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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: 

No Nukes Asia Forum in Taiwan
Activist from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and India wil hold their (almost) annual meeting in Taipei, from September 18- 22.

NNAF began in 1993 and unites Asian based antinuclear organizations. The forum always combines education and exchange with direct action and media outreach. This year the international delegation will travel to Taiwan’s nuclear power station no. 1 and 2 at the northeast coast and nuclear power plant no. 3 at the southeast coast. At the University of the capital Taipei a two-day program will discuss the danger of  nuclear power plants in earthquake prone areas, the debate on climate change and the role of nuclear power and the situation in the different countries.
Contact and more information:

Doctors against uranium.
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) on September 1 adopted a resolution at its International Council meeting in Basel, Switzerland, calling for a ban on uranium mining and the production of yellowcake (uranium oxide). The resolution described both processes as “irresponsible” and “a grave threat to health and to the environment”.
The resolution also describes uranium mining and yellowcake production as a “violation of human rights”. The right to life, liberty and security, to physical integrity, self-determination, the protection of human dignity, the right to clean water are just some of the rights that are afflicted by uranium mining and its processes, say the doctors. IPPNW calls for appropriate measures to ban uranium mining worldwide
Although many national branches of the IPPNW network have been campaigning against uranium mining and nuclear energy for many years already it is seen as a major breakthrough that now the international federation has taken a firm position and has committed itself to support campaigns against uranium mining.
Source and contact: IPPNW, Anne Tritschler, Tel.: +49 (0) 30-698074-14,

Iran: Busher reactor finished after 36 years!
On August 21, Russia started loading fuel into the reactor at Iran's first nuclear power station Bushehr. The Bushehr plant is on the Gulf coast of southwest Iran. It is Iran's first nuclear power plant. Construction of two pressurized water nuclear reactors began in 1974 with the help of German contractor Siemens and French scientists. The Bushehr I reactor was 85 percent complete and the Bushehr II reactor was partially complete prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Shah. The project was halted and the site was then damaged during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, and equipment was looted.

The project was later revived with Russian help but construction ran into repeated delays blamed by Russia on problems with receiving payment from Iran. Current plans are for one reactor to be launched. Bushehr will have an operating capacity of 1,000 MW.
Reuters, 21 August 2010

Sudan: 4 reactors in 2030.
Well, if you think you read it all…. Sudan plans to build a four-reactor nuclear power plant to "fill a gap in the energy needs" of Africa's largest country by 2030, Mohamed Ahmed Hassan el-Tayeb, head of Sudan's atomic energy agency, said on August 24. He also said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would help to build a research reactor and power plant for Sudan by providing expert training for staff, fellowships and feasibility studies.

He said Sudan was hoping for "a medium size four-unit power plant with each reactor producing between 300-600 MW per year". El-Tayeb said bidding for equipment and technology could begin in five years time and a further 10 years for construction of the plant, so it could be completed by 2030, costing between US$3-6 billion.

Currently 20% of the population has access to electricity.
Reuters, 24 August 2010

Nuclear power: Goal or means?
Vice President Boediono of Indonesia said on August 20, that a proposal to build a nuclear power plant in Indonesia was still on the table although he could not say when or where it may be built. “We will continue trying. Someday, somewhere we will build the nuclear power plant.”

More often than not it seems that nuclear power is rather a goal than a means to boil water (because that’s all there is to it, or not…?).
Jakarta Post, 20 August 2010

Radioactive boars on the rise in Germany.
Almost a quarter century after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Ukraine, its fallout is still a hot topic in some German regions, where thousands of boars shot by hunters still turn up with excessive levels of radioactivity and considered potentially dangerous for consumption. In fact, the numbers are higher than ever before. The total compensation the German government paid last year for the discarded contaminated meat shot up to a record sum of  425,000 euro (US$558,000), from only about 25,000 euro ten years ago, according to the Federal Environment Ministry in Berlin. "The reason is that there are more and more boars in Germany, and more are being shot and hunted, that is why more contaminated meat turns up," spokesman Thomas Hagbeck told The Associated Press. Boars are among the species most susceptible to long-term consequences of the nuclear catastrophe 24 years ago. Unlike other wild game, boars often feed on mushrooms and truffles which tend to store radioactivity and they plow through the contaminated soil with their snouts, experts say.

However, boars are actually the beneficiaries of another ecological crisis — climate change. Central Europe is turning into a land of plenty for the animals, as warmer weather causes beech and oak trees to overproduce seeds and farmers to grow more crops the boars like to feast on such as corn or rape, said Torsten Reinwald of the German Hunting Federation.

"The impact of the Chernobyl fallout in Germany, in general, has decreased," said Florian Emrich, spokesman of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection. For example, radiation has ceased to be a problem on fields cultivated with commercial crops, he said. But forest soil in specific regions that were hit hardest after Chernobyl — parts of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg in southern Germany — still harbors high amounts of radioactive Cesium-137 which has a half life of roughly 30 years, Emrich said. In fact, the Cesium from the Chernobyl fallout is moving further into the ground and has now reached exactly the layer where the boars' favorite truffles grow. Therefore, the season for such truffles — a variety not eaten by humans — usually means a rising number of radioactive boars.
AP, 18 August 2010

Russian reactor too expensive for Belarus?
Alyaksandr Lukashenko said that Belarus might abandon plans to have its nuclear power plant project built by Russia and financed with a Russian loan, according to BelaPAN. The Belarusian leader said that the signing of an interstate agreement on the project had been postponed once again, and that the government did not reject the possibility of the plant being built by a contractor other than Russia s Atomstroiexport. Belarus chose Russia on the basis of "what they promised to us," Mr. Lukashenko noted. "They urgently demanded from us that they build this plant and then they started putting pressure on us for, I believe, purely subjective reasons. You know what the reasons are," he said.

Russia wanted Belarus to pay "in fact a double price," but Minsk refused, saying that there had been an agreement that the price would be "the same as in Russia," he said, adding that Belarus had agreed to pay the price at which the last nuclear power plant was built in Russia., 16 August 2010

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The IPPNW World Congress in Basel, Switzerland,  (August 25 – August 30, 2010) to also talk about nuclear power.
Nuclear weapons and disarmament are still hitting media headlines. The signing of the new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was an important step towards the reduction of global nuclear arsenals. European governments are pushing for a withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from European NATO member countries. Leading politicians of several countries are calling for active and far-reaching reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons in the interests of world security. It was hoped for that the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May in New York would bring further concrete measures. And although this did not happen the ‘Atomic Scientists’ decided to set back the Doomsday Clock one minute – from 5 minutes to 6 minutes to midnight.

On the other hand, some countries want to keep the prestige of being a nuclear power and some are becoming greatly interested in acquiring such power. Thousands of nuclear missiles still exist – decades after the end of the Cold War – on high alert, ready to be launched at a moment’s notice. Added to this, the interest of powerful companies in the military-industrial complex to continue building nuclear missiles is strongly influential. These companies put forward persuasive arguments for retaining the status quo through the use of intense political lobbying.

“Global Zero” is the desire of many millions of people and is also the vision of  the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Join them in sharing this vision in August at the 19th IPPNW World Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Traditionally the IPPNW only talks about nuclear weapons. This time their pre-conference programme also touches upon the issue of nuclear energy. Take this opportunity to discuss with them the important role ”civil” nuclear energy plays in increasing proliferation risks.
Check the programme at

Italy: Regions have no say in siting nuclear reactors.
On June 30, Italy's highest court rejected an appeal by 10 Italian regions to have a say on the location of any nuclear power plants built.

Last July, the right wing majority in the Parliament adopted a law that gives extra power to the government in order to choose sites for new nuclear plants and provides the use of military forces to make its realization possible. On September 30, with the support of environmental organizations, 10 of 20 regions contested that law asking the intervention of the Constitutional Court. According to the regions the law violates the Italian Constitution by giving the government the power to decide without the consensus of local institutions. The June 30 ruling by the Constitutional Court effectively means the central government will have the final say on the site of the plants.

Nuclear power was abandoned in Italy nearly 25 years ago after a referendum in 1987. Enel and France's EDF would like to start building four nuclear power stations in Italy in 2013. Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy and local authorities had demanded a say in their approval.
Reuters, 23 June 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 702

After N-Korean 'nuclear breakthrough': xenon levels, eight times higher. Abnormal radiation was detected near the inter-Korean border days after North Korea claimed to have achieved a nuclear technology breakthrough, South Korea's Science Ministry said June 21. It failed to find the cause of the radiation but ruled out a possible underground nuclear test by North Korea, because there is no evidence of a strong earthquake that must follow an atomic explosion.

On May 12, North Korea claimed its scientists succeeded in creating a nuclear fusion reaction - a technology also necessary to manufacture a hydrogen bomb. South Korean experts doubted the North actually made such a breakthrough. On May 15, however, the atmospheric concentration of xenon - an inert gas released after a nuclear explosion or radioactive leakage from a nuclear power plant - on the South Korean side of the inter-Korean border was found to be eight times higher than normal.

Nuclear fusion as cause for the Xenon-measurement is very unlikely (to say the least). To start with: the alledged fusion breakthrough supposedly took place in mid-April and the half-lives of its radioisotopes are counted in hours or days. So a measurement almost a month  later is very unlike. But most important: a fusion reaction doesn’t produce fission products. Radioactive Xe isotopes, besides from a weapons test, can also be produced from operating a fission reactor with cracked fuel rods or from fission occurring in cooling water from released fuel. So possibly the higher levels could have been from built up Xe within a reactor containment vessel from an accident. A Science Ministry official said the wind was blowing from north to south when the xenon was detected and said it could have come from Russia or China, not necessarily from North Korea.
The Associated Press, 21 June 2010 /, 21 June 2010

Nuclear projects in Baltic Region.
On June 16, antinuclear activists with protest banners greeted IAEA head Y.Amano and  Lithuanian Prime Minister A. Kubilius during their participation in the Roundtable discussion on "Regional nuclear energy projects" in Vilnius, Lithuania. Activists called to cancel development of the three nuclear energy projects in the Baltic region and to switch investments and cooperation to renewables and energy efficiency. Ostrovec nuclear power plant (Belarus), Baltic npp (Russia, Kaliningrad region) and the Visaginas nuclear power plant (Lithuania) are  primary targets for the criticism of environmentalists from Lithuania, Belarus and Russia. All these planned nuclear power plants face similar problems: safety, environmental, radioactive waste management, fake plans for investment.Later activists took part in the roundtable discussion as observers. Main issue there was that each country was convincing others how important their nuclear project is for the country and how good for the region. Lithuania was raising doubts about various aspects of Belarussian and Kaliningrad nuclear projects, promoting its own as "more transparent and safer".
Email: Lina Vainius, 17 June 2010

New name for GNEP: INFEC.
The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Steering Group met in Accra, Ghana on June 16-17, 2010 and approved unanimously several transformative changes. This to "reflect global developments that have occurred since the Partnership was established in 2007".  The transformation includes a new name - the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (INFEC)-- and the establishment of a new Statement of Mission. One of the main points of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), announced by the United States in 2004, was to limit spread of enrichment (as well as reprocessing) technology. At the core of the strategy was the idea that countries that don't have fuel cycle facilities would refrain from acquiring them and accept the status of "fuel customers". Fuel services would then be provided by "fuel suppliers", who already have the necessary technology. There were doubts about the viability of this strategy from the very beginning.

The IFNEC acronym brings back echoes of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation (INFCE) program under the IAEA in the late 1970s. It too was set up on the initiative of the USA and worked on the "urgent need to meet the world's energy requirements," to make nuclear energy more widely available and "to minimize the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation without jeopardizing energy supplies or the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes" all with special attention for the needs of developing countries. One interesting difference was the inclusion of Iran as co-chair of INFCE's group on uranium enrichment availability.

Last year in June, the US. Department of Energy (DoE) decided to cancel the GNEP programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) because it is no longer pursuing domestic commercial reprocessing, which was the primary focus of the prior administration's domestic GNEP program. That decision followed a change in government policy on commercial reprocessing since president Obama took over from Bush.

Jordan formally announced that it will host the next meeting of the International Framework's Executive Committee in the fall of 2010. Some 25 countries have joined the GNEP.
Press release US. Department of Energy, 18 June 2010 / World Nuclear News, 21 June 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 691, 16 July 2009

China bends international rules to sell reactors to Pakistan.
China has agreed to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan. Under the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s (NSG) guidelines, countries other than China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (the five recognized nuclear weapon states) are not eligible to receive nuclear exports from NSG members unless they agree to inspections known as full-scope safeguards. Pakistan currently does not open all of its nuclear facilities to international inspections.

The US government “has reiterated to the Chinese government that the United States expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations.” Given that the US has signed a major nuclear deal with India – like Pakistan, a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – the move smacks of hypocrisy. The US pushed the IAEA into conceding to country-specific safeguards for India’s reactors, then lobbied for country-specific concessions for India from the NSG. As a result, lucrative nuclear contracts are being signed by India and countries like France, Russia and the UK. As such, when experts cite the violation of the NPT’s international guidelines by the Pakistan-China civilian nuclear deal, the IAEA and NSG concessions to India give this posturing little credibility.

(More on the deal and its consequences: Nuclear Monitor 709, 12 May 2010: "China: US-India deal justification for selling reactors to Pakistan")
The Sunflower (eNewsletter of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation), issue 156, July 2010.

Brazil: Angra 3 To Cost US$ 550 million more.
The overall budget for the construction of the Angra 3 nuclear power plant in Brazil will be around R$ 9.9 billion (US$ 5.06 billion or 4.03 billion euro), according to the manager of Planning and Budgeting of Eletronuclear, Roberto Travassos. The increase of more than R$ 1 billion (US$ 550 million or 438 million euro) over the previous estimate (R$ 8.77 billion/ US$ 4.875 billion), is the result of contract  revisions and monetary correction of former estimates.
Global Energy (Brazil), 1 July 2010

Outgoing UN Inspector: dubious role on Iran.
Olli Heinonen, the Finnish nuclear engineer who resigned July 1, after five years as deputy director for safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was the driving force in turning that agency into a mechanism to support U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran. Heinonen was instrumental in making a collection of intelligence documents showing a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research program the central focus of the IAEA’s work on Iran. The result was to shift opinion among Western publics to the view that Iran had been pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program. But his embrace of the intelligence documents provoked a fierce political struggle within the Secretariat of the IAEA, because other officials believed the documents were fraudulent.

Heinonen took over the Safeguards Department in July 2005 – the same month that the George W. Bush administration first briefed top IAEA officials on the intelligence collection. The documents portrayed a purported nuclear weapons research program, originally called the "Green Salt" project, that included efforts to redesign the nosecone of the Shahab-3 missile, high explosives apparently for the purpose of triggering a nuclear weapon and designs for a uranium conversion facility. Later the IAEA referred to the purported Iranian activities simply as the "alleged studies." The Bush administration was pushing the IAEA to use the documents to accuse Iran of having had a covert nuclear weapons program The administration was determined to ensure that the IAEA Governing Board would support referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for action on sanctions, as part of a larger strategy to force Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program.

Long-time IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei and other officials involved in investigating and reporting on Iran’s nuclear program were immediately skeptical about the authenticity of the documents. According to two Israeli authors, Yossi Melman and Meir Javadanfar, several IAEA officials told them in interviews in 2005 and 2006 that senior officials of the agency believed the documents had been "fabricated by a Western intelligence organizations." Heinonen, on the other hand, supported the strategy of exploiting the documents to put Iran on the defensive. His approach was not to claim that the documents’ authenticity had been proven but to shift the burden of proof to Iran, demanding that it provide concrete evidence that it had not carried out the activities portrayed in the documents.
Gareth Porter at, 2 July 2010

U.K.: Waste costs 'not acceptable' for industry.
The nuclear industry has been heavily lobbying to change proposed charges for managing wastes from nuclear reactors. Papers released under Freedom of Information show how the French company EDF pressed the previous government to change the proposed 'high fixed cost' for managing wastes and the timetable for handing the management of wastes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The previous government made significant changes to the way it initially proposed charging companies for managing their wastes. It also agreed that responsibility for wastes should pass to the NDA after 60 years instead of the original 110 years. This would reduce the financial liabilities and costs for companies.

EDF told the government the original proposals were "non-acceptable" and made it uneconomic to develop new reactors.
N-Base Briefing 665, 9 June 2010