FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Chernobyl at 27

by JOSEPH J. MANGANO and Dr. JANETTE D. SHERMAN, MD

The 27th anniversary of the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl reminds us of both a sad legacy and a positive impact on the future.

The bad news came first.  Chernobyl stunned many with the first total core meltdown of a nuclear reactor.  A massive amount of deadly radiation encircled the northern hemisphere, affecting three billion people, and entered human bodies through breathing and the food chain.  Some of the 100-plus radioactive chemicals from Chernobyl last for hundreds and thousands of years.

How many did Chernobyl harm?  Before scientific studies could be done, skeptics commonly used the number 31 – the number of rescue workers extinguishing toxic fires who absorbed a very high radiation dose and died in a matter of days.

Beginning just six years after the 1986 meltdown, medical journal articles began to show rising numbers of
madsciencepeople with certain diseases near Chernobyl.  The first of these was children with thyroid cancer.  Officials at a 2005 meeting in Vienna estimated 9,000 persons worldwide had developed cancer from the meltdown.  But many anecdotes and studies had piled up, suggesting the real number was much greater.

In 2009, the New York Academy of Sciences published a book by a trio of Russian researchers, headed by Alexei Yablokov; one of us (JDS) edited the book.  Yablokov’s team gathered an incredible 5,000 reports and studies.  Many were written in Slavic languages and had never been seen by the public.  The book documented high levels of disease in many organs of the body, even beyond the former Soviet Union.  The Yablokov team estimated
985,000 persons died worldwide, a number that has risen since.

Government and industry leaders in the nuclear field assured the world that the lesson of Chernobyl had been learned, and that another full core meltdown would never occur.  But on March 11, 2011 came the tragedy at Fukushima, releasing enormous amounts of radioactivity from not just one, but three reactor cores, and a pool storing nuclear waste.  Again, the radioactivity circled the globe.  Estimates of eventual casualties are in the many thousands.

In an odd way, Fukushima triggered the positive impact of Chernobyl.  The two disasters are a major reason why few new nuclear reactors are being built, and why existing units are now closing.  All but two (2) of 50 Japanese reactors remain shut.  Germany closed six (6) of its units permanently and its government pledged to close the others by 2022.  Swiss officials made a similar vow.

In the U.S., most plans to build dozens of new reactors have been scrapped or postponed.   The nation’s first two reactor closings since 1998 occurred this year.  More shut downs will follow, say nuclear executives who assert that nuclear power costs more to produce than from natural gas or wind.  Reactors cost more largely due to greater dangers that require more time for construction, more staff to operate, more security measures, more regulations to comply with, and huge amounts to secure after shut down.

If Chernobyl harmed many people, it may also eventually save many lives by speeding the shut down of reactors.  Fewer meltdowns would mean fewer casualties.  But ending routine releases of radioactivity into the environment would also reduce the count.  Studies have found that in local areas after reactor closing, fewer infants die, fewer children develop cancer, and eventually fewer adults develop cancer.  Chernobyl left a tragic impact, but eventual outcomes will be positive ones.

Joseph J. Mangano MPH MBA is Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project. He is the author of Mad Science: the Nuclear Power Experiment (OR Books, 2012).

Janette D. Sherman MD is an internist and toxicologist, and editor of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment. 

Joseph Mangano, MPH MBA, is the author of Mad Science (pub. 2012) as well and many articles on the effects of nuclear power. He is an epidemiologist, and Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project and can be reached at:  (www.radiation.org). Janette D. Sherman, M. D. is the author of Life’s Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer and Chemical Exposure and Disease, and is a specialist in internal medicine and toxicology. She edited the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature, written by A. V. Yablokov, V. B., Nesterenko and A. V. Nesterenko, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009.  Her primary interest is the prevention of illness through public education.  She can be reached at:  toxdoc.js@verizon.netand www.janettesherman.com

Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail