Today marks the 31st commemoration of the disastrous nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, originally located in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The atomic core exploded and then caught fire, burning for 9-days straight and spewing deadly amounts of radiation into the atmosphere over an area covering 58,000 square miles. For those of us living in the United States, that area is larger than the whole State of New York. Now, its radioactive legacy is left to the Ukraine to manage for thousands of years while the world waits for the intense radioactivity to decay away. The USSR official government toll claimed that only 30 people died in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, but the disasters full impact on the health of the area’s residents is much worse than authorities are willing to admit.
BELARUS. Novinki Asylum. A young helpless multiple sclerosis victim is carried by an attendant. Photo by Paul Fusco
As many as one million people are projected to die from cancer and other radiation induced illnesses according to Dr. Alexy Yablakov, originally the science advisor to former Russian President/Premier Boris Yeltsin. Dr. Yablakov analyzed existing scientific data to make these projections; see his book entitled Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, published by the New York Academy of Sciences. If you would like a copy, please contact us. We can put copies on special order.
Because most forms of cancer take years to develop after exposure to radiation and paired with uncooperative governments hindering scientific research, we may never know the full extent of Chernobyl’s carnage, but we do know that the damage is very high.
USSR physicians reported a spike in women who were pregnant having stillbirths, miscarriages, or giving birth to children with severe birth malformities. Children and adults in the surrounding areas developed a wide array of problems, including and not limited to: high rates of nervous system disorders, respiratory disease, anemia, and endocrine problems. Malformation of the heart muscle has occurred in many children living near the Chernobyl reactor due to their exposure to radioactive cesium from the meltdown. The heart muscle damage is so visible and so unique that it resulted in the new medical condition named Chernobyl Heart.
Noted Magnum photographer Paul Fusco has created a haunting photo gallery entitled, Chernobyl Legacy, where you can see firsthand the disturbing human cost of Chernobyl. The children of the countries of the Ukraine and the Republic of Belarus have been the most severely impacted of all the former USSR countries by the ongoing Chernobyl radioactivity legacy. As emerging independent countries following the collapse of the USSR, these countries do not have the financial resources for medical care for children and families injured and made ill by the massive amounts of radioactivity released in the Chernobyl debacle. The Ukraine doesn’t even have the funds to feed many children and families uncontaminated food.
It is important to remember that not just humans were affected by the intense radiation emanating from Chernobyl. Research done by noted University of South Carolina biologist Dr. Timothy Mousseau and others have made the link between Chernobyl’s radiation and increased tumors, cataracts, and decreased brain size in birds that live within the exclusion zone. All living things, plants and animals, humans included, living in or near the exclusion zone have been negatively impacted in one way or another by the continuously unfolding tragedy of the atomic reactor meltdown at Chernobyl.
What human, animal, and biological impacts will we see during the coming years from the meltdown of the three Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power reactors in Japan? Will children in Japan develop Fukushima heart or some other unique radiation induced malady? Like the Soviets before them, government officials in Japan are trying to withhold the truth in their ongoing cover-up of the magnitude of the three meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi atomic power plant.
There have been five nuclear meltdowns during the last 35-years. Yet, with almost 400 reactors currently operating worldwide the atomic power industry only projected 1 meltdown every 2500 years. You can read about Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, And Fukushima Dai-ichi on Fairewinds Energy Educations’ website www.fairewinds.org.
The expose in Physics World by University of Maryland historian Kate Brown illuminates the world to the serious cover-ups in post-atomic power disasters, whether they occurred at Chernobyl, which is Ms. Brown’s focus, or at Three Mile Island (TMI) or Fukushima Dai-ichi. As Fairewinds Energy Education has shown you many times, each nuclear power meltdown is an ongoing tragedy with new data continuously uncovered.
Scientists and doctors from around the world know with certainty that the meltdown at Chernobyl caused extremely serious health conditions for victims of the ongoing disaster and for residents within a large region surrounding the destroyed reactor. Look at Fairewinds newly updated Chernobyl page to see the links to many ongoing studies, peer reviewed data, and chilling photographs of compromised survivors in Belarus and the Ukraine.
No long-term epidemiological study is in process and all around the world whatever research was done by independent scientists has been buried as quickly as possible. Why? The governments that support atomic power do not want their country’s citizens knowing the true extent of health damage because it might threaten their own use of this unmanageable technology. As Fairewinds has been saying for years: Follow The Money.
More than 75% of the employees working at the Tennessee Valley Authority Watts Bar Atomic Reactor in Tennessee said they would not report safety concerns to superiors due to fear of retaliation, according to a recent third party report. A similar problem also exists for employees at the Massachusetts Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant owned by Entergy Nuclear, according to a recent report.
How can a nuclear power plant operate safely if safety problems go unreported? This isn’t even the first time Watts Bar has been in hot water. In 2012, it came to light that contractors who were in charge of quality control inspections for electrical cables signed off that the crucial cables met safety standards, but the cables had never even been installed. In 2015, all three atomic reactors at the Watts Bar Nuclear power plant were under intense oversight by the NRC due to severe safety concerns, yet Watts Bar was allowed to continue operation. One thing is certain; if a nuclear power plant with the potential to impact the lives of millions of people is facing multiple infractions and is home to a toxic safety culture, it should be shut down.