FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Chernobyl at 27

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
Walden Bello
Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change
Jefferson Morley
On JFK, Tulsi Gabbard Keeps Very Respectable Company
Vijay Prashad
Standing Up for Left Literature: In India, It Can Cost You Your Life
Gary Leupp
Bloomberg Versus Bernie: The Upcoming Battle?
Ron Jacobs
The Young Lords: Luchadores Para La Gente
Richard Klin
Loss Leaders
Gaither Stewart
Roma: How Romans Differ From Europeans
Kerron Ó Luain
The Soviet Century
Mike Garrity
We Can Fireproof Homes But Not Forests
Fred Baumgarten
Gaslighting Bernie and His Supporters
Joseph Essertier
Our First Amendment or Our Empire, But Not Both
Peter Linebaugh
A Story for the Anthropocene
Danny Sjursen
Where Have You Gone Smedley Butler?
Jill Richardson
A Broken Promise to Teachers and Nonprofit Workers
Binoy Kampmark
“Leave Our Bloke Alone”: A Little Mission for Julian Assange
Wade Sikorski
Oil or Food? Notes From a Farmer Who Doesn’t Think Pipelines are Worth It
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of Vengeance
Hilary Moore – James Tracy
No Fascist USA! Lessons From a History of Anti-Klan Organizing
Linn Washington Jr.
Ridiculing MLK’s Historic Garden State ‘Firsts’
L. Michael Hager
Evaluating the Democratic Candidates: the Importance of Integrity
Jim Goodman
Bloomberg Won’t, as They Say, Play Well in Peoria, But Then Neither Should Trump
Olivia Alperstein
We Need to Treat Nuclear War Like the Emergency It Is
Jesse Jackson
Kerner Report Set Standard for What a Serious Presidential Candidate Should Champion
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Home Sweet Home: District Campaign Financing
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Latest BLM Hoodwinkery: “Fuel Breaks” in the Great Basin
Wendell Griffen
Grace and Gullibility
Nicky Reid
Hillary, Donald & Bernie: Three Who Would Make a Catastrophe
David Yearsley
Dresden 75
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail