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Chernobyl’s Million Dead

It’s been 24 years since the catastrophic explosion and fire occurred at Chernobyl in the Ukraine. The accident required nearly a million emergency responders and cleanup workers. According to a recent report published by the New York Academy of Medicine nearly one million people around the world have died from Chernobyl fallout.

Now we are finding that threats to human health and the environment from the radioactive fallout of this accident that blanketed Europe (and the rest of the world to a lesser extent) will persist for a very long time. There is an exclusionary zone near the reactor, roughly the size of Rhode Island (1000sq kilometers), which because of high levels of contamination,people are ostensibly not allowed to live there for centuries to come. There are also “hot spots” through out Russia, Poland Greece, Germany, Italy, UK, France, and Scandinavia where contaminated live stock and other foodstuff continue to be removed from human consumption.

My friends tell me that a growing number of Ukrainians are immigrating to Youngstown, OH ( where I grew up),Cleveland, Chicago, and other Ukrainian-American enclaves because of Chernobyl contamination threats.

Here are a few recent examples:

A fast-growing number of wild boars in Germany are having to be destroyed and disposed as radioactive wastes.

The mammal population in the exclusionary zone near the reactor is declining, despite the absence of humans, indicative of growing radiation damage to fauna and flora.

Wildfires in Russia appear to be spreading high levels of radioactive smoke from Chernobyl.

True to form, governments with major nuclear programs or ambitions are silent and are encouraging the view that it’s time we forget about Chernobyl.

ROBERT ALVAREZ, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department’s secretary from 1993 to 1999. www.ips-dc.org
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