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

June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail