ministry of Health spent the scant resources available for research in this area. Shortly before his arrest, Bandazhevsky wrote a report about research conducted by the Belarusian Ministry of Health’s Scientific and Clinical Research Institute for Radiation Medi-cine on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. In this report, he criticized the manner in which the government’s research was carried out and its conclusions. 
He was held for more than five months in pre-trial detention under harsh conditions that included temporary isolation, a poor prison diet, and no access to legal counsel. During his detention he reportedly suffered from heart ailments, sto-mach ulcers, and depression and lost approximately 44 lbs, resulting in his hospitalization. Professor Bandazhevsky was conditionally released from prison on December 27, 1999, pending trial.

20 September: Nobody is allowed to live permanently within 15 km of the power plant site. And yet, in the early 1990s, elderly people began to re-occupy their houses in the said zone. According to the authorities, there have been some 1500, two thirds of them women. About 50 people again took up residence in Chernobyl itself. This resettlement is being tolerated by the authorities. 
18 November:  A Coordination Committee Meeting at the Ministerial Level on International Cooperation on Chernobyl takes place in New York. US$9.51 million is required for the 1999 Appeal distributed in May. Though the international community has largely contributed to the shelter fund, the affected populations have been chronically under funded. The nine priority projects in the 1999 Appeal are: the modernizati-on of the Bragin Hospital, the establishment of child rehabi-litation centers, the rehabilitation of contaminated sectors in the Gomel area (Belarus); providing diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of liquidators, improving management and use of contaminated forests, and studying the health status of the posterity of persons affected by radiation. (Ukraine); the screening of 100,000 children exposed to radiation for early diagnosis of thyroid pathology, strengthening the network of centres for social and psychological rehabilitation, and pro-duction lines for measuring and packaging of diary products for the Bryansk region. 

13 January: The Ukrainian Government commissions an overall concept:  parts of the Chernobyl area are to be re-cultivated. 
March: According to documents from the Ukrainian Atomic Energy  regulatory commission, published by Greenpeace, the safety of the remaining Chernobyl reactors is not guaran-teed after August 
March: Belarus: Girls in affected areas had five times the normal rate of deformations in their reproductive systems and boys three times the norm. “It is clear we are seeing genetic changes, especially among those who were less than six years of age when subjected to radiation”, says Vladislav Ostapenko, head of Belarus’ radiation medicine institute April: Kuchma reaffirms Chernobyl is to be closed by the year end, but gives no date. 
April: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Af-fairs (OCHA) releases the report "Chernobyl disaster – a con-tinuing catastrophe". The authors concludes: “The radiologi-cal conditions in the area immediately surrounding the plant have largely improved, thanks to the international commit-ment to improved safety at Chernobyl, which allowed for the reconstruction and now reinforcement of the sarcophagus. However, the human consequences of the accident continue to be relentlessly harsh. The EBRD expects to complete the refurbishment of the Chernobyl plant site by 2007. A sum of US$400 million has already been pledged for this operation. A contribution from donor countries of just 3 per cent of this amount would have a substantial impact on the alleviation of human suffering that has resulted from this accident.” 
26 April: While visiting the Chernobyl zone, president Luk-ashenko of Belarus announces plans to re-locate people 
to the zone. “People moving from other parts of the Com-monwealth of Independent States will be given the Belarus nationality within one week”, he says. 
May: Swedish radiation protection authorities have issued recommendations for the handling of ashes from biomass-fuelled electricity plants. It was calculated that 5-7% of the yearly amount of bio fuel ash has to be stored as radioactive waste. 
6 June: Kuchma tells visiting U.S.-President Clinton that the ex-Soviet state will shut down the station on December 15. Clinton says the U.S. will give Ukraine $78 million in fresh funds to help improve safety at the plant. 
5 July: The EBRD administers the Chernobyl Shelter Fund. As of July 2000, 37 countries had contributed US$715 million to the fund, which is 93% of the overall project cost estimate. Most of the money comes from the European Union and the G-7 countries. 
The first phase of the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) consisted of an expedited review of the collapse risk and the most critical repairs were conducted. Further, studies were conducted and designs been made for a structural stabiliza-tion of the shelter, to be conducted in the second phase. Two projects of the first phase which had to start without delay were repairs of the beams supporting the roof of the shelter (1999) and stabilization of the ventilation stack (1998), whose possible collapse was also threatening the then still operating reactor 3. The second phase will consist of the actual streng-thening of the present sarcophagus and the construction of the new covering shelter. 
November-December: Chernobyl engineers prepare to shut down the last functioning reactor, Number Three, on De-cember 15. The last fuel rods will not be removed until 2008 and it will be between 30 and 100 years before the station is completely decommissioned. The EBRD and the European Union each pledge to lend Ukraine hundreds of millions of dollars to finish construction of Soviet-era reactors at Rivne and Khmelnitsky (K2/R4) in western Ukraine, to replace lost capacity from Chernobyl. The EBRD loan is for US$215 mil-lion, while the EU pledges $585 million. Environmentalists protest against the loans, which they say are going toward re-actors which, although safer than Chernobyl's, are still based on ageing technology. 
12 December: The Chernobyl reactor complex is shut down. 


2- The accident and immediate consequences


Unit 4 of the Nuclear power plant at Chernobyl explodes. Debris flies into the air and lands on the roof of Unit 3 which is right next to the exploded Unit 4. The units share a communal machine turbine hall with a roof of bitumen, a flammable ma-terial. Thirty fires develop. The fact that the accident happens at night has one great advantage: in the daytime, 2000 people are working on the construction of Chernobyl Units 5 and 6. These people are now at home. 

01.25 hours: The fire alarm rings at the local fire station. Meanwhile more people are killed: The nuclear plant's fire fighters arrive with three fire engines. The leader, Lieutenant Pravik, quickly realizes that his team is too small and asks the fire brigades from Pripyat, the town of Chernobyl and the entire area of Kiev for their assistance. Pravik and his team climb onto the roof of the machine hail and start their at-tempts to extinguish the fire. The fire brigade, from Pripyat arrives minutes later and fights the fires in the reactor building. Pravik and several firemen from Pripyat die later of radiation illness. 
01.45 hours: New teams of fire fighters from the area arrive. They know nothing about the danger of radiation, have no protective clothing or dosimeters. One of the fire engine drivers, Grigory Khmel later said: "We arrived at ten minutes to two in the morning. We saw graphite lying everywhere. I kicked a bit of it. Another fireman picked up a piece and said 'hot'. Neither of us had any idea of radiation. My colleagues Kolya, Pravik and others all went up the ladder to the roof of the reactor. I never saw them again." 
02.15 hours: The Pripyat department of the Ministry of Home Affairs calls a crisis meeting. It is decided to organize a road block in order to prevent cars from entering or leaving the town. Police assistance is requested. Thousands of police ar-rive; and, as with the fire fighters, they have no knowledge of radiation, no dosimeters or protective clothing. Later, in 1988, it is admitted that a total of 16,500 police were deployed. At that moment (1988) of those, 57 people had developed chro-nic radiation illness, 1500 of them suffered from chronic respi-ratory problems and 4000 suffered from other symptoms.
03.12 hours: An alarm signal goes off at the army headquar-ters in the central area of the Soviet Union at 03.12 hours. General Pikalov decides to send in troops to help. They arrive in Kiev at 14.00 hours. These are the first people to arrive well prepared for their task. About the same time, the responsible authorities such as the Energy Minister, A. Mayorets, hear that an accident has occurred, but are led to believe it is a small defect. 
05.00 hours: In spite of the fires, Chernobyl Unit 3 is not closed down until five o'clock am. 
06.35 hours: No fewer than 37 fire brigades, with a total of 186 fire fighters, have been called in to extinguish all the fires; the fire in the reactor could not actually be extinguished. The importance of the deployment of these fire fighters cannot be emphasized enough. The roof of Unit 3 caught fire immedia-tely, which meant that this reactor could have been seriously damaged as well. The nuclear plants' machine hell is also connected to Units 1 and 2. An explosion in the machine hall could have led to the destruction of all four Chernobyl reactors. An explosion was only averted by spraying nitrogen at the last minute. Four of the eight people who did this died shortly afterwards. 
20.00 hours: A government committee is established, led by Valery Legasov; at eight o'clock in the evening the committee arrives in the area. They are surprised by the bits of graphite they see lying around. None of them suspect a graphite fire. 

26 April to 4 May 1986: Most of the radiation is released in the first ten days. At first, southerly and southeasterly winds predominate. The first radioactive cloud went high into the atmosphere and winds blew it northwest away from Ukraine toward Sweden. It was Kiev's good fortune that the wind carried the radioactive cloud away at first rather than directly to the Ukrainian capital and its 3 million population as it did several days later. At the end of April the wind switches to the north and northwest. There are frequent but local showers. This results in a very varied regional and local distribution of the radiation. 

27 April (Sunday) 
A radius of 10 km around the plant (cities of Pripyat and Ya-nov) evacuated (“for three days” they are told) (50.000 people) to the town of Poliske (50 km west – coincidently -?- wind is blowing in that direction too). Dosimeters are confiscated. 01.13 hours: The operation of Units 1 and 2 had already been stopped at 01.13 and 02.13 hours, twenty-four hours after the start of the accident at Block 4 
07.00 hours: General Pikalov sets out in a truck fitted out with radiation apparatus. He rams through the closed gates and stops at the plant to measure the radiation. He establi-shes that the graphite in the reactor is burning, and that an enormous amount of radiation and heat is being given off. Shortly afterwards - the government in Moscow is warned. The government committee discusses the necessity of evacuation of the nearby town of Pripyat. Everyone supports evacuation except Professor A.L.Ilyin, chairman of the Soviet Council for Radiation Protection. He thinks the radiation situ-ation will improve. By now, as it is understood that graphite is burning and that radiation is being released, further steps are taken. Firstly, extinguishing water is added. This is a dangerous mistake. Due to the high temperature, the water separates into hydrogen and oxygen, and this mixture of gas can explode; an explosion like this releases heat. Thus, the fire is not extinguished, but fanned by the water. After three fruitless attempts to extinguish the fire, the authorities decide to throw sand, lead and boron carbide onto the reactor from helicopters. Boron carbide can absorb neutrons and stop the uranium fission. Lead absorbs heat, enabling the temperature to drop. Sand is to extinguish the fires. Between 27 April and 1 May, about 1800 helicopter flights deposit around 5000 tons of extinguishing materials such as sand and lead onto the burning reactor.

28 April (Monday) 
Forsmark NPP Sweden (times are Chernobyl-times) 
09:00 hours: An alarm was sent from Reactor 1, where a routine check revealed that the soles of the shoes worn by a radiological safety engineer were radioactive. 
Lars Wahlström, radiology supervisor at Forsmark, has given this summary of the events: 
"Something indicated that radioactivity had leaked out from one of the blocks at Forsmark. Rumors about the activity circulated between noon and 14hours and people said 'Now let's leave here.' At the same time news arrived that radioac-tivity had been detected in Finland. I said, I want evidence. Among other things I called Studsviks Energiteknik AB, where management was sitting in a crisis meeting and where they said 'We think it's coming from one of our laboratories.' But that wasn't so. Soon I also began to have doubts that there was anything wrong in any of the Forsmark reactors, which I told the National Institute of Radiation Protection. We had even been inside the chimney and checked. Then the Institute said the fallout had come from somewhere in the east, and by around 15.30 it was determined that the fallout definitely did not come from Forsmark." 
20:00 hours: Radio Moscow broadcasts a Tass’ statement that there has been an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station and that there have been casualties. “Measures are being taken to eliminate consequences of the accident. Aid is being given to those affected. A government  com-mission has been set up” according to Tass. From about 30 minutes later west-European news agencies are reporting an “incident in a Ukrainian nuclear reactor” 
23:00 hours: A Danish nuclear research laboratory announ-ces that an MCA (maximum credible accident) has occurred in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. They mention a complete meltdown of one of the reactors and that all radioactivity has been released. 

29 April (Tuesday) 
- The sixth item on the main television evening news pro-gram, Vremya, says that 2 people died during the accident, a portion of the reactor building was destroyed, and residents of Pripyat and three nearby towns were evacuated. 
- The first real information in the western world came on Tuesday morning, when a powerful American reconnaissance satellite provided Washington analysts with photos of Cher-nobyl. They were shocked to see the roof blown off above the reactor and the glowing mass still smoking. The first Soviet photos of the Chernobyl accident were censored by removal of the smoke before being printed in the newspapers. 
- The first official statement by German authorities: Minister of the Interior Zimmermann states there is no danger for the German public: “danger only exists in a radius of 30-50 km of the reactor”. 
- Polish authorities decide to distribute iodine tablets in the north-east of the country to infants and children to protect them from thyroid cancer. 

30 April (Wednesday) 
- Tass carries a government statement denying western reports on mass casualties. The statement repeats the earlier assertion that only two people died during the accident and that 197 have been hospitalized and levels of radiation are decreasing 
- Press reports on fire in second unit: scientist see second fire on satellite images, claims are later denied 
17.00 hours: The reactor fire seems to be extinguished. 

May - December 1986 
1 May: The accident did not interfere with the May Day parades held on the 1st of May in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and the Belarusian capital Minsk. Apparently the government wanted to emphasize that all was "normal" although the reactor was still burning and invisible, deadly radioactivity was pouring into the air. However, the Soviet Communists bureaucrats and the nomenclature immediately after the ac-cident removed their children from Kiev and other threatened areas while assuring others that everything was normal until several days later 
- The authorities claim the situation is stable. But the amount of radiation released is still enormous, besides which, the wind has changed direction and is now blowing in the direc-tion of Kiev. The material thrown onto the plant does not com-pletely extinguish the fire and in fact generates a rise in tem-perature. Scientists and engineers become aware of a new danger. The hot reactor core could melt into the cement and end up in the water reservoir underneath. A steam explosion would follow, even more powerful than the first explosion. 
2 May: More and more radioactivity is released into the area. Fire fighters start pumping the water out of the storage reser-voir underneath the reactor, a long and dangerous task, not completed until 8 May. As a reward, the fire fighters receive 1000 rubles each (approximately 2000 US dollars according to the official rate of exchange). 
- Politburo members Ryzhkov and Ligachev visit Chernobyl. 
Ukrainian party leader Volodymyr Shcherbitsky visits the area also. Shcherbitsky survived the Chernobyl crisis and was not criticized in the Western press as was Gorbachov for his long 18 day delay in speaking publicly about Chernobyl 
- A 30 kilometer zone around the reactor is designated for evacuation (90.000 people). 
- According to the Russian permanent representative at the IAEA, chain–reaction inside the reactor has stopped 
4 May: The first film footage, shot from a helicopter, is shown on Vremya. The commentator says the film disproves Western reports of massive destruction 
- A second step taken to prevent a steam explosion is that of making holes in the earth under the reactor. Fluid nitrogen is pumped into them to freeze the earth. 
- Radioactive cloud reaches Japan (8-9,000 km from Chernobyl).
5 May: A government report says an embankment is being constructed on the Pripyat River to prevent it from being contaminated 
- To start with, there is a great deal of radioactivity released, nearly as much as on 26 April. However, the release later stops almost entirely. No acceptable explanation has yet been found for this fact. According to Grigory Medvedev, who was a member of the government committee, the fire was extin-guished because the graphite had burnt up. 
- Canada: health officials found that Ottawa rains carried six times as much radioactive iodine as is considered acceptable for drinking-water 
- Increased radiation levels are measured in the USA, too 
- Hans Blix, director-general, and a IAEA delegation arrives in Moscow. Unsure if the can visit the area 
6 May: The first extensive report on the situation appears in Pravda. 
- schools in Gomel and Kiev closed, all children are sent elsewhere. This brings total number of people forced to leave: 500.000. 140.000 of which are not allowed to return 
- Kiev radio finally, eleven days late, warned its audience not to eat leafy vegetables and to stay indoors as much as possi-ble. The Soviet government was very slow to warn its citizens of the precautions they should take: keep children and preg-nant women indoors, avoid fresh vegetables and milk, don't drink rainwater, and wash your clothes and your shoes every time you come in. 
7 May: Tass reports that many Kiev residents are trying to leave the city and that additional trains and flights have been scheduled. The (Russian) media drops its insistence that everything is under control. 
- Bavarian Environmental minister Alfred Dick criticizes maxi-mum radiation levels for vegetables and meat of the (German) Radiation Protection Agency. He says: “If we now start to have maximum levels for Cesium too, we will not even be able to eat meat shortly!” 
8 May: In an interview with Izvestiya, Academician Yevgeny Velikhov, vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and chief scientist sent to Chernobyl, says the disaster is 
“without precedent”. 
9 May: IAEA states that Moscow started to encapsulate the reactor, especially pouring concrete under the reactor, pre-venting it from reaching groundwater 
10 May: According to the IAEA the fire is extinguished, but temperature in reactor is still rather high. Meanwhile Ukrainian government official states: reactor is still burning and fire-fighters are continuously trying to put the fire out. 
11 May: three local officials  in charge of the transport com-bine at the plant, are expelled from the party, or reprimanded for mistakes concerning evacuations 
14 May: Gorbachov speaks for the first time publicly about the accident on Vremya.  He insisted there was no cover-up:  “The moment we received reliable data we gave it to the Soviet people and sent it abroad”. He declared his desire for "serious cooperation" with the IAEA, with respect to four specific proposals: 

  1. The creation of an international regime for safe development of nuclear energy involving close cooperation among all nuclear energy-using states; 
  2. A highly authoritative special international conference in Vienna under the aegis of the IAEA to discuss these "complex questions"; 
  3. An increased role and scope for IAEA;
  4. Safe development of "peaceful nuclear activities," involving the United Nations and its specialized departments, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

These proposals suggested that Gorbachov was broadening the scope of the accident to one of international concern, but at the same time he was implying that such accidents were common enough to warrant the establishment of a global regime to deal with them. 

Mikhail Gorbachov
Mikhail Gorbachov had been in office only 13 months when Chernobyl occurred. He had arrived to a warm res-ponse from Western political leaders. Much younger and more active than his predecessors, he appeared to herald a time of change in the USSR. In 1986, however, he inherited an ossified Soviet state that was Leonid Brez-hnev's legacy. Gorbachov's reaction to Chernobyl was very cautious but, in addition to the defensive posture adopted by his government initially, he also indicated a willingness to cooperate with the IAEA. It should be noted that in 1985 the USSR had agreed to IAEA inspections of some of its nuclear reactors, and thus this policy was not necessarily a new departure. Similarly, aid offered from long-established "friends of the USSR" abroad was also accepted, while that of individual governments was turned down. 

15 to 16 May: New fires break out and more radiation is released. 
22 May: Russian First Deputy Health Minister denies popular believe that vodka (& red wine) is a good cure for radiation exposure. 
23 May: A Soviet government committee orders the distribu-tion of iodine preparations. At this point, such prophylaxis is of no medical value. Radioactive iodine is only active for ten days, and will already have accumulated in the thyroid glands of the inhabitants of the contaminated territories. 
27 May: A month after the accident the danger is not yet over,. A concrete foundation will be made, the idea of the sarcophagus is born 
30 May: An unprecedented concert took place in Moscow’s Olympic Stadium. The pop concert was organized by leading Soviet rock bands to raise funds for the Chernobyl victims 

Soviet authorities try to hush up the scale of the tragedy, admitting reluctantly that about 30 people had died in the first few weeks after the blast. Hundreds of thousands of people (many military reservists) from all over the Soviet Union, now popularly known as "liquidators," are mobilized by the Communist Party to clean up the disaster. 
The ‘Liquidators’ are those people who were recruited or forced to assist in the cleanup or the "liquidation" of the consequences of the accident. As a totalitarian government the Soviet Union forced many young soldiers to assist in the cleanup of the Chernobyl accident, apparently without sufficient protective clothing and insufficient explanation of the dangers involved. Over 650,000 liquidators helped in the cleanup in the first year. The total number is estimated to be over 1 million. Many of those who worked as liquidators became ill and according to some estimates about 8,000 to 10,000 have died in the first few years after the accident from the radioactive dose they received. Many more of these young healthy men died in the following years.

9 June: ‘By accident’ a foundation of lead was established under the reactor. Tons of lead thrown on the burning reactor, melted and leaked under the reactor. When the temperature decreased it solidified. 
15 June: Almost the complete management team of the reactor has been dismissed for ‘irresponsibility and lack of control’, Pravda announces. Amongst them Chernobyl Direc-tor Victor Bryukanov and deputies (senior engineer) Nikolai Fomin who will be brought on trial a year later. 
20 July: Report (which will be published in full later) of the Government commission of inquiry found that human error caused the disaster. 
20 August: The full report on the cause of the accident was submitted (in Russian) to the IAEA. It states there was an extraordinary sequence of carelessness, mismanagement and violations of safety codes leading to the accident.
26 August: Estonian press tell of strikes and demonstrations by Estonian military reservists forcibly conscripted Chernobyl for clean-up labor. In November reports claim 12 people were executed. 
20 September: The Soviet Union paid already US$3 billion, mainly for relocation, compensation and loss of power. 
29 September: Block 1 of the Chernobyl NPP restarts again, and connects to the grid on Oct. 1.
10 October: Construction-work on Block 5 & 6 is resumed. 9 November: Block 2 restarts.
14 December: A concrete roof ("sarcophagus") is completed over the fourth reactor. It is built to protect the environment from radiation for at least 30 years. 300,000 tons of concrete and 6,000 tons of metal constructions were utilized. 

March: Vladimir Chevchenko, a Russian filmmaker who made the documentary: Chernobyl, chronicle of frightening weeks, dies due to radiation illness 
21 April: Reactor 3 is supplying electricity again 
24 April: Construction work on Block 5&6 halted after it was resumed on Oct 10, 1986. On May 23, 1989 it is decided not to complete the reactors 
30 July: it was reported that three Russians, Chernobyl Direc-tor Victor Bryukanov and deputies Nikolai Fomin and Anatoly Dyatlov were brought to trial and "were found guilty of gross violation of safety regulations which led to the explosion" and were sentenced to 10 years in labor camp. They were released at the end of 1990. 
16 September: The Chernobyl disaster will cost the Soviet Union UKPounds 200 billion economic damage, a senior Moscow official disclosed. 
November: The U.S. government officially doubled its esti-mate of the ‘background’ radiation. 
5/6 December: Still problems with radiation escaping form reactor 4.

Norway increased the limit for cesium in reindeer meat for consumption to 6000 Bq/kg. This is extremely high. Sweden also increased their limit to 1500Bq/kg from 300Bq/kg in May 1987. Most countries have a limit of 600 Bq/kg. And even this figure is heavily criticized. But due to this limit much of the reindeer meat can be sold in Scandinavian countries 
5 January:  Block 3 (which shared a turbine-hall with Block 4) is restarted. 
February: In the period May-August 1986, between 20,000- 40,000 more Americans than usual died. Statistics can’t prove whether or not it was caused by Chernobyl, but “you can’t escape the fact that something happened in the summer of 1986” 
27 April:  Two years after the accident Valery Legasov commits suicide. He was the director of the Kurchatov Institute for Nuclear Energy, where the RBMK reactors were designed. He was also chairman of the scientific team sent to Chernobyl immediately after the accident on 26 April 1986  He left behind his memoirs in which he expresses his anger and des-pair about the safety of nuclear energy in the Soviet Union. He wrote that he wanted to study the safety problems of the RBMK reactors, and for this reason was opposed by people who said there were no problems. Legasov also wrote that there was a certain inevitability in working towards the acci-dent at Chernobyl. Valery Legasov was the head of the Soviet delegation presenting the research report to the congress in Vienna.. 
August: Sweden: With the opening of the deer hunting sea-son came alarming news. The Samen in northern Scandinavia are hard hit by the fall-out as there culture and livelihood depends on reindeer. The majority of animals killed contained more than the consumption limit of 1500 Bq/kg caesium-137. The level of cesium in lake fish has also increased over last year. 
September: Soviet authorities decided to turn the 30 km zone into a national park. All human activity, including farming is banned there. 
22 December: Soviet scientists announce that the sarcopha-gus now enclosing the reactor was designed for a lifetime of only 20 to 30 years. 

Start of the second resettlement phase. About 100 000 peo-ple have to leave their villages in the severely contaminated territories of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. 
26 January: Politburo unexpectedly announced a new cam-paign (concentrated on Belarus) to cope with the consequen-ces of the disaster. 
February: The first maps highlighting radiation fallout from Chernobyl are published in the Soviet press. 
23 February: First visit of Soviet president Michael Gorba-chov to Chernobyl. He spends one hour at the site. 
May: Norway: According to the Isotope Lab of the Agricultu-ral University of Norway, 95% of radioactive elements are still present in upper soil layers and weathering processes within the next few years may increase the uptake of the Chernobyl fallout in the food chain (major grazing areas for livestock and domestic reindeer have been particular affected). 
23 May: Decision not to complete the two units under con-struction. Construction work on Block 5 & 6 resumed on Oct 10, 1986, and already halted on April 24 1987 
26 October: Tass reports that during the following year 100,000 people will be evacuated from contaminated areas in Belarus. 


1- Prelude: an accident waiting to happen


Chernobyl is safe…. Well, until April 26, 1986, that is…Before the Chernobyl accident very little was known about the Chernobyl type reactor, the RBMK. One of the few publi-cations before 1986, in the December 1983 issue of the Ger-man nuclear industry monthly atomwirtschaft was written by H. Born from one of the main German utilities VEW. He writes: "For operational safety, the nuclear power plants (VVER and RBMK) are equipped with three parallel safety systems. The power plants are designed to withstand natural disasters (hur-ricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc.) and to withstand aircraft crash and blasts from outside. The safety is increased by the possibility in Russia to select a site far away from bigger towns." (page 647: "Zur Betriebssicherheit sind die Kraftwer-ke (VVER and RBMK) mit drei parallel arbeitenden Sicherheit-systeme ausgeruested. Die Kraftwerke sing gegen Naturka-tastrophen (Orkane, Ueberschwemmungen, Erdbeben, etc) und gegen Flugzeugabsturz und Druckwellen von aussen ausgelegt. Die Sicherheit  wird noch durch die in Russland moegliche Standortauswahl, KKW in gewisser Entfernung van groesseren Ortschaften zu erstellen, erhoeht."

In the June 1983 issue of the IAEA-bulletin, Mr. B. Semenov, Deputy Director General, Head of IAEA Department of Nu-clear Energy and Safety, sums up "many factors favoring the channel-type graphite-uranium boiling-water reactors" and concludes: "The design feature of having more than 1000 individual primary circuits increasing the safety of the reac-tor system – a serious loss-of-coolant accident is practically impossible." (page 51).

In 1972 a discussion took place in Kiev about the type of nuclear plant to be built at Chernobyl. Chernobyl's director, Bryukhanov, supported construction of Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs). He informed the Ukraine Minister of Energy, Aleksei Makukhin, that an RBMK (a boiling water reactor) releases forty times more radiation than a PWR. However, the scientist Alekzandrov opposed this, saying that the RBMK-1000 was not only the safest reactor, it produced the cheapest electricity as well. For this reason it was decided to build the RBMK pressure tube reactors. 

February-March: according to data in the possession of the KGB, design deviations and violations of construction and assembly technology are occurring at various places in the construction of the 2nd generating unit, and these could lead customary for all sections of public employment to have their own special day, when they receive public acclaim for their work and are given extra bonuses. 
That the production of electricity started on 20 December is quite remarkable, because usually there is a time lapse of about six months between the completion of the construction and the plant becoming operational. On this subject Zhores Medvedev noted that it was common practice in the Soviet Union for people to declare an industrial project to be ready for operation on the understanding that any problems will be solved as quickly as possible. In this way, the production plan already set can still be met. Besides which, not signing the declaration on 31 December 1983 would have resulted in thousands of employees missing their chances of bonu-ses and other extras. This concerns bonuses of up to three months salary extra. Later it became apparent that in the period up to 1985 the turbine had been tested, but without results. The question is still why the test was not repeated again immediately, but had to be left until April 1986.

Nuclear Europe, January 1984

In April 2003, secret KGB documents released in Ukraine show that there were problems with the Chernobyl nuclear plant. One 1984 document notes deficiencies in the third and fourth block, and also of poor quality of some equipment sent from Yugoslav companies. 

April: The Minister of Energy, Anatoly Mayorets, decreed that information on any adverse effects caused by the functioning of the energy industry on employees, inhabitants and environment, were not suitable for publication by newspapers, radio or television. On 18 July 1986, shortly after the Chernobyl accident, this same minister forbade his civil servants from telling the truth about Chernobyl to the media. 

February: Vitali Sklyarov, Minister of Power and Electrification of Ukraine, in reference to the nuclear reactors in Ukraine, is quoted in Soviet Life magazine (page 8) as saying: “The odds of a meltdown are one in 10,000 years.” 
27 March: Literaturna Ukraina (Ukrainian Literature) publis-hes an article written by Ms Lyubov Kovalevska (believed to be a senior manager at Chernobyl NPP) in which she writes that substandard construction, workmanship and concrete, along with thefts and bureaucratic incompetence are creating a time bomb “The failures here will be repaid, repaid over the decades to come.” 
It remains uncertain whether the information on the course of the accident is completely reliable. In 1987, five pos-
sible courses of events leading up to the accident were put forward. However, the following account is the one generally accepted. 

The turbine test 
One of the tests incompletely carried out before the reactor becoming operational was on the functioning of the turbine in the case of a defect. 
That the production of electricity of the fourth Chernobyl reactor started on 20 December 1983 was, as said, quite remarkable, because usually there is a time lapse of about six months between the completion of the construction and the plant becoming operational. 
All the components have to be tested before the actual production process is started. But, in Unit 4 at Chernobyl there was a celebration in March 1984 (only three months after the reactor was operational) to mark the fact that already one million kilowatt hours had been produced, even though at that time not all the components had been thoroughly tested. 
One of the tests incompletely carried out before the reactor becoming operational was on the functioning of the turbine in the case of a defect. 
If a defect is present, the turbine should then slow down, but continue to produce electricity. This electricity is ne-cessary to work the circulation pump and control rods, and to provide lighting for the control room and control panel. This supply of electricity is essential for the safety of the reactor, and on no account should it fail. 
Because it takes twenty seconds for the control rods to reach their most extreme position in the case of a defect, it is of vital importance to know whether the turbine can pro-duce the necessary electricity for those twenty seconds, until the emergency generator is able to take over the sup-ply of electricity. This test was carried out on the night of 25 - 26 April 1986, and was the cause of the disaster. This test should have been carried out before the power plant was put into operation. In actual fact, such a test was carried out earlier - but failed. This became apparent in July and August 1987 during the trial of six people held to be responsible for Chernobyl. The judges' verdict states that on 31 December 1983, director Bryukhanov signed a document declaring that all the tests had been carried out successfully.

Local times: At the time of the 1986 accident, Ukraine was one of the Republics of the USSR (Union of Socia-list Soviet Republics) and had Moscow-time (GMT+3). Although Ukraine changed its time to GMT+2 after it declared independence from Moscow in August 1991, times mentioned in the Chronology are historical local times (GMT+3). Times mentioned concerning Sweden's Forsmark, are also GMT+3. Time difference (in 1986) between Chernobyl and Sweden was 2 hours.

25 April (Friday) 
13.05 hours (local time): Preparations for the turbine test begin. For this test, the plant's capacity must be reduced and for this reason one turbine is turned off. 
14.00 hours: The controller of the Ukraine electricity network requests that the test be delayed. All electricity from Unit 4 is necessary. It is not clear why it was not predictable before-hand that work would have to continue all through Friday afternoon in order to achieve the production planned for April.
16.00 hours: The day shift leaves. The members of this shift have been given information about the test during the pre-vious days, and know about the entire procedure. A special team of electronic engineers is present. 
23.10 hours: Preparations for the test start again. The ten hour delay has a large number of consequences. Firstly, the team of engineers is tired. Secondly, during the test, the eve-ning shift is replaced by the night shift. This shift has fewer experienced operators, besides which they were not prepared for the test. Achier Razachkov, - Yuri Tregub and A. Uskov are the operators who were responsible for carrying out the test earlier in the day: later in interviews they declared that test procedures were only explained to the day and evening shifts. Yuri Tregub decides to stay and help the night shift.

26 April (Saturday) 
01.00 hours: During preparations for the test, the operators have difficulty keeping the capacity of the nuclear plant sta-ble. While doing this they make six important mistakes. 

  1. The control rods which can stop the reactor are raised higher than regulations permit. Operator Uskov of the day shift said later that he would have done the same. He said: "We of-ten don't see the need to follow the instructions to the letter, because rules are often infringed all around us." As well as this, he pointed to the fact that during training it was repeated over and over again that "a nuclear power plant cannot ex-plode". Operator Kazachkov said: "We have often had fewer control rods than were required, and nothing ever happened. No explosion, everything just went on as normal." 
  2. The plant's capacity decreases to below the safe level. Because of this the core becomes unstable. Preparations for the test should have been stopped by now. It should have been obvious that all attention should be given to measures for regaining the plant's stability. 
  3. In order to raise the capacity, an extra circulation pump is turned on. Because of the strong cooling down, the pressure falls, thus reducing the reactor's capacity rather than increa-sing it. Normally at this stage the scram system should start working, but in order to still be able to carry out the test, this system is turned off. 
  4. The automatic emergency shut-down system is turned off in order to prevent the reactor stopping itself. 
  5. The systems to prevent the' water level decreasing too much and the temperature of the fuel elements becoming too high are also turned off. 
  6. Finally, the emergency cooling system is turned off to prevent it working during the test. 
    1.23.04 hours: The real test now begins. The power plant's capacity suddenly increases unexpectedly. 
    1.23.40 hours: Leonid Toptunov, responsible for the control rods, presses a special button for an emergency shutdown. The test has been going on for 36 seconds. 
    1.23.44 hours: The control rods start to descend, but shocks can be felt. The operators see that the control rods have be-come stuck. The fuel tubes have become deformed because of the large increase in the steam pressure. 
    1.24.00 hours: The test has now been going on for 56 seconds. Pressure in the reactor is now so high that the fuel elements burst and small particles land in the cooling water. The cooling water turns into steam and pressure in the tubes increases: they burst. 
    The 1000 ton lid above the fuel elements is lifted: the first explosion. The release of radiation starts. Air gets into the reactor. There is enough oxygen to start a graphite fire. The metal of the fuel tubes reacts to the water. This is a chemical reaction which produces hydrogen, and this hydrogen explo-des: the second explosion. Burning debris flies into the air and lands on the roof of Chernobyl Unit 3. (There was barely any attention paid to this hydrogen explosion in the Soviet report about the accident. In studies commissioned by the US government, however, it was concluded that the second explosion was of great significance, and that the original ex-planation of the accident was incorrect. Richard Wilson of the Harvard University in the US said this second explosion was a small nuclear explosion.) 
    The head of the night shift, Alexander Akinhov, and the engi-neer responsible for industrial management, Anatoly Diatlov, do not believe that an accident has taken place. When some-body claims the core has exploded, they send out operators to examine the core. These people are killed by radiation. On hearing the report that the reactor has been destroyed Aki-mov cries out, "The reactor is OK, we have no problems." Akimov and Diatlov, assisted by manager Bryukhanov and engineer N.Fomin, keep ordering the operators to add more cooling water. They remain convinced that there is nothing wrong. Akimov and Toptunov, who was responsible for the control rods, both died of radiation illness. Diatlov and Fomin were both sentenced to ten years imprisonment for infringe-ment of the safety regulations. However, at the end of 1990 they were both released. 

Chernobyl; chronology of a disaster


At 1.23 hr on April 26, 1986, the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. 
The disaster was a unique industrial accident due to the scale of its social, economic and environmental impacts and longevity. It is estimated that, in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia alone, around 9 million people were directly affected resulting from the fact that the long lived radioactivity released was more than 200 times that of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Across the former Soviet Union the contamination resulted in evacuation of some 400,000 people. About 200,000 km2 of land was, and is, contaminated by radioactive Caesium-137 above 37,000 Bq/m2 (intervention level). In area terms, about 3,900,000 km2 of Europe was contaminated by caesium-137 (above 4,000 Bq/m2) which is 40% of the surface area of Europe. Curiously, this latter figure does not appear to have been published and, certainly has never reached the public's consciousness in Europe.
This contamination will persist for centuries, and many countries as well as Belarus, Ukraine and Russia will need to continue with food restriction orders for decades to come. The economic consequences of the accident remain a mas-sive burden on the countries most affected; Ukraine and Belarus continue to spend a large percentage of their Gross National Product on trying to deal with the consequences of the accident. 

About the health consequences of the Chernobyl accident, much research has been conducted, many reports have been written and still many uncertainties exist. Although official ac-counts points to 4,000 expected cancer deaths from Cherno-byl in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, the real prediction in IAEA/WHO reports is more than 9,000. Many other studies are expecting a multiple of that number. A 2009 publication that looked to Russian and Ukraine language reports, left out of the official studies, calculate a number of casualties of up to 900,000. The full impact of the Chernobyl disaster may never be known.

Chernobyl -  200,000 sq km contaminated; 600,000 liquidators; $200 billion in da-mage; 350,000 people evacuated; 50 mln Ci of radiation. Are you ready to pay this price for the development of nuclear power? (Poster by Ecodefence, 2011).

TORCH: The other Chernobyl report

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

"Think again, think seven times again before you leap and start construction of new nuclear power plants. With my experience of Chernobyl I know what is involved. The explosion of one reactor required a superpower country to spend tens of billions of roubles. Still there was the longer pollution of the soil, the deaths of a number of people and consequences that will be far reaching." – Mikhail Gorbachev, 20061

Global 2000 / Friends of the Earth Austria has released an updated dated version of an important report on the Chernobyl health impacts.2 Written by radiation biologist Dr Ian Fairlie, the report incorporates the findings of many relevant studies produced in the 10 years since the original 'TORCH' report was published.

The subject matter is inordinately complex but Fairlie explains a host of technicalities in language that anyone can understand. Thus the report is not only an invaluable, up-to-date report on the health effects of the Chernobyl disaster, but it also doubles as a good primer on the radiation/health debates.

Fairlie summarizes the main impacts:

  • 5 million people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia still live in highly contaminated areas, and 400 million people in less contaminated areas.
  • 37% of Chernobyl's fallout deposited on western Europe; 42% of western Europe contaminated.
  • Initially, about 116,000 people were evacuated, and later an additional 230,000 people were resettled.
  • 40,000 fatal cancers predicted across Europe (based on an estimated collective dose of 400,000 person-Sieverts and a linear no-threshold derived risk estimate of 0.1 fatal cancers per person-Sievert).
  • 6,000 thyroid cancer cases to date, 16,000 more expected.
  • Increased radiogenic thyroid cancers now seen in Austria: 8–41% of increased thyroid cancer cases after 1990 in Austria may be due to Chernobyl.
  • Increased incidences of leukemia well established among the clean-up workers in Ukraine and Russia with very high risk factors. Slightly lower leukemia risks were observed among residents of seriously contaminated areas in Ukraine and Belarus. Indications of increased leukemia risks among infants have been observed in Slovakia, Germany, Greece, Italy and Belarus, but research that would clarify the matter has been stalled mainly by lack of funding.
  • Increases in solid cancers were observed among clean-up workers in Belarus and Ukraine but their relative risks (20% to 50%) were considerably lower than the 700% increases observed for thyroid cancer, and the 200% to 500% increases observed for leukemia.
  • Several new studies have confirmed increased risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke after Chernobyl. It is recommended that further studies be funded and carried out on radiogenic cardiovascular diseases. As current radiation dose limits around the world are based on cancer risks alone, it is recommended that they should be tightened to take into account cardiovascular disease and stroke risks as well.
  • A recent very large study observed statistically significant increases in nervous system birth defects in highly contaminated areas in Russia, similar to the elevated rates of such birth defects observed in highly contaminated areas in Ukraine. The International Agency for Research on Cancer should be funded to carry out a comprehensive study of birth defects, particularly nervous system defects and Down Syndrome after Chernobyl.

The report notes that many restrictions on contaminated foodstuffs have now been lifted but they remain in some areas on wild reindeer, boar, deer, wild mushrooms, berries and carnivore fish. Areas of Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland still have raised caesium-137 contamination levels in natural or wild foodstuffs. Caesium-137 contamination will persist for a long time into the future (as is also the case in Fukushima Prefecture).


The report states that recent studies provide strong evidence of decreased health indicators among children living in contaminated areas in Belarus and Ukraine, including impaired lung function and increased breathing difficulties lowered blood counts high anaemia levels and more colds, and raised levels of immunoglobulin fluctuation.

Fairlie reflects on the ill-health of children:

"A health factor which has received insufficient consideration in epidemiology studies is the general poor health of children still living in highly contaminated areas in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.

"In adults, many commentators have remarked on the marked general deterioration in health indicators in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. For example, between 1990 and 2005, the average lifespan for a male adults in Russia decreased from 70 to 61 years and in the Ukraine from 67 to 61 years: in western Europe, the average male life span is >75. Some of the complex factors involved in the considerable declines in health indicators in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia are described in [a 2002 United Nations Development Programme] report. However without access to government data, it is difficult to assess whether continued exposures to low residual levels of radioactivity are a factor.

"But it is not just adult life expectancy: anecdotally many children complain of ill health and many visitors remark on the poor health status of children in badly affected areas. Western science, of course, demands epidemiological evidence rather than anecdotal reports but this evidence has not been available – often due to the lack of central funding.

"However these problems have appeared so acute and clear to thousands of non-medical lay visitors and to medical staff that in the 1990s and 2000s they established charities to bring the children of Chernobyl to their own countries in the West (including US and Canada) for temporary respites from high radioactivity levels. Scores of these NGOs now exist at international, national and local levels and each year they bring thousands of Chernobyl children to their own countries and homes. Without exception, these groups observed improvements in the health of invited children.

"In the past, these groups were unfortunately ignored on the grounds that the observed improvements in these children were subjective and due to the improvements in outlook and temperament that everyone experiences on holiday.

"Recent authoritative studies have shed much-needed light on this matter: they indicate beyond reasonable doubt that radiation exposures to children living in contaminated areas are implicated in their poor healths. It is therefore unsurprising that their healths improve when they visit abroad."

The report notes that civil society has partially filled the void left by governments and nuclear agencies:

"Unfortunately some international nuclear agencies and national authorities remain in denial about the
scale of the health disaster caused by Chernobyl. This is shown by their continuing refusal to devote resources to humanitarian aid, rehabilitation and disaster management.

"This is regrettable: however there is one silver lining. Many thousands of concerned citizens throughout the world have mobilised to help stricken people in the three countries most seriously affected. Hundreds of local, national and international voluntary groups have been established especially to help the children in these areas. This help includes visits abroad for tens of thousands of children to provide respites from their radioactively contaminated homelands. This report provides strong epidemiological evidence that such visits are indeed helpful.

"Hundreds of doctors from many countries also work pro bono in contaminated territories, helping to minimize Chernobyl's health consequences.

"These humanitarian actions are sorely needed and welcome. They constitute a silent rebuke of the disregard shown by some international nuclear agencies and national authorities towards the continuing plight of affected children in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia."

Emergency preparedness

Fairlie argues for improved preparedness for future accidents by means of the following:

  • providing stable iodine to all citizens within at least 30 km of all nuclear reactors;
  • stocking emergency levels of radioactivity-free water supplies, long-life milk and dried food supplies;
  • distributing information leaflets to the public explaining what to do in the event of an emergency and explaining why precautionary measures are necessary;
  • planning evacuations;
  • constructing and staffing permanent emergency evacuation centres;
  • carrying out emergency evacuation drills;
  • planning subsequent support of evacuated populations;
  • planning how to help those who choose to remain in contaminated areas; and
  • increasing the mental health training of primary physicians and nurses.


1. Reuters, 9 June 2006, 'Gorbachev warns against new nuclear power plants'

2. Ian Fairlie, March 2016, 'TORCH-2016: An independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster',