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Radiation reloaded: Ecological impacts of the Fukushima disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Kendra Ulrich from Greenpeace Japan has written a detailed report on radioactive contamination from the Fukushima disaster, documenting the radioactive contamination of forests, rivers, floodplains and estuaries of Fukushima Prefecture, as well as the contamination of wildlife.1

Ulrich exposes flawed assumptions by the International Atomic Energy Agency:

"The IAEA has declared that there will likely be no impacts on wildlife from Fukushima-derived radiation – while also admitting that they did not consider ecosystems or populations, but rather focused narrowly on individuals. Further, it states that its methodology was based on that proposed by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), whose models are largely base upon individuals in laboratory or controlled environment studies.

"However, in recent years the French government-affiliated Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), in its studies of wildlife in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, has found that animals in these natural conditions could be significantly more sensitive to chronic low-dose exposure to man-made radiation than they are in laboratory or controlled environment experiments. It was suggested that this could be due to a number of factors, including, but not limited to, increased stressors and length of exposure times. In fact, IRSN found that wildlife could be up to eight times in more sensitive in natural contaminated ecosystems."

The report is based on a large body of independent scientific research in impacted areas in the Fukushima region, as well as investigations by Greenpeace radiation specialists over the past five years. It draws on research regarding the ecosystem impacts of the Chernobyl disaster and the 1957 Kyshtym / Mayak disaster in the Soviet Union (which involved a chemical explosion in a liquid radioactive waste tank, spreading radionuclides over a wide area).

The report states that studies after the Chernobyl and Kyshtym disasters revealed evidence in contaminated forest systems of a gradual increase in the concentrations of radiocaesium in above-ground plant structures after five years. Uptake via root systems exceeded returns to the forest floor via leaching and litterfall, until a sort of equilibrium was reached. The same phenomenon may play out in Fukushima Prefecture. Declining radiation levels may plateau (or even rise), followed by a very slow decline as long-lived radionuclides decay (for example caesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years).

The greatest enemy of the clean-up efforts in Fukushima Prefecture is gravity. The topography of Fukushima prefecture is characterized by steep slopes, foothills, and flat coastal flood plains. The upper regions are covered in forests and plantations – interspersed with rice paddies, homes and other agricultural fields. Over 70% of Fukushima prefecture is forested, and these areas cannot be decontaminated. Ulrich writes:

"Its climate is highly erosive, with typhoons in the fall and snowmelt in the spring. During significant rainfall events, typhoons, and spring snowmelt, the stocks of radiocaesium in forests, hillslopes and floodplains can be remobilized and contaminate areas downstream – including those that did not receive fallout from the radioactive plumes, as well as areas that have already been decontaminated."

Thus there is an element of futility to the clean-up efforts:

"Over the past four years, a massively expensive and labor-intensive decontamination effort has been underway in the much of the heavily contaminated areas. Workers scrub down buildings, sidewalks, and roads, and remove enormous amounts of contaminated surface soil and debris – which is then packed into bags roughly a m3 in size and piled into up in mountains of temporary radioactive waste storage sites scattered throughout the prefecture. Forests are "decontaminated" in 20-meter strips along roads and around homes in an effort to lower radiation doses. Yet, due to the complexities of these ecosystems and the transfer of radiation within them, this effort is more symbolic than effectual. As such, despite the admirable and dedicated work of the decontamination workers, their heroic efforts in the Fukushima-impacted areas have yielded limited success."

Some of the specific impacts uncovered in the five years since the Fukushima disaster include:

  • high radiation concentrations in new leaves, and at least in the case of cedar, in pollen;
  • apparent increases in growth mutations of fir trees with rising radiation levels;
  • heritable mutations in pale blue grass butterfly populations and DNA-damaged worms in highly contaminated areas, as well as apparent reduced fertility in barn swallows;
  • decreases in the abundance of 57 bird species with higher radiation levels over a four year study;
  • high levels of caesium contamination in commercially important freshwater fish; and
  • radiological contamination of one of the most important ecosystems – coastal estuaries.

There's a saying that old atomic bomb test sites never die. The same could be said of severe nuclear accident sites. Ulrich concludes:

"Unfortunately, the crux of the nuclear contamination issue – from Kyshtym to Chernobyl to Fukushima – is this: when a major radiological disaster happens and impacts vast tracts of land, it cannot be 'cleaned up' or 'fixed.'"

Other reports released by Greenpeace

Greenpeace has released several other important reports to mark the Chernobyl and Fukushima anniversaries. Nuclear Scars: The Lasting Legacies of Chernobyl and Fukushima is a 50-page report summarizing the myriad social and environmental effects of the disasters.2 It's well worth a read and will serve as a useful reference document.

The Nuclear Scars report comments on testing conducted by Greenpeace in Ukraine. Of 50 milk samples collected last year from three villages in the Rivne region of Ukraine, located approximately 200 km from Chernobyl, 92% contained caesium-137 at levels above the limit set for consumption by adults in Ukraine, and all were substantially above the lower limit set for children. Samples of mushrooms had caesium-137 levels well above the Ukrainian limit for human consumption. Forty-two percent of grain samples from the Kyiv region, 50 km from Chernobyl, had strontium-90 levels above the Ukrainian limit for human consumption. Seventy-five percent of wood samples from the Kyiv region had strontium-90 levels above the Ukrainian limit for firewood.

Greenpeace has commissioned a number of other reports which have been released recently:

  • David Boilley, a nuclear physicist and chairman of Association pour le Contrôle de la Radioactivité dans l'Ouest, reviewed current research into the contamination from the Fukushima disaster.3
  • A team of scientists led by Prof. Omelianets, Principal Scientist for the Laboratory of Medical Demography at the National Research Centre for Radiation Medicine of National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine, reviewed the published national and international scientific data and research on the health impacts from the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.4
  • Prof. Valerii Kashparov, the Director of the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology of the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine, and his team reviewed the published scientific research on the extent of Chernobyl's contamination 30 years later.5

Nuclear disasters and sociopolitical change

Greenpeace's Nuclear Scars report comments on the broader political ramifications of the Fukushima disaster, noting that it "triggered many Japanese citizens to rethink their once deferential relationship with state and expert authorities. Fukushima has, in effect, changed the social relationships of Japanese society. This new distrust in authorities has spurred 'bottom-up' responses, including citizen-led science challenging government policies and protesting against government policies. When citizens lose faith in government expertise, they develop other means to protect their lives and health. Following Fukushima, Japanese citizens developed their own technical capacity to assess government safety reassurance, including learning to monitor, share and understand the risk of radiation levels in food and communities. This 'scientific citizenship' is a direct response to the Fukushima disaster. Simply put, due to distrust in government, citizens have come together to develop tools and community networks to protect their health and avoid radiation exposure."2

Naoto Kan, Japan's Prime Minister at the time of the Fukushima disaster, has recently commented on the potential for far more radical changes in the social relationships of Japanese society.6 Reflecting on the first few days of the Fukushima disaster, Kan said:

"From a very early stage I had a very high concern for Tokyo. I was forming ideas for a Tokyo evacuation plan in my head. In the 1923 earthquake the government ordered martial law – I did think of the possibility of having to set up such emergency law if it really came down to it. We were only able to avert a 250-kilometre evacuation zone by a wafer-thin margin, thanks to the efforts of people who risked their lives. Next time, we might not be so lucky."

"The future existence of Japan as a whole was at stake," Kan said. "Something on that scale, an evacuation of 50 million, it would have been like a losing a huge war."6

Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at the time of the Chernobyl disaster, attributes the collapse of the Soviet Union in part to the nuclear disaster. He said, "even more than my launch of perestroika, [Chernobyl] was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later. Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was an historic turning point: there was the era before the disaster, and there is the very different era that has followed."7


1. Kendra Ulrich, March 2016, "Radiation Reloaded: Ecological Impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident – 5 years on",

2. Greenpeace, 2016, 'Nuclear scars: The Lasting Legacies of Chernobyl and Fukushima',

3. Boilley, D. 2016. Fukushima five years later: back to normal?


4. Omelianets, N., Prysyazhnyuk, A., Loganovsky, L., Stepanova, E., Igumnov, S., Bazyka, D. 2016. 'Health Effects of Chernobyl and Fukushima: 30 and 5 years down the line'.

5. Kashparov, V., Levchuk, S., Khomutynyn, I. & Morozova, V. 2016. Chernobyl: 30 Years of Radioactive Contamination Legacy.

6. Andrew Gilligan, 4 March 2016, 'Fukushima: Tokyo was on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, admits former prime minister',

7. Mikhail Gorbachev, 14 April 2006, 'Turning Point at Chernobyl',


2016: A special year for anti-nuclear campaigns

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Peer de Rijk, Director of WISE

The year 2016 will be special for all those fighting anti-nuclear campaigns. The 11th of March will be the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, and the 26th of April will be the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

Many groups and people are already preparing activities, publications and actions to mark these anniversaries. We invite artists, journalists, teachers, photographers, musicians, scientists, researchers, filmmakers, politicians, activists and concerned citizens to share with us their ideas and plans. We will start working on the best possible overview of what will be happening around the world.

We hope to help activists and local organizers by bringing ideas and networks together. If for instance a group in France invites a speaker from Japan and we know a group in the UK also wants to have a Japanese speaker, we hope to be able to connect the dots and improve efficiency and make best use of limited resources.

Please share with us your ideas, questions, requests and plans.

− Peer de Rijk, Director WISE


mobile: + 31 6 20 000 626

ph: + 31 20 612 63 68


The Long Shadow of Chernobyl

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

From WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor #785, 24 April 2014

To subscribe to Nuclear Monitor, click here.

Gerd Ludwig's photo-book 'The Long Shadow of Chernobyl' is a culmination of his 20 years of coverage of the aftermath of the disaster. "I am driven by the duty to act in the name of these victims," says Ludwig, "to give them a voice through my pictures in this book. I have met many people who allowed me to expose their suffering in the hope of preventing tragedies like Chernobyl in the future."

The book has four sections, covering the compromised reactor; the abandoned town of Pripyat; contaminated villages farther out; and the medical and emotional impact of the disaster in places like Belarus and Ukraine. An essay by Mikhail Gorbachev reflects on the historical and political significance of the disaster. Redacted CIA documents, quotes from the book 'Voices from Chernobyl' by Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich, and detailed captions give readers a broader understanding of the tragedy. The text is in English, German, and French. The publisher is Edition Lammerhuber in Vienna, Austria (

More information:

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nigeria signs agreement with Rosatom. Last issue we made a funny remark about Nigeria’s announcement that it selected two sites for the construction of nuclear power reactors, but only a few days later the country signed a cooperation accord with Russia’s Rosatom towards the construction of its first nuclear power plant. Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko signed a memorandum of understanding with the chairman of the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission, Franklin Erepamo Osaisai. Its terms will see the two countries "prepare a comprehensive program of building nuclear power plants in Nigeria," including the development of infrastructure and a framework and system of regulation for nuclear and radiation safety.

Sergei Kiriyenko is quoted in Leadership newspaper to have said that  the contract would cover the building of nuclear power plant (1200MW) worth about US$4.5 billion (about N697 billion). In 2010 Nigeria said it aimed to have 1000 MW of nuclear generation in place by 2019 with another 4000 MW online by 2030. Although not all contracts Rosatom signed have materialized in the past, however, Nigeria is, one of the very few African countries pursuing a nuclear energy program.
World Nuclear News, 4 June 2012 / Leadership Newspapers (Nigeria), 13 June 2012

Fear nuclear safety is in stake in harsh competition for sales.
Nuclear-reactor makers are offering prices too low to cover costs to win orders abroad in a strategy that puts earnings at risk, according to Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of the French Autorite de Surete Nucleaire regulator. “Export contracts for nuclear plants are being obtained at pure dumping-level prices,” Lacoste fears that nuclear safety could be compromised in trying to win tenders. “Prices accepted by vendors and obtained by buyers are unsustainable,” he said. “There aren’t many tenders, which is why competitors are ripping each other off. It’s already a serious matter, and we need to make sure that there’s no dumping on safety on top of that.”
Bloomberg, 6 June 2012

Academic study on IAEA.
Just published: a new research report Unleashing the Nuclear Watchdog: Strengthening and Reform of the IAEA, by Trevor Findlay. The report is the outcome of the two-and-a-half year research project on “Strengthening and Reform of the IAEA” conducted by the CCTC and CIGI. The project aimed to carry out a “root and branch” study of the Agency to examine its current strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations for bolstering and, if necessary, reforming it. According to the preface this academic study of the Agency “is needed not just in the light of accumulating challenges to the IAEA’s future and the increasing demands made on it by its member states, but because the Agency itself is demanding more support and resources. At a time of financial stringencies, many of the countries that traditionally have offered such support seek proper justification for any increases.” Findlay concludes that the IAEA is irreplaceable: “like the United Nations itself, if it did not exist it would have to be invented”.

However, this report is a good source for general information about the Agency that was founded to “accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world,” while ensuring, “so far as it is able,” that this does not “further any military purpose”.
Unleashing the nuclear watchdog is available at: href=""

China: nuclear safety plan but no approval for new projects yet.
China has approved a nuclear safety plan and says its nuclear power plants meet the latest international safety standards, though some plants need to improve their ability to cope with flooding and earthquakes, state media said on May 31. But the government has not made any decision on when to start approving new nuclear plant projects.

China suspended approvals of new nuclear power plants in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis in March 2011 following a devastating tsunami, and ordered nationwide safety checks on existing plants and construction sites. It also pledged to review its nuclear power development plan. The State Council, China's Cabinet, now approved a nuclear safety plan for 2011-2015 in a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. China also aims to enhance nuclear safety standards and lower the risks of nuclear radiation by 2020, the report said.

A nine-month safety inspection of China's 41 nuclear power plants, which are either operating or under construction, showed that most of China's nuclear power stations meet both Chinese and International Atomic Energy Agency standards, according to the report. However, some individual power plants need to improve their ability to prevent damage from serious accidents such as earthquakes, flooding or tsunami, it said.
Reuters, 31 May 2012

Switzerland: court rejects Mühleberg extension.
BKW, the operator of the Mühleberg nuclear power plant, must submit a full maintenance plan, or shut down the plant in June 2013. The Federal Supreme Court has rejected BKW’s request for an injunction, after earlier this year the Federal Administrative Court pulled Mühleberg’s right to an unlimited permit. Federal environment officials had reasoned BKW could have an indefinite operating permit so long as the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate was monitoring site maintenance and safety issues. The court ruled BKW needed to submit maintenance and safety plans, especially with known concerns over the site’s cooling system, and cracks in the core shroud.
World Radio Switzerland, 29 May 2012

Lithuania opposes construction of N-plants close to its borders.
On May 28, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis blasted plans by Russia and Belarus to build nuclear power plants close to its borders, accusing both of lax safety and environmental standards and "bypassing international safety and environmental standards." "This is not just an issue for Lithuania... it should be a matter of concern to all countries in this region. We should do everything possible to make these two projects develop according to international standards. It is vital," Azubalis said, following talks in Riga with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. Rinkevics offered a cautious endorsement of Azubalis' concerns.  Asked by AFP what proof Lithuania had concerning the safety of the Russian and Belarusian projects, Azubalis said he had yet to receive satisfactory responses to written requests for information through official channels including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Espoo Convention Committee. The Lithuanian foreign ministry provided AFP with a document dated May 4 expressing "deep concern" over an alleged recent accident at Russia's Leningrad NPP-2 nuclear facility, which is still under construction. "The incident in Leningrad NPP-2 raises a number of serious questions about the safety of this and two other planned (plants) near Lithuanian borders and the capital Vilnius which are projected to be based on the same technology and possibly the same means of construction," the document states.

Lithuania and Latvia, together with Estonia and Japanese company Hitachi, have putative plans of their own to construct a joint nuclear power plant at Visaginas in northern Lithuania to replace the Soviet-era Ignalina facility which was shut down in 2009.
AFP, 28 may 2012

Flying into trouble at Sellafield
Unusual pathways by which radioactivity routinely escapes the confines of nuclear sites are well documented with one recent example to hit the headlines being the 6000 mile transportation of radioactive contamination by bluefin tuna from the polluted waters around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant to the coasts of North America. An even more recent case has however turned up very much closer to home – at Sellafield.
No stranger to unusual pathways for radioactivity - as 2000 Cumbrian feral pigeons and a host of seagulls will know to their cost - the site’s latest victims have been identified as a number of swallows which, gorging on the mosquitos that flit over the waters of Sellafield’s radioactive storage ponds, have taken up residence in Sellafield’s transport section.  As confirmed by the Environment Agency last week to a meeting of the Environmental Health Sub-Committee of the West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group, the birds’ droppings from around their roost/nesting sites have been found to be radioactively contaminated. Whilst neither the contamination levels nor the number of swallows involved was provided, the Environment Agency told the Committee that measures were being taken by Sellafield Ltd to tackle the mosquito problem.
CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood commented; “These much-loved and now radioactive birds and their offspring will unwittingly be carrying a highly toxic message from Sellafield when they migrate back to Southern Africa at the end of the summer - a distance at least equivalent to that recently undertaken by the bluefin tuna.”
CORE press release, 6 June 2012

U.K.: Chernobyl restrictions sheep lifted after 26 years.
Twenty-six years after the April 26, 1986, explosion at Chernobyl reactor 4, restrictions remained on 334 farms in North Wales, and eight in Cumbria. But as of June 1, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) regulations on these farms were lifted. In the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, when radioactive rain swept the UK, farmers saw their livelihoods and even their families threatened. Some 9,700 farms and four million sheep were placed under restriction as radioactive cesium- 137 seeped into the upland soils of England, Scotland and Wales.

Before June 1, any livestock for breeding or sale had to be assessed with gamma monitors by officials from Defra or the Welsh government. Sheep found to exceed the legal radiation dose (1,000 Becquerel per kilo) were moved to the lowlands before sale, and had the farmers wanted to move their flock, they had to seek permission.

The FSA said the restrictions had been lifted because “the current controls are no longer proportionate to the very low risk”. No sheep in Cumbria have failed the monitoring criteria for several years, and less than 0.5 per cent of the 75,000 sheep monitored annually in North Wales fail.  But not everyone agrees with lifting the restrictions. An anonymous farmer with a flock of 1,000 ewes, was quoted in the Independent saying: “The feeling I have is that it should still be in place. The food should be kept safe.”
Independent (UK), 1 June 2012

Australia: at last: Kakadu Koongarra victory.
The Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory is set to be expanded, with the inclusion of land previously earmarked land for uranium mining known as Koongarra. The Northern Land Council (NLC) has agreed for a 1,200 hectare parcel of land containing rich reserves of uranium to be incorporated in to the park. This looks like the final step in a long battle that Aboriginal traditional owner Jeffrey Lee has waged to protect his land from mining. The uranium-rich mining lease Koongarra was excised from Kakadu when the conservation area was established in the late 1970s. The lease is held by French company Areva, which wanted to mine the area for uranium. Two years ago, Mr Lee, the sole traditional owner of the land, called on the Federal Government to incorporate it in to Kakadu. The Government accepted the offer and referred the matter to the NLC. The NLC conducted consultations and its full council has agreed to endorse Mr Lee's wishes. The council and land trust will now move to enter an agreement with national parks to incorporate Koongarra into Kakadu. The Koongarra area includes the much-visited Nourlangie Rock (Burrunggui/Anbangbang) and is important in the Rainbow Serpent and Lightning Man stories.

In June 2011, the Koongarra site was added to the World Heritage List during a meeting of the Unesco World Heritage Committee in Paris. The French nuclear energy company Areva, had unsuccessfully asked the committee to remove Koongarra from its agenda.

It is not known if Areva will attempt to take any action over the decision to include Koongarra in the Kakadu national park
Nuclear Monitor, 1 July 2012 / ABC, 1 June 2012

Japan: Smartphone capable of measuring radiation.
On May 29, the Japanese company Softbank Mobile unveiled a smartphone capable of measuring radiation levels in a bid to respond to growing demand for dosimeters in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Users can measure radiation levels by pressing and holding a button on the phone, and the device can be set to a constant measurement mode or plot readings on a map, according to Softbank.

The Pantone 5 107SH, manufactured by Sharp Corp., is equipped with a sensor that can measure between 0.05 and 9.99 microsieverts per hour of gamma ray in the atmosphere. The product is aimed at ''alleviating as much as possible the concerns of mothers with children,'' the mobile operator said in a statement, adding it will go on sale sometime in mid-July or later.
Mainichi (Japan), 29 May 2012

Public acceptance – what holds back the nuclear industry?
“Multiple structural barriers inside the nuclear industry tend to prevent it from producing a united pro-nuclear front to the general public. Efforts to change public opinion worldwide must deal with these real-world constraints.” In an article called: Public acceptance – what holds back the nuclear industry? Steve Kidd (deputy director-general of the World Nuclear Association) is asking if “we have probably begun to reach some limits in employing a fact-based strategy to improve public acceptance of nuclear. Huge efforts have been made to inform people about nuclear by freely providing a lot of good information. But the message doesn’t seem to hit home with many.” He is explaining why and how to overcome this in an article in the May issue of Nuclear Engineering International.

In the next episode he will look at the possibilities of increasing public acceptance in more detail. 
The article is available at:

Construction Chernobyl new safe confinement starts

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On April 26, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych launched construction of the New Shelter Confinement that will be placed over the damaged Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The construction launch was timed to mark the 26th anniversary of the explosion and fire in Chernobyl Unit 4 that resulted in the world's worst nuclear power plant accident.

A few weeks earlier, the first batch of steel has arrived at the reactor site for the giant arched structure that will protect the ruined power plant and enable its dismantling. Last July enough funds for the Chernobyl Shelter Fund were collected (almost 1 billion dollars) and work was then expected to start in October 2011.

The 149 ton consignment received at the site will go towards the central segment of an arch some 108 metres high that will extend for 257 meters over the plant buildings. Supplied from Italy, the first batch arrived by rail; the second, which makes up some 1030 tons, will follow by sea and road. In total some 20,000 tons of steel will be required for the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement (NSC) project.

The structure will be assembled on concrete rails and slid into place over the broken buildings of Chernobyl 4, which was destroyed by the steam and hydrogen explosions that followed a power excursion in April 1986. The structure is scheduled to be moved over the sarcophagus and confine the remains of the plant from the outside world for about 100 years. It is expected to be completed in 2015. It will allow engineers to remotely dismantle the hastily constructed 'sarcophagus' that has shielded the remains of the reactor from the weather since the weeks after the accident. The stability of the sarcophagus has developed into one of the major risk factors at the site, and its potential collapse threatens to liberate more radioactive materials. A project to shore up the structure was completed in mid-2008 but the NSC would reduce the consequences of a collapse while also allowing the sarcophagus to be taken apart under controlled conditions.

Other objectives for the structure are to generally reduce emissions from the buildings for a design-life of 100 years while at the same time stopping the ingress of water, which increases the risk that nuclear fuels scattered inside the building could potentially see sustained fission reactions. The huge building is meant to enable the eventual removal of materials containing nuclear fuel and accommodate their characterisation, compaction and packing for disposal. This task represents the most important step in eliminating nuclear hazard at the site - and the real start of decommissioning. The NSC will facilitate remote handling of these dangerous materials, using as few personnel as possible.

The environmental restoration work at Chernobyl is funded by 29 donor countries to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, set up in 1997, which is administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

In March 2004 the EBRD invited tenders for detailed design and construction of the New Safe Confinement: a freestanding arch to provide protection from weather and condensation and to minimise further corrosion for 100 years. It was then expected to be finished in 2010. In August 2007, the French consortium Novarka was announced as winner of the tender.

In July last year, the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs announced that sufficient funds had been pledged to enable the start of construction of the NSC. Kostyantyn Grushchenko notified President Viktor Yanukovych of the outcome of a meeting of the international donors to the Chernobyl clean-up fund at the headquarters of the EBRD in London. Aside from the news on funding, Grushchenko noted that there were still a number of "issues requiring technical completion." But he said: "It is very important for us that already now, this year, we can start building the shelter, which will protect Kiev, Ukraine, the world from possible risks associated with the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster", he said.

According to a report from the German Press Agency (DPA), a spokesman from the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the country had received international pledges of US$941 million to build the steel-and-concrete structure.

The pledges will be used primarily to complete the New Safe Confinement. But the pledges will also help to complete the construction of a storage facility on the site for the used fuel from the three other Chernobyl units, which continued operating after the 1986 accident. The facility will provide dry storage for more than 20,000 used fuel assemblies on completion in 2014-5.

Sources: Nuclear Engineering International: Chernobyl – New safe century, April 2004 / Ria Novosti, 16 April 2006 / World Nuclear News, 9 August 2007, 13 July 2011 and 20 March 2012.


Chernobyl: 26 years later; sheep restrictions Norway and UK

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

26 years have gone by since the Chernobyl disaster but Norway continues to suffer the effects of and be vulnerable to nuclear fallout. Animals have been feeding off Norwegian radioactive-laced vegetation following Chernobyl’s reactor number four explosion on 26 April 1986. Worst affected were mountainous parts in the Midt-Norge region following the heavy rain showers. Meanwhile, in the UK a consultation is underway about lifting all post-Chernobyl sheep restrictions.

In Norway, major quantities of meat had to be destroyed in the years following Chernobyl, with subsequent generations of mushroom and grass-loving sheep having been measured for radioactivity and treated using a method called “foddering down” ever since. The process involves feeding the animals a controlled cesium-free diet, sometimes laced with a cesium binder (normally ferrocyanides of iron, also known as Prussian blue) six weeks prior to slaughtering.

At the time of the accident, the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture expressed fears that as many as 100,000 sheep, which spend most of the summer on semi-wild mountainside or woodland pastures, may have to be treated for radioactivity because of a bumper mushroom crop. Since then, a total of 300,000 animals have had to be treated. (Of course, the contaminated mushrooms are to be avoided too)

Chernobyl has cost Norway over 650 million Norwegian Kroner (US$115 million, 87 million euro) so far, according to an estimate made in September 2009. Adding to the size of the bill are the annual costs of monitoring and treatment of crops and livestock for radioactivity. This has become an annual ritual in Norway since the accident. “The decrease in radioactive contamination is slower for each year that passes. Nobody could have predicted that this would take so long,” according to Astrid Liland, departmental head at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority.

Lately, reports have surfaced that some sheep in certain parts of Norway contain 4,000 Becquerel per kilo of meat, almost six times higher than recommended by Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) officials. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s Magnar Grudt tells NRK, “It’s way above the allowed limit for meat trading. 600 Becquerel per kilo is the maximum permitted for sheep.”

Levels have not changed for the past few years and other parts of Norway also still feeling the Chernobyl effects. 14 of 23 municipalities in the county of Nord-Trøndelag currently contain animals that will have to undergo “foddering down” after the end of this year’s grazing season in the autumn.

Food Safety Authority officials underline the meat then is perfectly eatable without risk to members of the public following this process, but Magnar Grudt exclaims, “We were given measuring equipment in 1987 and learnt how to us it. Nonetheless, we never thought we would still be measuring radioactivity in sheep today. It’s unthinkable.”

UK: Lifting of restrictions

In the UK, the Food and Safety Agency (FSA) is currently holding a consultation process  and seeking views on the proposal to remove all remaining controls on the movement of sheep from the restricted areas, based on the assessment that the risk to consumers from radioactivity in sheep resulting from the Chernobyl nuclear accident is now very low. All restrictions were lifted in Northern Ireland in 2000 and Scotland in 2010.

The number of farms under restriction has reduced substantially over the years; out of the nearly 10,000 farms originally restricted across the UK only eight farms in Cumbria and 299 in North Wales remain (twenty-six years later) under full restrictions, although a number of these farms in North Wales are not currently active sheep farms. In addition, 28 farms in North Wales and one in Scotland have been released from formal controls but issued with Conditional Consents or Directions. These Conditional Consents or Directions have been issued on the basis of specific conditions pertaining to individual farms. The conditions are set on a case-by-case basis but, in general, they require that sheep are kept on clean pasture or clean feed for a period of time before they are sent for slaughter.

Unconditional Consents have been issued on 41 farms in England, seven in Wales and three in Scotland. These are farms that have met the criteria for derestriction and so have been removed from all formal controls and conditions, either pending revocation of the Food & Environmental Protection Act (FEPA) order or because the legislation does not easily permit their removal from the FEPA order.

The Food and Safety Agency has reviewed the controls that remain on the relatively small number of farms, to consider if they are still required to protect food safety. As part of this review, the use of the current limit of 1,000 Bq/kg (so higher as in Norway) as a measure of risk has been considered. Using a fixed limit of contamination, in effect, considers that sheep above 1,000 Bq/kg are unsafe and sheep below that level are safe. However, recent international guidance published by the International Commission on Radiological Protection has reinforced the view that protection from radioactivity should consider the actual risk to individuals (measured as the effective dose) rather than purely relying on a fixed limit of contamination. Therefore, the Agency has carried out an updated risk assessment to consider the actual risk to consumers from eating sheep meat originating in the restricted areas.

These controls comply with European Council Directive 96/29/Euratom, which lays down basic safety standards for the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionizing radiation. Article 53 covers intervention in cases of lasting exposure. This states that where the Member States have identified a situation leading to lasting exposure resulting from the after effects of a radiological emergency, they shall put measures in place that are necessary for the exposure risk involved. This can include monitoring of exposure and implementing any appropriate interventions. However, Article 48 of Directive 96/29 specifies that such intervention shall be undertaken only if the reduction in detriment due to radiation is sufficient to justify the harm and costs, including social costs, of the intervention; and so the updated risk assessment has led to a review considering whether this is still the case.

Sources: The Foreigner (Norwegian news in English), 17 September 2009 & 21 February 2012 / UK Food and Safety Agency, 17 November 2011


Comparative analysis of responses after Chernobyl and Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
LAKA Foundation

The worldwide reactions on the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl (Ukraine, 26 April 1986) were quite different in different countries. So were the worldwide reactions on the nuclear disaster at Fukushima (Japan, 11 March 2011). On both governmental level as well as on a public level. This article is a comparative overview of the worldwide responses two both disasters, with (West-) Germany and the Netherlands as amplified examples.

It is clear it will take some time to analyze the precise consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on a political level, as well as for the future of nuclear power in general. Nevertheless, this is a first attempt, focusing on the differences compared to Chernobyl in two neighboring countries. But first a brief overview of the worldwide responses.

Reactions after Chernobyl
After Chernobyl many countries decided to cancel the (planned) construction of (new) nuclear power plants. Italy was the only country which decided to close their nuclear power plants after a 1987 referendum. The shutdowns of the East-German nuclear power plants  during the German reunification (1990) and Lithuania's only nuclear power plant Ignalina (2009) – a Chernobyl-type reactor - in accordance with Lithuania's accession agreement to the European Union could be considered as a delayed impact of the accident in Chernobyl.

Chernobyl caused much fear among the public and has seriously limited the worldwide expansion of nuclear capacity for a long time. After Chernobyl until now, only China, Iran, Mexico and Romania have completed construction of their first nuclear reactors and thereby entering the select group of countries with nuclear power reactors. Particularly in the United States the partial melt-down in one of the reactors of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant in Harrisburg (29 March 1979) had grave consequences. The support for nuclear power dropped substantially in the United States and elsewhere in the world, which was again amplified after Chernobyl.

However, there were and there are also many other factors involved on influencing the state of the nuclear capacity. On the one hand the oil shocks in the 1970s led to renewed concerns about energy security. For example as a consequence of the oil crisis of 1973-4 France started to launch a large nuclear energy program to diversify its economy away from oil. On the other hand, skyrocketing oil prices led to global inflation and high interest rates making nuclear power much less competitive. High inflation led to sagging economies and falling demand for electric power making earlier assessments of electric power supply/demand projections obsolete. Such periods of economical crises happened in the 1970s, in the early 1980s, the years after Harrisburg, and again with the nuclear disasters at Fukushima in 2011.

Only many years after Chernobyl, from the end of the 1990s, the (worldwide) support for nuclear power started to grow, because nuclear energy was presented as a carbon neutral energy source that would be of great importance to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions. More and more people began to believe in nuclear power as an option to reduce these emissions, although worldwide support for nuclear power has always been limited. In a whole range of non-nuclear nations – in February 2012 according to the World Nuclear Association nearly 45 countries  - a nuclear power program is "under serious consideration". A remarkable (and highly unrealistic) number when you keep in mind that only 10 countries started to generate nuclear energy for the first time since the end of the 1970s; after the accident at Three Mile Island. (see Table 1)

That means that not a single country started a nuclear power program (the construction of its first nuclear power reactor) since Chernobyl; in fact, only two (China and Romania) after the 1979 accident at TMI.

Table 1: Emerging nuclear countries


Start construction

first NPP

First power of

first reactor

Number of reactors

(as of January 2012)

















South Africa




Czech Republic3




















1 By then part of Yugoslavia; 2 By then part of the Soviet Union; 3 By then part of Czechoslovakia

Even in the past decade – long before Fukushima - it was already clear that nuclear energy can’t be a panacea for carbon reductions in the future. This cheap PR trick of the nuclear industry is aimed to generate a nuclear renaissance. But unsuccessfully: there was no nuclear renaissance  (see Table 2). As of march 1, 2012, there were 436 nuclear reactors operating in the world - eight fewer than in 2002. The International Atomic Energy Agency currently lists 63 reactors as “under construction” in 14 countries. By comparison, at the peak of the industry’s growth phase in 1979, there were 233 reactors being built concurrently. In 1987, 137 reactors were listed under construction. In 2008, for the first time since the beginning of the nuclear age, no new unit was started up, while two were added in 2009, five in 2010, and seven in 2011. In the European Union, as of March 1, 2012, there were 143 reactors officially operational, down from a historical maximum of 177 units in 1989.

Table 2: Number of reactors 1979, 1987, 2012

Nuclear Power Status




Units in Operation

Total net MWe







Units Under Construction

Total net MWe







Source: IAEA / ENS

Reactions after Fukushima
Just like with Chernobyl, the worldwide political reactions on the nuclear disaster at Fukushima (Japan, 11 March 2011) were quite different too. A group of countries with a large share of nuclear power, such as China, France, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom don’t have any intentions to end their nuclear programs. Other countries with a large share of nuclear power have shut down older nuclear reactors (Germany, Japan) and have announced to finish their nuclear programs. Germany says that all nuclear power stations will be closed in 2022 and Switzerland in 2034. Japan hasn’t fixed a date, but declared to stop building new nuclear power reactors. The French Parti Socialiste (Social Democrats) and the French Greens have agreed upon a joint position on the future of France’s nuclear power. The Greens will support the PS candidate François Hollande in the next spring’s presidential elections in return for his promise to shutdown 24 nuclear reactors by 2025, lowering France’s dependence on atomic power to 50 percent, and the immediate halt of the oldest plant at Fessenheim. Italy has declared again by referendum to remain a non-nuclear nation. There are also non-nuclear nations and nations with little share of nuclear power which declare to go on as usual with their nuclear ambitions, such as Czech Republic, Turkey, Lithuania and the Netherlands. They argue that earthquakes like in Japan don’t exist in their areas and that the new generation of nuclear power reactors is much safer than the 1971 built nuclear power station at Fukushima Daiichi.

Also the worldwide reactions from the public were quite different in different countries, with the exception of Germany which always has had a large anti-nuclear movement. In India, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and the U.S. the resistance against nuclear power has clearly increased. In other countries the group of skeptical people has clearly increased. Such as in France: 40 percent of the French are 'hesitant' about nuclear energy while a third are in favor and 17 percent are against, according to a survey by pollster Ifop published 13 November 2011.

Comparison of (West-)Germany and the Netherlands
At first sight (West-) Germany and the Netherlands - two neighboring countries - very much look like the same. At least on cultural and economic area. However, there are clearly visible differences (sometimes even opposite to each other) in the way they dealt with the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima. On governmental level as well as on public level. The reactions on Chernobyl and Fukushima are first described and the differences then analyzed.

West-Germany after ‘Chernobyl’
Due to weather patterns, and distance to Chernobyl, (West-) Germany was more contaminated than the Netherlands. Although the German authorities took some measurements and precautions to protect citizens from radiation (closure of schools, kindergartens, etc.) a considerable part of the public viewed those precautions with suspicion, convinced that it was not enough and only meant to defend the vested interest of the nuclear sector.

That feeling was further fed by the fact that the federal government - a center right wing coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Free Democrats (Liberals, FDP) - didn’t falter about their position on nuclear power. The FDP remained the party of the status quo: cancel nothing, construct nothing further. It was left to the Christian Democrats, the largest single party, with 40% of the votes, to decide how the country should react to this unexpected threat from a foreign disaster. Meanwhile the political parties were in the position of having to fight a number of state elections, the first only a few weeks after the disaster, and a federal election in January 1987. In July 1986, the death sentence for the fast breeder reactor Kalkar was pronounced by Reimut Jochimsen, Social Democratic Economics Minister in Northrhine-Westphalia. He said he spoke not as a politician but as a licensing authority according to the German Atomic Energy Act. According to Jochimsen Kalkar has dangerous similarities to Chernobyl. The Social Democrats (SPD), once the nuclear industry’s supporters, opted in August for closure of all nuclear stations in ten years, starting in 1988, and an end to federal subsidies for nuclear power, except for research related to spent fuel disposal and safety. The Greens stayed even more resolutely anti-nuclear. The first Green politician to be appointed as a minister in a state government (Hessen, 1985), Joschka Fischer, was taking action against a plutonium fuel plant at Hanau for non-compliance with the letter of regulatory procedures. For all that, yet all existing nuclear projects in West-Germany went on as usual. And remarkably, even several reactors were connected to the grid in the following year. The controversial Brokdorf reactor was put into operation a few months after Chernobyl and connected to the grid in October 1986. In 1987 the nuclear power plant in Mühlheim-Kärlich (first criticality 6 weeks before Chernobyl) was connected to the grid and the THTR reactor in Hamm-Uentrop went into commercial operation. This thorium reactor was synchronized to the grid in 1985 and started full power operation in February 1987 and it was shut down definitely in autumn 1989. Despite the large opposition to nuclear power the Christian Democrats won the 1986 elections in most states and the federal elections in January 1987.

The West-German anti-nuclear movement was already a big social movement before and continued to be that after the Chernobyl accident. The movement was mainly focusing on Gorleben and Wackerdorf. Several very large demonstrations during 1985 and 1986 have been staged to protest the planned commercial reprocessing plant at the Bavarian village, 100 km north of Munich. In the Pentecost weekend (7& 8 June, 1986) about 100,000 people marched to the Wackersdorf construction site. At the same time, in Northern-Germany, some 70,000 gathered to protest the completed but not yet started Brokdorf reactor outside Hamburg. Police arrested 800 demonstrators and 60 policemen were injured, despite very strong efforts by the opponents to keep the demonstration peaceful. The police have been accused of provoking the violence.

The Netherlands after ‘Chernobyl’
The Dutch government was in the process of licensing the construction of two or three nuclear power plants, when Chernobyl happened. As soon as the consequences of the nuclear accident became clear, the government – a center right coalition of Christian Democrats (CDA) and Liberals (VVD) - was taking action. The Dutch government took measurements and precautions in case of radioactive contaminations: cows were ordered inside (to avoid eating contaminated grass) and the  consumption  of certain vegetables (esp. spinach) was discouraged. But the most important decision was to postpone an important decision for the construction of the new nuclear power stations that was scheduled a few days later. Because of the nuclear disaster - and with elections ahead a few weeks later - these plans were postponed and later mothballed. Due to this swift reaction there was not much criticism or suspicion towards measurements and precautions in society (quite different from Germany).

The Dutch public was concerned, but the number of demonstrators – at most a few hundred people - was not a glimpse of the masses in West-Germany or even of the recent past of the Dutch movement. At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s there was a big anti-nuclear movement, probably the biggest social movement the Netherlands ever had. After ‘Chernobyl’ there was no revival. A few large environmental organizations had started a 'vote-against-nuclear' campaign for the coming national elections on 21 May. The attitude of the center right wing government, however, took the wind out of their sails. The Christian Democrats won the elections (54 seats as opposed to 52 seats for the Social Democrats, out of the 150 seats in parliament) and led to second CDA/VVD cabinet. But plans for more nuclear reactors were off the table for many years.

Germany after ‘Fukushima’
Just like after the Chernobyl accident, Germany has a center right wing government with Christian Democrats and Free Democrats. Nonetheless the situation is totally different. In autumn 2010 Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed through an extension of nuclear reactor lifetimes. After the accidents in Fukushima she retract this decision:  the German government announced that all the country's nuclear power plants will be phased out by 2022. This is a return to the decision taken by the previous red-green government in 2001.

Further, it is important to note here that the decision for lifetime extension of the older reactors was taken together with the Energiewende (energy transition) decision, which means a phase-out of fossil and nuclear power. So, Germany had decided to follow a new avenue, a roadmap to a renewable energy future. And Germany was losing speed to this future by this lifetime extension decision. Just because of this decision the resistance had grown tremendously. Perhaps, therefore the (alternative) energy movement as well as companies and famous research institutes are politicized and against nuclear power. The involved companies see clearly that they have a direct interest for their trade sector to quit nuclear energy quickly.  

By tradition the German anti-nuclear movement remains a big social movement, not resting before all nuclear facilities have been closed today.

The Netherlands after ‘Fukushima’
At the time of the Fukushima accident, the Netherlands was, again, in the process to license the construction of new nuclear power reactors. In the decade before ‘Fukushima’, a growing part of the Dutch public became used to the idea that growth of the nuclear capacity was necessary to counter global warming. The right-wing government of Christian Democrats and Liberals (VVD), supported by the ultra-right wing Party of Freedom (PVV), was and still is - also after the nuclear accidents in Fukushima - of the opinion, that nuclear power is a necessary source of energy in the current energy mix.

From opinion polls it is shown that a majority of the Dutch doesn’t support nuclear energy, although there is a decline in opposition compared to the early 1980's or after Chernobyl. The reaction of the anti-nuclear movement after Fukushima was diametric compared to the reaction after Chernobyl.  Though the Dutch anti-nuclear movement was at death’s door since the mid-1980s, there was a strong revival. A large anti-nuclear coalition was built and several actions were held, resulting in a 10,000 strong demonstration in Amsterdam on April 16. One could definitely say that the movement was gaining power again. Especially in the province Zeeland where the municipality Borsele – the location of the only nuclear power reactor and proposed site for new reactors - is situated.

How to explain?
It is striking that both countries had a center right government during both nuclear disasters and that both countries (have) reacted almost opposite at both nuclear disasters, and - after Fukushima - opposite to the reaction of their predecessors. 

Despite a large and militant antinuclear opposition in Germany no apparent changes were made in government policies after Chernobyl, while after Fukushima the government totally reversed it's policy. Why did Merkel retract her decision to prolong the operational-life of the nuclear reactors after Fukushima and demand the closure of seven of the oldest reactors immediately? One reason could be that Fukushima was a welcome occasion for her to prevent a collision with the Bundesrat, dominated by the Social Democrats and the Greens, on the Bill about the lifetime extension of the older nuclear reactors. An elegant way to get rid of it and to take the wind out of the sails of the Greens - which became the largest political party in the polls - with important elections ahead.

In the Netherlands in 1986 as well as in 2011 firm plans for the construction of new reactors existed. After Chernobyl the government was swift to cancel construction plans - although there was no longer a vibrant antinuclear movement - with general elections three weeks later (and staying in power). After Fukushima, despite growing opposition the government did not move an inch, claimed Fukushima had no safety related consequences for the Netherlands, and it was a matter for the private sector to decide about newbuild anyway.

It is clear the Dutch government is leaving the energy sector to the private sector market and does not want to interfere much. It has not developed a vision on future energy production and refuses to make fundamental choices towards a sustainable energy policy. The reason why the Dutch government is standing by nuclear power is partly because of feelings of revanchismus (revanchism) against the environmental movement. Nuclear power is being seen by the government (especially VVD and PVV) as being blocked by the environmental movement for decades and just because of that a good way to get back at the movement. Another reason for the pro-nuclear position of the government is because nuclear power has been considered and advocated as the winner in a liberalized market (and neoliberalism reigns).

Nevertheless, it is not plausible that a new nuclear power plant will appear in the Netherlands in the coming years. Utility Delta postponed the construction of a new nuclear power plant in January 2012, blaming the financial crisis and low energy prices. Overt subsidizing the construction of a nuclear reactor is not realistic for this government, while especially those political parties were very audible the last decade in claiming nuclear power was the only source of electricity without needing subsidies.

How to explain all this? Although in both societies the political debate was much polarized we observe an important difference concerning the political situation in the mid-1980's. The Netherlands came from an (what we will call) 'open' society. In the 1970s the Netherlands went through a radical upheaval. In virtually all sectors of the society mature and critical citizens took control of their own fate. As a result the Dutch government was forced and thus willing to listen more to civil society and encouraged participation. Germany of the 1980s, however, was in the end-phase of a 'closed' society. The historical legacy of Nazism drove a wedge between the generations and increased suspicion of authoritarian structures in society in the 1970's. Because of this legacy, which became imminent in the late 1960's and 1970 through to the early 1980's the German society was therefore stronger polarized (and with less participation of civil society in institutionalized structures) in this era than the Dutch society.

Though the German antinuclear movement was very big in the 1970's and 1980s, it was also more isolated and much less institutionalized than the Dutch movement in the same era or the German movement in 2011. The Greens were just coming in and (still) quite marginal, but the big difference with  Germany of 2011 was the absence of a civil society against nuclear energy, like the current alternative energy movement, the energy movement after Fukushima. There was virtually not yet a movement dealing with energy in general. The then antinuclear movement was much more a political movement, left-wing, autonomous and anti-establishment. In short, a movement on the street, not in the center of the power, or even in the periphery of the power.

In Germany after Fukushima this situation was totally different: there is a reasonable consensus on the direction to go. Only the pace was / is different. In the Netherlands, however, there was in the era after Chernobyl an (alternative) energy movement. This could well have been an (unplanned) consequence of the so-called Brede Maatschappelijke Discussie (BMD, broad social debate) on nuclear energy. This BMD was intended by the government to easy the antinuclear sentiment in Dutch society, and was to discuss - in the aftermath of the second oil crisis, in 1981-83 - Dutch energy policy in general. After (and before for that matter) Fukushima that energy movement was completely de-politicized, and not interfering in - or part of - the nuclear energy debate.

To summarize: while the Netherlands is heading towards a more 'closed' society (in which not civil society but market forces dominate the debate and decision making), in which 'renewable energy' has a negative connotation, the vast majority of Germans is convinced of the need for a 100 per cent power supply with renewable energy sources as soon as possible.

Source and contact: Laka Foundation, Ketelhuisplein 43, 1054 RD Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Tel: +31 20 6168 294
Email: info[at]


Health effects of Chernobyl: IPPNW report

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The April 1986, Chernobyl catastrophe changed the world. Millions of people were made victims overnight. Huge stretches of land were made uninhabitable. The radioactive cloud spread all over the world. An understanding of the dangers of the use of nuclear energy grew in countless numbers of minds. The April 2011 report 'Health effects of Chernobyl' published by the German affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and the Gesellschaft fur Strahlenschutz (GFS – Society for Radiation Protection) evaluates scientific studies that contain plausible indications of causal relationships between radiation following the Chernobyl catastrophe and greatly differing diseases and fatalities.

The authors of this paper attach importance to methodically accurate and comprehensible analyses. We have tried not to lose sight of the immense uncertainty inherent in every estimation in this field. We have taken published papers into consideration, but believe a general rejection of papers that have not been published in peer-reviewed journals is unjustified – Galileo Galilei and Albert Einstein would have had no chance of having their papers accepted by a peer-reviewed journal.

The loss of the Chernobyl nuclear power station meant first and foremost a huge direct economic loss. Radiation from Chernobyl fallout rendered large areas of land agriculturally unusable. Large and small businesses were given up, towns and villages abandoned, some were flattened by bulldozers. Millions of people were affected by radiation and lost all they had; apartments, houses, homes and social security. Many lost their jobs and were unable to find new ones, families split up because they could not tolerate being irradiated or ostracized because of their proximity to Chernobyl.

The quarrel about the number of victims of Chernobyl is as stupid as it is cynical. It is a well known fact that the frequently quoted death toll of 31 is long past being valid. Even the number of ‘less than 50’ quoted in Vienna in September 2005 cannot possibly be true. It is an unacceptable sophistry only to recognize those who died of acute radiation disease, cancer or leukaemia as Chernobyl deaths. Following Chernobyl there was an obvious if not drastic increase of illness rates, but - typically - experts judging from a distance, without ever having treated any of the victims, do not generally accept these rates as having resulted from Chernobyl.

We refuse to haggle over whether a liquidator (clean-up worker) who received a high radiation dose, who has been an invalid for years, whose wife has left him, whose daughter is unable to find a boyfriend because of her father’s history, who suffers from diverse illnesses, the treatment of which has been given up by doctors, and who commits suicide, counts as a Chernobyl death or not.

In this way, the search for reliable data on the dead of Chernobyl has become an impossible task - in any case there are many, far too many. There is no comprehensive picture of the consequences of Chernobyl, not yet. The following overview aims at reminding you of all you  already knew, aims at getting you to study carefully and critically the simplified and minimized accounts given by the large organizations and to be attentive to their large uncertainties and blank spaces.

None of the governments in Russia, Belarus or Ukraine are interested in a comprehensive survey of the consequences of Chernobyl. They prefer to close the case, gradually re-cultivate and resettle lost territory and pay as little as possible to the victims. They are not interested in discussions about the mistakes that have been made. There is a tendency amongst the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Scientific Committee for the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) to support this position. Independent scientific studies in this area are not being financed and are being obstructed or prevented. Stochastic radiation damage is difficult to prove. Large epidemiological studies are expensive and reference to necessary data requires access that is only possible with state assistance.

The paper evaluates studies that contain plausible indications of health damage caused by the Chernobyl catastrophe. The authors of this paper attach importance to the selection of methodically accurate and comprehensible analyses. Due to the already mentioned methodical difficulties, it is not our aim to present the “right” statistics in contrast to the obviously wrong ones given by the IAEA, since these can never be found. They can only supply us with indications as to the diversity and extent of the health effects we should be dealing with when we talk about the health effects of Chernobyl.

Note on the unreliability of official data published by WHO and IAEA
At the “Chernobyl Forum of the United Nations” organized in September 2005 by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organisation, the presentation of the results of work on the effects of Chernobyl showed serious inconsistencies. For example: the press release of the WHO and IAEA stated that in the future, at most, 4000 surplus fatalities due to cancer and leukaemia amongst the most severely affected groups of people might be expected. In the WHO report on which this was based however, the actual number of deaths is given as 8,930. These deaths were not mentioned in any newspaper articles. When one examines the source quoted in the WHO report, one arrives at a number between 10,000 and 25,000 additional fatalities due to cancer and leukaemia.

Given this it can be rationally concluded that the official statements of the IAEA and the WHO have manipulated their own data. Their representation of the effects of Chernobyl has little to do with reality.

The Chernobyl Forum also does not take into account that even UNSCEAR has estimated that the collective dose (the usual measurement for radiation damage) for Europe outside the region of the former Soviet Union is higher than the corresponding data for the Chernobyl region. The collective dose from the catastrophe was distributed to 53% throughout Europe, 36% throughout the affected regions in the Soviet Union, 8% in Asia, 2 % in Africa and 0.3% in America.

Up until now neither the Chernobyl Forum, IAEA nor the WHO have deemed it necessary to let the public know that, on the basis of their own analysis, a two to five-fold higher number of deaths due to cancer and leukaemia are to be expected as the figures they have published.

Even in 2011 – some 5 years on - no official UN organization has as yet corrected these figures. The latest UNSCEAR publication on the health effects of Chernobyl does not take into account any of the numerous results of research into the effects of Chernobyl from the three countries affected. Only one figure – that of 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer among children and juveniles, and leukaemia and cataracts in liquidators – was included in their recent information to the media. Thus, in 2011 the UNSCEAR committee declared: On the basis of studies carried out during the last 20 years, as well as of previous UNSCEAR reports, UNSCEAR has come to the conclusion that the large majority of the population has no reason to fear that serious health risks will arise from the Chernobyl accident. The only exception applies to those exposed to radio-iodine during childhood or youth and to liquidators who were exposed to a high dose of radiation and therefore had to reckon with a higher radiation induced risk.

Source: The report 'Health effects of Chernobyl' can be downloaded at:
Contact: IPPNW, Körtestraße 10, 10967 Berlin,Germany.
Tel:+49-30-69 80 74-0


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Areva suspends work on US nuclear manufacturing facility.
Areva Newport News, a joint venture of Areva NP Inc. and Northrop Grumman, has postponed indefinitely further construction of a nuclear power reactor component manufacturing facility in Newport News, USA, "until market conditions become more favorable," spokesman Jarret Adams said on May 9. And "the situation in Japan" is not helping the market, according to Adams. The facility is for the manufacture of heavy components for Areva power reactors, such as reactor vessels and steam generators, including components for its US-EPR design being considered for construction by utilities in Maryland, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

When ground was broken for the facility in July 2009, the companies said manufacturing would begin in mid-2012. In August 2010, that date was pushed back to 2013. The plant represents a US$360 million investment, the partners said in 2009.
Platts, 10 May 2011

Still funding needed for new shelter Chernobyl reactor. 
On April 19, at a pledging conference in Kiev, Ukraine, representatives of about 30 countries promised to collectively provide Euro 550 million (US$ 785 million) to finish the shelter, called the New Safe Confinement for the Chernobyl-4 reactor, and a long-term spent fuel storage facility. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the funding gap before the conference was estimated at Euro 740 million — Euro 600 million for the shelter and Euro 140 million for the spent fuel facility — out of a total cost estimated for the two projects of about Euro 1.9 billion.

The projects have been delayed repeatedly and the price tags have crept up due to increases in labor and materials costs, as well as the requirement for more detailed technical knowledge.The NSC is currently estimated to cost Euro 1.6 billion and the spent fuel facility Euro 300 million. (More on the NSC project: Nuclear Monitor 719/20, 12 November 2010).
Nucleonics Week,  21 April 2011

Italy: WikiLeaks documents show nuclear industry corruption.
In the wake of the emotion prompted by Fukushima and at a time when the Italian government appears to be reluctant to implement a policy of redeploying nuclear power (phased out following a referendum in 1987), the Italian magazine L'Espresso publishes in its March 18 "All'Italia mazzette sull'atomo" article, a series of American diplomatic cables that reveal how "bribes could have a major impact on the future of the country’s energy industry." The documents obtained by WikiLeaks provide details of a four-year US campaign, which began in 2005, to encourage Italy to re-start a nuclear power program with a view to reducing its energy dependence on Russian gas and limiting the influence of the partnership between Italian energy company ENI and Russia’s Gazprom. To this end, according to the article in the March 18 issue of L'Espresso, Washington fought a prolonged battle with the French nuclear power specialist EDF-Areva in which it took advantage of its close ties with several Italian companies. In the end, writes L'Espresso, the American lobbyists succeeded in convincing Rome to set aside EU safety standards for new power stations and to adopt more flexible OECD norms — a victory for US industry, obtained at the expense of the safety of the Italian people.
Presseurope, 18 March 2011, WikiLeaks - nuclear industry corruption

Arrests at antinuclear action Belarus.
Activists from Belarus and Germany arrested brutally at peaceful anti-nuclear action. On  April 25, six activists from Germany and five activists from Belarus, as well as one activist from Poland have been brutally arrested in the Belarus capital of Minsk. Around 40 activists have protested peacefully against the construction of the first nuclear power in Ostrovetz, Belarus. They held banners saying «Chernobyl, Fukushima --- Ostrovets?» and «We are against nuclear power plants» and handed out leaflets. There were two flashmobs - the first lasted around 5 minutes.

However, the second flashmob was interrupted immediately. After around one minute two vehicles with civil police stopped, as well as a red prisoner's transport. Peaceful protestors were thrown to the ground and arrested using brutal force.

All German people and the person from Poland were deported by train to Warsaw on the evening of April 27.
Indymedia Germany, 25 & 27 April 2011

Chernobyl birds have smaller brains

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Møller, et al.

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, published in the journal PLoS One.

Impaired brain development is linked to oxidative stress because of the high lipid content of brains. Large-brained individuals must be capable of continuously supplying the brain with high levels of oxygen for neuronal ion pumping, synthesis of neurotransmitters and protection from toxic compounds. This makes brain maintenance a highly oxidizing process that requires large amounts of antioxidants, in particular glutathione. Therefore, any environment with low antioxidant levels and/or high rates of use of antioxidants will provide a challenge to normal brain development. One such extreme environment is Chernobyl because high levels of background radiation increase oxidative stress cause high rates of use of antioxidants, and hence reduce levels of circulating and stored antioxidants.

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. Indeed Yablokov et al. summarized an extensive literature on the effects of radiation on cognitive performance as a consequence of the Chernobyl disaster. 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 low-dose 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. These differences in Scandinavia cannot readily be attributed to changes in social conditions during recent decades. Such social changes have characterized the now independent countries formerly belonging to the Soviet Union, where negative effects of post-traumatic stress have been suggested to account for psychological problems among children living in contaminated areas near Chernobyl.

Here, we tested whether brain size was reduced in birds living in areas differing in background radiation level due to fallout from Chernobyl. A second objective was to test whether brain size increased with age, as expected if there is viability selection against reduced brain size. The key advantage of this study stems from the fact that any observed differences in brain mass in birds associated with radiation cannot be attributed to post-traumatic stress as suggested for humans.

Study sites
We captured 546 birds using 35 12 m mist nets in woodland that exhibit severe reductions in species richness and density of invertebrates and vertebrates in eight different sites around Chernobyl, Ukraine during 25 May – 5 June 2010. 35 mist nets was the maximum that we were able to monitor in the areas with highest density. Each site was used for capture on two consecutive days thus ensuring a similar capture effort in all sample sites. Because the density of birds has been found to decrease with increasing background radiation level, we expected to catch fewer individuals at sites with high level background radiation. In addition, we captured barn swallows at farms where we have followed the population since 1991. Capture of birds was conducted under permission from the authorities of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Source: Møller AP, Bonisoli-Alquati A, Rudolfsen G, Mousseau TA (2011) Chernobyl Birds Have Smaller Brains. PLoS ONE 6(2). Available at:


Chernobyl study on consequences available online

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Most people understand that radiation from nuclear weapons production or civilian nuclear power plant accidents carry large potential health threats. Since the 1986 catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union, a conservatively estimated 9,000 people have contracted or died from radiation-caused cancers. And an area of the Earth that is home to three billion people was contaminated by Chernobyl fallout which is found in every country in the Northern Hemisphere. Twenty-five years after the accident, sheep from parts of Wales cannot be sold because their pastures are still contaminated with radioactive Cesium-137.

CCNS - In the five years following the accident a staggering 750,000 Soviet citizens worked at the impossible task of cleaning up Chernobyl. It is this nearly one million clean-up workers, plus several million more living near or downwind of the destroyed reactor, that have suffered the worst health effects, including more cancer, heart disease, cataract of the eye, birth and health damage in children, psychological problems and damaged immune systems. In the case of the latter, a damaged immune system can open the body to non-radiation related diseases, chronic infections, colds and flu.

Because of the health risks of nuclear technology, commercial and government interests as well as international agencies who set nuclear policy have tried to control the public's understanding of the health effects of radiation. The Department of Energy (DOE) conducts the US nuclear weapons program, but also funds research on radiation's health effects. Many non-government health scientists view DOE-funded radiation studies as skeptically as they view studies funded by tobacco companies on lung cancer and smoking. The world's nuclear powers have always given nuclear weapons and nuclear power priority over the public health impact of nuclear technology. For instance, is it good public health policy to legally allow nuclear power plants to routinely release radioactive gases even though we now have proof that no dose, however small, is free of added cancer risk?

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose mission statement includes global promotion of nuclear power, also puts weapons and power generation before health concerns. In fact, the IAEA and the UN World Health Organization have a written agreement that keeps radiation-health studies by the health agency from public release until the atomic agency gives its permission.

The cover up of radiation's health effects started immediately after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In the following four years, while 100,000 weakened survivors died, the US authorities forbade all medical studies. The 1986 Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union is another example of the same cover up. Soviet doctors were forbidden to mention radiation in Chernobyl patient reports. Instead health problems were attributed to fatigue, smoking, diet, lifestyle, or irrational fear of radiation. Health data were kept secret, even from patients themselves, for three years after the accident.

Since Chernobyl, Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian regional researchers have conducted thousands of health studies on the survivors. Western scientific committees have dismissed these studies because they are written mainly in Russian or fall short of the arguably arbitrary standard for statistical significance. In December 2009, however, leading Russian scientists published an English summary covering more than 5,000 studies of the health impacts of Chernobyl. These studies often showed worse health damage than did studies funded by Western governments or the UN. In 2009, summaries of 5,000 of these studies were first published in English by the New York Academy of Sciences.

Some of the findings include:

 *1. Although half of Chernobyl's radioactivity fell outside of European Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, no health studies have included these areas. In other words, half of the total exposure to Chernobyl's radiation has been ignored.

 *2. The list of health damages is longer than Western studies show. Examples include: radiation-accelerated aging; brain damage in exposed individuals and their children; fully developed eye cataracts in young people; tooth and mouth abnormalities; blood, heart, lung, stomach, intestine and urinary problems plus bone and skin diseases; glandular problems, especially thyroid cancer and thyroid dysfunction. Genetic damage and birth defects were also found, especially in the children of clean-up workers and newborns in areas with high radiation areas. Immune system damage also increased viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections. For over 20 years, overall illness continues high in exposed populations and these health problems affect millions.

 *3. Of an estimated 750,000 Chernobyl clean-up workers, approximately 117,000 had died by 2005. Most of these were healthy young people in 1986.

 *4. Official sources say that in the 70 years following Chernobyl, cancer will claim about 18,500 lives and twice that number will get cancer. The independent scientists say that 18,500 is low by a factor of 21; that cancer deaths will be around 230,000 in Europe plus 19,000 outside Europe; and that environmental contamination will generate new cancers for hundreds of years.

Chernobyl's core lesson is that a very serious nuclear accident can risk the health of millions of people. And we never can eliminate all possibility of a shattering nuclear accident from engineering failure, human error, or terrorist threat.

Now these studies are available online for the first time.

'Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment' was published December 2009 by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). Its hardcopy sale price from the NYAS has been US$150 for Nonmembers; out of reach, of course, for most all-volunteer anti-nuclear groups. Besides that, NYAS only printed 700 hardcopies of the book to begin with. Now, no copies are left, and it is unknown if more will be printed. But now all 335 pages are viewable online at no charge in PDF format. Go to: Click on 'Full Tex'. Then, under 'Annals Access', next to 'Nonmembers', click on 'View Annals TOC free'. This will allow you, chapter by chapter, to download and/or view the entire text of the book, for free.

Sources: Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) News Updates, 29 October & 5 November 2010 / Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear

Rehabilitation Chernobyl-area. If Ukrainian authorities have their way, the fields surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear reactor could soon be growing fruit and vegetables. Ukrainian officials feel it is time to start a rehabilitation process for the land affected. A report will be published next March, before the disaster's 25th anniversary in April. One plan previously mooted involved growing rapeseed rather than edible crops in the areas. Rapeseed can be used to make biofuels and is relatively resistant to radiation. Scientists were split over the plan. Some said that in areas where intensive rehabilitation programs had been done, soil-radiation levels could be reduced to near-normal levels, but others said disturbing the land would risk catastrophe.

New Zealand Herald, 20 November 2010



Chernobyl: sarcophagus and new safe confinment

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In the run up to the 25th commemoration of the Chernobyl accidents, April 2011, the Nuclear Monitor will publish articles on several aspects of the accident and the destroyed reactor. The  first article is about the Sarcophagus and the New Safe Confinement, which has to replace it.

Following the explosion on April 26, 1986, a massive concrete ‘sarcophagus’ was constructed around the damaged Number 4 Reactor. This sarcophagus encases the damaged nuclear reactor and was designed to halt the release of further radiation into the atmosphere. However, hastily constructed this structure is now cracking open and leaking out lethal doses of radiation.

Chernobyl Sarcophagus – The end or just the beginning? Since the accident, Central and Eastern Europe have undergone momentous political changes. The USSR no longer exists. Chernobyl is now the responsibility of the respective governments of each of the affected countries, but the fallout from Chernobyl continues to kill and mar the lives of millions. Despite all the words that have been written about the accident, little has changed for the better. In fact, in many ways the situation is getting worse.

The scientists admit that the sarcophagus which encases the damaged nuclear reactor is now cracking open and leaking out lethal doses of radiation. In 1988 Soviet scientists announced that the sarcophagus was only designed for a lifetime of 20 to 30 years. Holes and fissures in the structure now cover 100 square metres, some of which are large enough to drive a car through. These cracks and holes are further exacerbated by the intense heat inside the reactor, which is still over 200 degrees Celsius. The sarcophagus’s hastily and poorly built concrete walls, which are steadily sinking, act as a lid on the grave of the shattered reactor.

Only 3% of the original nuclear material was expelled in 1986, leaving behind 216 tons of uranium and plutonium still buried inside the exploded reactor, is a chilling reminder that the explosion was not the end, but rather the beginning.

Scientists now agree that this sarcophagus will eventually collapse, and when it does there will be an even great release of radioactivity than in the initial accident.

Inside the Sarcophagus
There are 740,000 cubic metres of lethally contaminated debris inside the sarcophagus, which is ten times more than was previously thought. Locked inside lies is 30 tons of highly contaminated dust, 16 tons of uranium and plutonium and 200 tons of radioactive lava. The rain pours through causing corrosion, the weight of 3,000 cubic meters of water lodging each year further adds to the possibility of the roof caving in.

The result of the water and dust mixing is a dangerous radioactive ‘soup’. When the building became highly radioactive the engineers were unable to physically screw down the nuts and bolts or apply any direct welding of the Sarcophagus, this work was done by robotics, and unfortunately the result is that the seams of the building are not sealed thus allowing water to enter and radiation to escape on a daily basis. The problem of controlling the water and dust inside has never been resolved. This type of project has never been undertaken before and no one knows for sure if it will be effective enough to contain the radioactivity or what will happen in 100 years times.

Chernobyl’s debris will be radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years and must be treated and buried in shallow graves as an urgent priority. In 1998, finally with the help of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a stabilization programme was completed which included securing the roof beams from collapsing.

The New Safe Confinement structure
A Chernobyl Shelter Fund was established in 1997 at the Denver G8 Summit to finance the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP). The plan calls for transforming the site into an ecologically safe condition by stabilising the Sarcophagus followed by construction of a New Safe Confinement (NSC).

Now, according to Igor Gramotkin, Director-General of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, completion of the facility's New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure will not occur before 2013. Design delays have pushed back the structure's expected completion date.

While the original cost estimate for the SIP was US$768 million, the 2006 estimate was US$1.2 billion, which in July 2009 had increased to US$1.6 billion. The SIP is being managed by a consortium of Bechtel,  Battelle, and Electricité de France. The conceptual design for the NSC consists of a movable arch, constructed away from the shelter to avoid high radiation, to be slid over the sarcophagus.

If completed it may be the largest moveable structure ever built. After construction this structure will be the height of a 35 story building. Inside, robotic cranes and, where possible, live workers will then begin the delicate job of prying apart the wreckage and removing the radioactive materials. 


The New Safe Confinement Time schedule

In 1992, the Ukraine Government held an International Competition for proposals to replace the hastily constructed sarcophagus. A pan-European study (the TACIS programme) re-examined the proposals of the top three finalists of the competition. The study selected the British Sliding Arch proposal as the best solution for their further investigations and recommendations.

The structure was originally intended to be completed in 2005, but has since been postponed.

The following schedule was released in June 2003:

  • 12 February 2004 - complete the NSC conceptual design.
  • 13 March 2004 - Government of Ukraine to approve the conceptual design.
  • 13 June 2004 through 13 September 2004 - conduct a tender and sign a contract with the winner to proceed with relevant engineering and construction work.
  • 16 April 2006 through 20 May 2007 - lay foundations for the NSC.
  • 20 February through 29 February 2008 - slide the arch structure in place over the existing Shelter.                                                                                                                         But only on 17 September 2007, it was reported that the project contract was finally signed with French consortium Novarka, but not much has been heard from it since then.



Chernobyl: commemoration and anti-nuclear struggle

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

More than 230 actions in 18 countries from Indonesia to Morocco, are listed on the Chernobyl-Day website, many in France and Italy. It shows that the lecagy of Chernobyl can still be felt and the accident is becoming over time more and more a symbol of a dangerous technology. It is now time to think about actions for next years 25th anniversary of the catastrophe.

To view the list go to but we will pay some attention to anti-nuclear actions in two countries: Germany and Belarus

Germany: 'renaissance' of the movement
Without any doubt, the largest ant-nuclear actions took place in Germany. More than 140.000 people took to the streets on April 24 not only to commemorate the catastrophe of  Chernobyl, but to demand an immediate end to nuclear power. Demonstrators formed a 120-kilometer (75-mile) human chain that stretched from the nuclear power plant in Kruemmel through the city of Hamburg along the Elbe River to the nuclear plant in Brunsbuettel, on the North Sea coast. Police in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein told the AFP news agency that there were "clearly more than 100,000 participants." Organizers estimated the total number at about 120,000. But is was only one of three large actions. In southern Germany, 17-20,000 demonstrators surrounded the reactor of Biblis and in Ahaus some 7,000 protested at the interim radioactive waste storage facility. After the large demonstration in Berlin, last September, when 50,000 people participated just before the general elections, this is a clear signal that large parts of society are objecting the planned Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to revoke a law that would shut down nuclear plants by 2020.

Although it was expetcted that tens of thousands of people would take part in the protests, the numbers exceeded all expectations. Political commentators claiming it is a rebirth of the movement and reminded at the 1970s and 1980s when nuclear power was a central issue in dividing society. Activists say it is not a rebirth of the movement, because they've always been there, but it is definitely a 'renaissance' of the anti-nuclear power movement.

Belarus: Chernobyl and anti-nuclear struggle
On April 26, the anarchist initiative Antinuclear Resistance held a few actions dedicated to the anniversary of Chernobyl disaster. It is common knowledge that a traditional demonstration "Charnobylski Shlah" is being held on this day organised by different political forces of the country. More than 5 years anarchists represent the most active and (for the last 2 years) the most numerous group of protesters. This year was different. Not only did anarchists not attend the demonstration, but called to boycott it and hold other antinuclear actions. They made their action in front of a movie theater in Minsk, playing samba-rhythms, shouting out anarchist and antinuclear slogans and delivering a speech explaining anarchists position concerning construction of the nuclear reactor. Apart from this, the actioners distributed leaflets, attracted attention by flags and fusees.

During this picket a small group of activists attended the traditional Charnobylski Shlah to distribute other leaflets named "Why are anarchists absent from Charnobylski Shlah?" Three main reasons were listed:

  1. this year the authorities made a fence with metals detector points, seaching and filming everyone who entered the place of the demo.
  2. The demonstration is losing its protesting character becoming rather a mournful event. Most of the people there don't care about the new power plant, they only want to commemorate the Chernobyl victims, which is stupid. Some of the official organisers even claimed that they will give anarchists and gays to the police as instigators and wanted to ban anarchist speeches and drum music during the event.
  3. Presence of the far-right and clear fascists on the latest demonstrations without any protest from other "liberals". It's become clear that the opposition would tolerate everyone to have more mass actions and will take the side of those if anarchists try to attack them. Anarchists will never march peacefully with the fascists, even if that prevents them from expressing our view in public.

For these reasons anarchist groups don't see a point in participating in "Charnobylski Shlah" this year (and maybe any more).

Sources: / German press reports, 24 & 24 April 2010 / Email: Anarchist initiative Antinuclear Resistance, 27 April 2010
Contact in Belarus: antiatombel[at]