PBS News Hour – Revisiting Chernobyl.

The experience of local people and local doctors is in direct contrast with the statements made by international pro nuclear organisations such as the World Nuclear Organisation, the UN and its WHO and the IAEA. The following extract from PBS NewsHour relating to the non cancer effects of radiation shows the incongruence between the assurance of safety issued by those who wish to continue to make money from nuclear power and the experience of the suffering nuclear victims, some not born until years after the disaster at Chernobyl.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/jan-june11/chernobyl_03-29.html

MILES O’BRIEN:
….Children are the most vulnerable to the effects of radiation. After the explosion, there was a big spike in birth defects and thyroid cancer, extremely rare among children. And researchers say there is also a significant drop in the intellect in the region.

At the dilapidated regional hospital closest to Chernobyl, the medical staff is convinced there is a direct link between chronic exposure to radiation and a whole assortment of diseases and deformities.

I asked Dr. Constantine Cheres if he is convinced people are more sick here because of the Chernobyl accident. “Of course,” he told me. “Of course they are more sick.”

But the Chernobyl Forum, a group of U.N. agencies focused on the accident, estimates only 4,000 people died as a result of the explosion and its aftermath. One of the four members, the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, issued a report contending: “There is no clearly demonstrated increase in the incidence of cancers or leukemia due to radiation in the exposed populations. Neither is there any proof of any non-malignant disorders that are related to ionizing radiation. However, there were widespread psychological reactions to the accident, which were due to fear of the radiation, not the actual radiation doses.”

But Ukrainian scientist Maryna Naboka begs to differ. She told me people here get sick more often and they become more seriously sick. They receive little doses of radiation, but they do it on a day-to-day basis, and the second generation continues getting the radiation.

Radiation contamination is very stubborn. Gennadi Milinevsky took me to a place inside the exclusion zone, 30 kilometers, or 18 miles, around the plant, that is still heavily irradiated.

……..TIMOTHY MOUSSEAU, University of South Carolina: But it’s clear that this low-level contamination is — is probably more dangerous in the long run than — than having a single hot spot.

MILES O’BRIEN: In contaminated areas, there are half as many species and one-third number of birds you would expect. Their brains are smaller. Forty percent of male barn swallows have abnormal sperm. One in five have strange colored plumage that makes it hard to attract mates.

There are unusual beak deformities and large tumors that scientists have never seen before. What, if anything, can we extrapolate between that bird population, that population of barn swallows, and humans?

TIMOTHY MOUSSEAU: I would argue that, you know, we’re all — we’re all animals, and birds are actually more similar to us than dissimilar to us.

MILES O’BRIEN: Mousseau’s colleagues are also looking at Chernobyl’s grasshoppers. They frequently have asymmetrical wings, and fruit flies, which are easily impacted by radiation. Those found around Chernobyl have gray eyes, instead of red, and deformed wings.

Biologist Irina Koretsky studies the little bugs, in part because they only live about a month, meaning she can track genetic changes through many generations in short order. She worries about the sporadic funding for research that could lead to some definitive answers about the Chernobyl riddle.

She told me: “This is the worst thing that can happen. If there are gaps in the research for two or three years, we cannot have this full picture.”

end quote. There is more to the outcomes of reactor malfunctions than cancer.

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