23 years after Chernobyl

Only  99,977 more years to go and the world will be back to “normal” before Chernobyl radiation levels. Pff, that’s a relief!

I remember the day we started to hear the first news about Chernobyl like it was yesterday. At the time I was living in Holland and I was listening to the radio, the sun shone and the news caster said that higher than normal radiation levels were measured above Sweden. Only hours later the news said that the amount of radiation above Sweden indicated a serious radio-active event, most likely and accident with a nuclear reactor somewhere in Russia.

As the news started to seep out of Russia and the severity of the accident became clear we were approaching our day of festive abandonment, “Queensday” the birthday of the previous queen declared a national holiday and a huge party Nationwide.

On the day itself I found myself sitting in the late afternoon on the stone steps of a four  hundred year old house in the centre of Amsterdam. It was squatted at the time and I was sipping wine, sharing my day with some fellow activists. I was looking at the throngs of people passing by wearing crazy hats, laughing, drinking and dancing to the music of the many bands performing on the streets. The sun was shining and it was hot and as the sun slowly went down and the day made place for a raucous night of more drunken partying I remember thinking, these idiots actually believe what we’ve been told: Somehow the radioactive cloud had landed everywhere in Europe, the middle east, China, Japan and Africa but due to freak wind movements it had totally  missed Holland.


On April 26, 1986, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station reactor number 4 exploded at 1:24 a.m. “Tons of radioactive dust was” unleashed “into the air…transported by winds, [and] it contaminated both hemispheres of our planet, settling wherever it rained. The emissions of radioactivity lasted [short-term] for 10 days.”(1)

On 29 April, “fatal levels of radioactivity were recorded…in Poland, Austria, Romania, Finland, and Sweden.”(2) The day after (30 April), it hit Switzerland and Italy. By 2 May, it reached France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Great Britain, and Greece. The next day, Israel, Kuwait, and Turkey were contaminated. Then, over the next few days, “radioactive substances” were recorded in Japan (3 May), China (4 May), India (5 May), and the US and Canada (6 May).

The radioactive spew from this explosion was “200 times greater than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.”(3) Not one person was safe from this catastrophic nuclear explosion; and “65-million people were contaminated…more than 400,000 people were forced to evacuate the area [around Chernobyl], losing their homes, possessions and jobs, as well as their economic, social, and family ties.”(4)

The long-term and hidden costs of radioactive contamination have never been adequately reported by mainstream news. According to the authors (including the distinguished Dr. Rosalie Bertell) of a new book, “Chernobyl: The Hidden Legacy” “[i]t will take millennia to recover…[before an area] as large as Italy, will return to normal radioactive levels in about 100,000 years time.”(5)

This week, 26 April 2009, marks the 23rd anniversary since this catastrophe; so we have another 99,977 years to go, until things return to “normal” again.

With a myriad of on-going social costs ignored by most of the world’s media, the staggering medical consequences of now systemic radiation poisoning, and the enormous tragedy of genetic malformations, while the nuclear industry touts how “safe” nuclear power is, it is time to look again at the very real costs –most especially with the US financially bankrupt and the global economy in a deliberately created train wreck of proportions never seen in our history. Given this global economic collapse, there are neither enough financial or technological safeguards available today or long term to protect humanity from the already present and ubiquitous radioactive toxicity to which we are all exposed.

Social Costs

The surrounding area of Belarus was the worst hit, with “30 percent of its territory rendered useless.”(6) While hundreds of thousands of people were initially evacuated, over these 23 years, many have returned “home.” Today, their lives and  homes remain permanently devastated. Poisoned. However, the Soviet government did not either report to its own people how catastrophic this explosion was, or what were to be the real, long-term radiation consequences. Further, people who were working to supposedly “contain” the crisis, died shortly thereafter from massive radiation poisoning. Cover-ups and suppression, by the government and various international agencies, of what happened made the extent of this nightmare inaccessible to the Russian population affected as well as the rest of the world.

The Chernobyl reactors were built under a post-Stalin, 5-year plan by Moscow bureaucrats who had absolutely no understanding of the complex problems of building four reactors: (1) with such an unrealistic deadline; (2) the dangerous instability of running reactors for long periods on less than half power [that] made them unstable;”(7) and (3) a lack of realistic safety measures in the event of a nuclear meltdown.

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