April: At an international conference, "Fifteen Years After the Chernobyl Accident - Lessons Learned" in Kiev, experts, UN organizations and the IAEA reach a minimal consensus in the evaluation of health effects. A direct link between the accident and thyroid cancer among children is recognized internation-ally. Indications for other consequences are being observed, however with limited resources.
4-8 June: International Sci-entific Conference on “Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident: Results of 15-Year Follow-Up Studies” in Kiev, Ukraine. One of the many findings: Liquidators' state of health worsened consi-derably since the accident, high levels of general somatic diseases, morbidity increased more than 17 times between 1991 and 2000.
18 June: After being arres-ted in July 1999, Professor Bandazhevsky was brought to trial in Gomel in February 2001. On June 18, 2001, the Military Board of the Belaru-sian Supreme Court convic-ted him and sentenced him to eight years’ imprisonment. His property was confiscated, and he is prohibited from exercising his political rights and assuming any managerial position for five years fol-lowing his release. October: After visiting the affected regions, a delegation of national and international experts sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) calls for a new approach in aid programs. They recommend a develop-mental approach, shifting the emphasis from "help for vic-tims" towards helping people to help themselves.
6 February: The United Nations calls for an entirely new approach to helping millions of people impacted by the Chernobyl accident, saying that 16 years after the incident those affected remain in a state of “chronic dependency,” with few opportunities and little control over their destinies. The report “The Human Conse-quences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident” notes that some 7 million people are in some way or another recipients of state welfare connected with Chernobyl.
Human consequences of the Chernobyl accident.
The United Nations calls for an entirely new approach to hel-ping millions of people impacted by the Chernobyl accident, saying that 16 years after the incident those affected remain in a state of “chronic dependency,” with few opportunities and little control over their destinies. The UN warns that populations in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine would continue to experience general decline unless significant new measures are adopted to address health, the environment and unemploy-ment. The study emphasizes the need for the recovery phase to focus attention on two broad groups:
The first group includes some 100,000 to 200,000 people caught in the downward spiral. These are people who live in severely contaminated areas; people who have been resettled but remain unemployed; and those whose health remains most directly threatened, including victims of thyroid cancer. Some 2,000 people have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and the report states that as many as 8,000 to 10,000 additional cases are expected to develop over the coming years. The report states that this group of up to 200,000 people, spread across all three countries, is “at the core of the cluster of problems created by Chernobyl,” and focusing on their needs and hel-ping them take control of their futures must be a priority.
The second group identified for priority action includes those whose lives have been directly and significantly affected but who are already in a position to support themselves. This group has found employment, but still must be reintegrated into society as a whole so that their ongoing needs are addressed through the mainstream provision of services using criteria applicable to other members of society. This group includes hundreds of thousands of individuals.
The report also identifies a third group, encompassing millions of people, who have been indirectly impacted by the stigma, uncertainty and fatalism that have become associated with Chernobyl. This group, too, needs to be aided through clearer information and more open and continuous disclosures about the evolving situation in the region, the report argues. The report notes that some 7 million people are in some way or another recipients of state welfare connected with Chernobyl. The study, carried out by an international panel of experts in July-August 2001, was commissioned by the UNDP and the UNICEF, and was supported by the WHO and the OCHA (the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).
April: secret KGB documents released in Ukraine show that there were problems with the Chernobyl nuclear plant. One 1984 document notes deficiencies in the third and fourth block, and also of poor quality of some equipment sent from Yugoslav companies.
27 June: The International Chernobyl Research and Informa-tion Network (ICRIN) is launched by the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl in Geneva. The objective of the international network is to make Chernobyl research results systema-tically accessible both to the affected population and to the authorities and decision-makers, and also to identify gaps in existing research findings. The www.Chernobyl.info web-site serves as an infor-mation platform for ICRIN members and the public at large. The activities and addresses of scientific institutions and organizati-ons can be accessed in a database on the website.
August: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said it would give Ukraine US$ 85 million this year to cover the gaping hole in reactor 4. The construc-tion of the new shelter will start in 2004.
27 April: In New York, over 600 invited guests from numerous coun-tries attended the first public viewing of the film "Chernobyl Heart" since it won this year's Academy Award for the best docu-mentary two months ago. November: Scientific evidence that fallout from Chernobyl may have raised cancer rates in western Europe may have emerged. Researchers in Sweden showed a statistically relevant correlation between the degree of fallout and an observed rise in the number of total cancer cases.
April: European Commission confirms that restrictions in the UK on the transport, sale and slaughtering of sheep remain in force ‘in numerous cattle breeding enterprises especially in the North of Wales” In Ireland and certain Scandinavian regions, monitoring is also still conducted.
April: In certain game, wild grown berries and mushrooms and in carnivorous fish (from regions in Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland) the levels of Caesium-137 still vastly exceed normal levels. In the regions worst hit by the fall-out from Chernobyl, contamination levels will remain high and relatively unchanged for the next deca-des, the EC believes.
12 May: At a pledging meeting in London the European Commission announced an additional €49 million to the international Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF). A total of about US$200 million are donated at the donor meeting. The project is estimated to cost US$1,091 million and is planned to be completed by 2009.
4 August: Alpha-radiation from plutonium-241 decay pro-ducts is increasing. Pu-241 emits Beta-radiation and has a half-life of only 14.4 years. It decays in Americium-241which emits alpha-radiation and has a half life 432.2 years. Result: in Belarus alpha-radiation is currently three-times as high as in 1986 and in the year 2276 the level will still be twice as high as shortly after the 1986 disaster. The zone’s americium-241 will reach its maximum level in 2059. Am-241’s alpha radia-tion is even more powerful than plutonium’s, and it decays to neptunium-237, which also decays by way of an energetic alpha particle and has a half-life of more than 2 million years. However, the vast majority of radiation exposure is from beta-emitting caesium-137 which is declining with a half-life of about 30 years.
5 August: As a result of amnesties, Professor Bandazhevs-ky's eight-year prison sentence was reduced to seven years in July 2002 and, in early 2004, his sentence was reduced to six years. According to the Belarusian government, Articles 90 and 91 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus stipulate that Professor Bandazhevsky's sentence could be reduced when he had served half of the term of the prison sentence handed down by the court, and conditional early re-lease (“parole”) reportedly was possible after two thirds of the sentence had been served, on January 6, 2005. But it was not until August 5, 2005, under an amnesty declared by President Lukashenka to celebrate the 60th anniversary of World War II, that Professor Bandazhevsky was released.
30 August: The latest radiation measurements in the area immediately surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant indicate that the levels of radioactive contamination are fal-ling. Ukraine’s authorities are therefore opening some of the evacuation zone of 2,800 square kilometers, from where all inhabitants were relocated after the 1986 nuclear accident, for partial resettlement. However, those who return will lose the welfare benefits they have been entitled to so far.
31 August: The WHO completes its working draft Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programs Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group "Health". From this report and others in this series, IAEA cre-ates Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-economic Impacts and Recommendations to the Govern-ments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine [date of release: 5 September 2005]. Again the work of the WHO is overshadowed by the so-called WHA 12.40, which is the agreement between WHO and IAEA that allows either to keep information from the other, which would hurt their respective mandates. Since it is the IAEA's mandate "to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world", it is doubtful that IAEA could conduct unbiased health studies on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion. In fact, IAEA has no mandate to conduct health studies at all.
September: Ukrainian authorities retrieve radioactive fuel believed to be stolen from Chernobyl. A plastic bag, contai-ning 14 pieces of fuel, where fond during a routine search of the reactors perimeter. The material is believed to be stolen in 1995 but left in the plant when additional security measures to detect radiation were installed after the theft in 1995
5 September: According to the IAEA’s press release Cherno-byl: The True Scale of the Accident, introducing the contro-versial report “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts” a total of up to four thousand people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl accident. And “as of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster”.
IAEA study “rubbish”
Chernobyl relief organizations and many radiation scien-tists dispute and criticize the data and figures in the re-port, calling them “poor”, “quite inappropriate” or simply “rubbish”. The report is accused of playing down the true dimension of the catastrophe. Some statements of the study are challenged as “demonstrably false”. Experts are also concerned that the UN’s IAEA, may have had “too great an influence” on the study.
Dr. Rosalie Bertell, a well known expert, has made many comments on the IAEA’s press release. One of these comments is on the following quote: “Approximately 1000 on-site reactor staff and emergency workers were heavily exposed to high-level radiation on the first day of the accident; among the more than 200,000 emergency and recovery operation workers exposed during the pe-riod from 1986-1987, an estimated 2200 radiation-caused deaths can be expected during their lifetime”. Bertell: “Radiation-caused deaths is a loaded statement. It assu-mes that only death is considered to be detrimental, and eliminates the consideration of all severe and debilitating morbidity. Moreover, these scientists, trained by the documents released by International Commission on Ra-diological Protection (ICRP) over the last fifty years, have accepted without question that the only health effects “of concern” attributable to radiation are deaths from cancer. Non-fatal cancers are basically of no concern. These are administrative decisions and not science.[..]”
Dr. Angelica Claussen from the German branch of the IPPNW remarks: “Studies conducted for the International Chernobyl Project of the IAEA took place from January 1990 to the end of February 1991. In 1990 alone the rate of new cases of thyroid cancer in children in Belarus was 30 times higher than the 10 year average.” The IAEA report states however: “The official data that were exa-mined did not indicate a marked increase in the incidence of leukemia or cancers. (..)
Reported adverse health effects attributed to radiation were not substantiated either by those local studies that were adequately performed or by the studies under the Project.. (..) The children who were examined were found to be generally healthy. (..).” Later independent research by the BBC has proved that the IAEA and its international commission of experts were already in possession of all of the relevant facts at the time of the conference and the presentation of the report, including the histopathological evidence for a marked increase in the rate of thyroid can-cers. It is alarming to ascertain that this deliberate decep-tion of the general public was practiced by such experts as Professor Mettler (Director of the medical expert group of the International Chernobyl Project) and other experts from the EU and Japan.
November: Eleven farms, covering 11,300 hectares in Scot-land, are still so contaminated by the Chernobyl accident that their sheep are considered unsafe to eat.
15 December: In a official statement Ukraine president Yush-chenko says no foreign fuel will be stored at Chernobyl. A week earlier, he stated that the government was studying the possibility of storing foreign nuclear fuel at Chernobyl. After a loud public outcry he apparently discarded the idea.
16 December: France: The SCPRI (Central Service for Protection against Radioactive Rays) knew of high levels of contamination in Corsica and southeastern France but kept the information under wraps. The study was commissioned by a magistrate who since 2001 has been examining allegati-ons that the atomic cloud from Chernobyl caused a surge in cases of thyroid cancer in parts of France. According to the report the SCPRI issued imprecise maps that concealed high levels of fallout in certain areas.
January: The EBRD stated the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) had reached a crucial point, with the awarding of the contract for the NSC (New Safe Confinement) expected within the next few months. The EBRD has said completion of the main construction projects is scheduled for 2008 or 2009. Stabilization work on the sarcophagus has begun, with two of eight stabilization activities already complete. The aim is to make the sarcophagus stable for 15 years, allowing time for the NSC to be constructed. A winner of a tender was said to be announced on a donor conference on February 14. Howe-ver, there were too many unsolved problems to announce the companies name.
6 April: The New Scientist magazine is quoting two indepen-dent scientists from the UK, Ian Fairlie and David Sumner, who are accusing the IAEA and the WHO of downplaying the impact of the Chernobyl accident. They say that the death toll from cancers caused by Chernobyl will in fact lie some-where between 30,000 and 60,000, up to 15 times as many as officially estimated. Fairlie and Sumner accuse the IAEA/WHO report, released 5 September 2005, of ignoring its own prediction of an extra 5000 cancer deaths in the less conta-minated parts of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and of failing to take account of many thousands more deaths in other coun-tries, where more than half of Chernobyl's fallout ended up. Zhanat Carr, a radiation scientist with the WHO admitted that the deaths were omitted because the report was a “political communication tool”. Fairlie and Sumner's accusations are backed by other experts.
6 April: Also released on this day is the report Health Ef-fects of Chernobyl – 20 Years After the Reactor Disaster by the IPPNW in Germany and the German Society for Radia-tion Protection (GfS). They also belies the claim by the IAEA that less than 50 people died as a result of the accident at Chernobyl. The facts presented by the composers of the report show that the IAEA figures contain serious inconsisten-cies. For instance, the IAEA claim that future fatalities due to cancer and leukemia in the most heavily exposed groups are expected to number 4000 at the most. However, the study by the WHO, that this claim is based on, forecasts 8930 fatali-ties. “And when one then reviews the reference given in WHO report, one arrives at 10,000 to 25,000 additional deaths due to cancer and leukemia”, says Dr. Pflugbeil from the GfS. The IPPNW report documents the catastrophic dimensions of the reactor accident, using scientific studies, expert estimates and official data. Some of them are mentioned here:
- 50,000 to 100,000 liquidators (clean-up workers) died in the years up to 2006. Between 540,000 and 900,000 liquidators have become invalids;
- Congenital defects found in the children of liquidators and people from the contaminated areas could affect future gene-rations to an extent that cannot yet be estimated;
- Infant mortality has risen significantly in several European countries, including Germany, since Chernobyl. The studies at hand estimated the number of fatalities amongst infants in Europe to be about 5000;
- In Bavaria alone, between 1000 and 3000 additional birth defects have been found since Chernobyl. It is feared that in Europe more than 10,000 severe abnormalities could have been radiation induced;
- In Germany, Greece, Scotland and Rumania, there has been a significant increase in cases of leukemia;
18 April: A new Greenpeace report has revealed that the full consequences of the Chernobyl disaster could top a quarter of a million cancer cases and nearly 100,000 fatal cancers. The challenges the UN IAEA Chernobyl Forum report, which predicted 4,000 additional deaths attributable to the accident as a gross simplification of the real breadth of human suffering. The new data, based on Belarus national cancer statis-tics, predicts approximately 270,000 cancers and 93,000 fatal cancer cases caused by Chernobyl. The report also conclu-des that on the basis of demographic data, during the last 15 years, 60,000 people have additionally died in Russia because of the Chernobyl accident, and estimates of the total death toll for the Ukraine and Belarus could reach another 140,000. The report also looks into the ongoing health impacts of Chernobyl and concludes that radiation from the disaster has had a devastating effect on survivors; damaging immune and endocrine systems, leading to accelerated ageing, cardiovascular and blood illnesses, psychological illnesses, chromosomal aberrations and an increase in fetal deformations.
28 October: There are 36 areas of upland Norway where Chernobyl contamination still requires controls on sheep.
According to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority
(NRPA), levels of caesium-137 reached 7 kBq/kg in sheep this year, more than twice the maximum levels in previous years. The discovery of such high levels of radioactivity so long after the Chernobyl accident came as a surprise, a NRPA spokes-man says.
10 November: Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko issues a decree establishing 14 December as an annual holiday called "Liquidators' Day".
30 November: Today is the 20th anniversary of the techni-cal acceptance (licensing) of the sarcophagus, built under extreme conditions and designed to last 30 years, though the Ukrainian Institute for Nuclear Power Plant Safety considers it impossible to define a service life for the facility. Currently about 100 contract workers in addition to 80 plant staff work daily on the sarcophagus. The reinforcement work will consi-derably reduce the risk of the sarcophagus's roof collapsing. The next stage in the Shelter work is erection of a so-called New Safe Confinement. A French-led consortium called Novarka and a group led by CH2M Hill of the US are vying for the job.
21 April: In Science of Superstorms, a BBC2 documentary Russian military pilots describe how they create rain clouds to protect Moscow from radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl disaster. More than 10,000 km2 of Belarus were sacrificed to save the Russian capital from toxic radioactive material.
23 April: A study of birds around Chernobyl suggests that nuclear fallout, rather than the impact of relocation and stress and deteriorating living conditions, as suggested by the IAEA, may be responsible for human birth defects in the region. Ti-mothy Mousseau, at the University of South Carolina, Colum-bia, and his colleagues examined 7700 barn swallows from Chernobyl and compared them with birds from elsewhere. They found that Chernobyl's swallows were more likely to have tumors, misshapen toes and feather deformities than swallows from uncontaminated parts of Europe. "We don't fully understand the consequences of low doses of radiation," says Mousseau. "We should be more concerned about the human population."
2 June: The impact of the Chernobyl disaster is often seen as a problem in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. The medical ef-fects of Chernobyl disaster, however, have spread all around the world. Courier-Life Publications reports on a story of a New York based medical specialist: "There are between 150 and 200 thousand people in the NY metropolitan area who come from the affected region, and the 'cancer rates are going up and up'"
4 June: The incidence of cancer in northern Sweden in-creased following the accident at Chernobyl. This was the finding of a much-debated study from Linköping University in Sweden from 2004. Two studies using different methods has shown a statistically significant increase in the incidence of cancer in northern Sweden, where the fallout of radioactive cesium-137 was at its most intense.
16 August: Swedish children born in the months following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster suffered mental impairment from the radioactive fallout, a study found. The report by economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund from Columbia University, New York, and their Stockholm University colleague Mårten Palme carried out an analysis of more than 560,000 Swed-ish children born between 1983 and 1988. They found that academic performance was generally weaker in all children still in utero at the time of maternal exposure to Chernobyl fallout, and this effect was most pronounced for those fetuses at 8 to 25 weeks post conception. This is the peak period of brain development when cells may be particularly vulnera-ble to being killed by relatively low doses of radiation. The researchers say it appears prenatal exposure to radiation levels previously considered safe was actually damaging to cognitive ability.
17 September: The French-led consortium Novarka signs
a contract to build a new Shelter around the site of Reactor 4 for more than Euro 430 million. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and the French trade minister, Herve Novelli, oversee the signing by the consortium, which includes French builders Bouygues and Vinci. The consortium will build an arch-shaped metal structure 105m tall, 260m wide and 150m long to cover the existing containment structure, which stands over the reactor and radioactive fuel that caused the accident. The new sarcophagus will weigh about 18,000 tons -- more than twice the weight of the Eiffel tower and will res-emble a half-cylinder and slide over the existing sarcophagus. According to official estimates, the reactor still contains about 95% of the original nuclear fuel from the plant. The EBRD is contributing Euro 330 million (about US$460m.) to the project and says it will take about 1,5 years to design the shelter and another four years to build it.
Officials also signed a US$200m contract with the US firm Holtec International to build a storage facility for spent nu-clear fuel from Chernobyl's NPP three other reactors, which kept operating until the station was shut down in 2000.
23 February: Publication of "Anecdotes and empirical re-search in Chernobyl" by researchers from the Royal Society in Biology Letters. The scientists mop the floor with all the stu-dies on the consequences of Chernobyl that has been done so far and have received wide attention by the international media. They state: "Although Chernobyl is perhaps the largest environmental disaster ever, there has been minimal monito-ring of the status of free-living organisms or humans in stark contrast to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where careful monitoring has continued for over 60 years." And asking themselves:
"Why has there been no concerted effort to monitor the long-term effects of Chernobyl on free-living organisms and humans?" Further on: "The official reports by IAEA, WHO and UNDP were narrative renditions of parts of the literature [..]. Scientific enquiry depends on rigorous analysis of data rather than rendition of anecdotal evidence."
5 March: Atomstroyexport has begun work to extend the service life of the Chernobyl protective concrete shelter. This contract envisages the repair of the roof over the confine-ment, installation of protection systems, and the reinforce-ment of supporting beams. The project will buy time for the next stage: the construction of a new confinement, or arc. The project moderator is the International Chernobyl Shelter Fund and is financed by the G8 and European Union coun-tries. The EBRD has already accumulated US$1b. for the project.
April: The English Edition of Le Monde Diplomatique states in a background article: "For 50 years dangerous concentrations of radionuclides have been accumulating in earth, air and water from weapons testing and reactor incidents. Yet serious studies of the effects of radiation on health have been obscu-red - not least by the World Health Organization." The whole article, entitled Chernobyl: the great cover-up, can be found at: [http://mondediplo.com/2008/04/14who]
25 April: The Food Standards Agency Wales reveals that
up to 359 Welsh farms are still operating under restrictions imposed in the wake of Chernobyl, almost 22 years after reactor 4 went into meltdown. Heavy rain washed radioactive material from clouds onto fields. The radiation is absorbed from the soil by plants, which are then eaten by sheep. For the hundreds of Welsh farmers still living with Chernobyl's legacy, the restrictions me an their animals are only allowed to enter the food chain after rigorous safety tests.
26 April: Ukraine pays homage to victims of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, 22 years after the disaster. "The Cher-nobyl catastrophe became planetary and even now continues to take its toll on people's health and the environment," the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Activists from across Russia, Ukraine and Belarus turned out in force in urban centers across the former Soviet republics to hold ceremonies commemorating 22nd anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster and express outrage at Russia's current nuclear plans.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon marks the anniversary by pledging UN assistance for the stricken region's renewal. In a statement to mark the anniversary, he notes that the UN General Assembly has proclaimed 2006-2016 a "decade of recovery and sustai-nable development" for the Chernobyl area.
2 October: Researchers from Case Western Reserve Univer-sity in Cleveland, Ohio, have tracked the Chernobyl fallout to reveal that much more plutonium was found in the Swedish soil at a depth that corresponded with the nuclear explo-sion than that of Poland. They took soil samples in various locations in the two countries, measuring the presence and location of cesium-137, plutonium (239, 240Pu), and lead- 210Pb. Radionuclides occur in soil both from natural proces-ses and as fallout from nuclear testing. The collected soil samples reveal insights based on several conditions, such as how the radionuclides were delivered to the soil, whether from a one-time event like the Chernobyl disaster or from atmospheric bomb testing. As the team examined a range of soil types from the two countries, they found a spike in 239, 240Pu in Sweden's soil at a depth that coincides with the Chernobyl disaster, yet no similar blip in Poland's soil. Mete-orological research showed that it rained in Sweden while the radioactive cloud was over that country. Leeched of much of its radionuclides, much less plutonium fell on Poland when the cloud later crossed over its borders.
30 January: President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko signs the law on the government program for decommissioning of the Chernobyl NPP, and transformation of the Shelter confi-nement facility into a safer object. The law, coming into force on January 1, 2010, says the nuclear plant will be finally shut down by 2065. The decommissioning will take four phases. The nuclear fuel rods will be removed in 2010-2013 and the reactor systems will be put in dead storage in 2013-2022. After a cool down of the reactor systems in 2022-2045, the systems will be demounted in 2045-2065 concurrently with decontamination of the nuclear power plant's site.
January: 'Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment' written by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko is published by the New York Academy of Sciences. The book is in contrast to findings by the WHO, IAEA and United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) who based their findings on some 300 western research papers, and who found little of concern about the fallout from Chernobyl.
While the most apparent human and environmental damage occurred, and continues to occur, in the Ukraine, Belarus and European Russia, more than 50 percent of the total radioac-tivity spread across the entire northern hemisphere, potentially contaminating some 400 million people. Based on 5000 published articles and studies by multiple researchers and observers, mostly available only in Slavic languages and not available to those outside of the former Soviet Union or Eastern bloc countries, the authors estimated that by 2004, some 985,000 deaths worldwide had been caused by the disaster. All life systems that were studied – humans, voles, livestock, birds, fish, plants, mushrooms, bacteria, viruses, etc., with few exceptions, were changed by radioactive fallout, many irreversibly. Increased cancer incidence is not the only observed adverse effect from the Chernobyl fallout – noted also are birth defects, pregnancy losses, accelerated aging, brain damage, heart, endocrine, kidney, gastrointestinal and lung diseases, and cataracts among the young. Children have been most seriously affected – before the radioactive Chernobyl releases, 80% of children were deemed healthy, now in some areas, only 20% of children are considered healthy. Many have poor development, learning disabilities, and endocrine abnormalities.
September: Clearance of the assembly site for the New Safe Confinement (NSC) right next to the shelter of Unit 4 and excavation work for the foundations have been completed. Pilling for the foundations and the lifting cranes started. Funds for the construction of the NSC are still lacking. The completion of the Shelter Implementation Plan, of which the NSC represents about two thirds of total costs, requires an additional 600 million euro, with current overall cost estimates about 1.6 billion euro. So, despite all positive reports on financial contributions and donor-countries, fact is that only 60% of the necessary funds have been collected. A 'pledging event' will take place in Kiev in April to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the accident.
January: Ukraine legalizes tourist tours to Chernobyl and Pripyat. Visitors have to sign a waiver, exempting the tour operator from all responsibility in the event that they later suffer radiationrelated health problems. Driven round at breakneck speed, and told not to touch any of the irradiated vegetation or metal structures, "tourists" are invited to briefly inspect the stricken number four reactor as the Geiger counter, which guides carry, clicks ever higher. The most arresting "attraction" is not the ruined plant, however, but nearby Pripyat. Visitors can walk through the debris-strewn corridors of its Palace of Culture, admire its crumbling Olympic-sized swimming pool, and wander through the empty classrooms of one of its biggest schools.
4 February: Birds living around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident have 5% smaller brains, an effect directly linked to lingering background radiation. The finding comes from a study of 550 birds belonging to 48 different species living in the region. Evidence for developmental errors in the nervous systems of people exposed to radiation is widespread, including reduced head size and brain damage. Low levels of ionizing radiation cause changes in both central and autonomous nervous systems and can cause radiogenic encephalopathy. Electroencephalographic studies revealed changes in brain structure and cognitive disorders. However, psychological effects of radiation from Chernobyl have recently been attributed to post-traumatic stress rather than developmental errors, and increased levels of neural tube defects in contaminated areas may be ascribed to lowdose radiation, folate deficiencies or prenatal alcohol teratogenesis. Surprisingly, studies of high school performance and cognitive abilities among children from contaminated areas in Scandinavia that were in utero during the Chernobyl disaster show reductions in high school attendance, have lower exam results and reduced IQ scores compared to control groups. These cognitive effects are assumed to be due to developmental errors in neural tissue caused by radiation during early pregnancy.