Sunday, 17 April 2011
CONNED CHERNOBYL 25TH ANNIVERSARY, April 26th, 1986-2011
DRAFT PRESS RELEASE Some of the after-effects which will last for Generations to come
C Cancer – thyroid developed in young people under 14 years old as a consequence of Iodine-131 in the emissions from the explosion.
H Health – Deaths calculated range from World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that initially said only 31 people had died among the "liquidators," those approximately 830,000 people who were in charge of extinguishing the fire at the Chernobyl reactor and deactivation and cleanup of the site to nearer 1 million people (See Yablokov et al).
E Environment – pines went red; bank voles; barn swallows; birds with smaller brains. Exclusion zones and Evacuation – see References section.
R Radiation Research; Restrictions
Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) was set up in Japan five years after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and provides the advice on radiation risks used today but no CHERF although the accident provided exposures were more similar to those which members of the public might be exposed to (as opposed to bomb). NB: 20 years after the atomic bombing of Japan, we only knew that leukaemia was a consequence of radiation. 24 years later, we saw the rise in other types of cancer and 45 years later we the saw non-cancer diseases appear. Restrictions – sheep in North Wales are still under restriction from being sold for food.
N New build nuclear power stations planned for the UK – what are the chances of a catastrophic accident and are people aware or not if they live in a potential Exclusion Zone in an Emergency?
O One pound thirty pence is still paid per contaminated sheep in N W Wales as a consequence of Caesium 137 deposited from Chernobyl to cover additional regular monitoring. 330 farms are still affected.
B Baverstock, Keith and Prof Dilwyn Williams identified the thyroid cancers in young people and had to fight to get the papers published. Keith was the long-time head of the Department for Radiation and Health at the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Y Yablokov, Alexey of the Centre for Russian Environmental Policy in Moscow was one of the authors of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, together with Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko of the Institute of Radiation Safety, in Minsk, Belarus. They examined more than 5,000 published articles and studies, most written in Slavic languages and never before available in English. They proposed the number of Chernobyl-related deaths to be nearer to 1 million people.
L Latency – gap between exposure to radioactivity and the development of health effects. Legacy waste – the accumulated wastes from the current UK nuclear power programme for which there is still no known disposal route.
Communities Opposed to New Nuclear Energy Development (CONNED) brings together groups around eight sites earmarked for possible development – Hinkley Point in Somerset, Sizewell in Suffolk, Bradwell in Essex, Wylfa on Anglesey, Oldbury In Gloucestershire, Heysham in Lancashire, Sellafield in Cumbria and Hartlepool in County Durham
APPENDIX 1: Scientific questions largely ignored
Many scientific questions arising from the [Chernobyl] disaster "have been largely ignored," according to Keith Baverstock, a former senior World Health Organization (WHO) radiation scientist.
In many ways, the story of the scientific response to Chernobyl reads like an intellectual echo of the disaster itself. Soviet efforts to cover up the disaster prevented immediate collection of basic data, while its failed efforts to relocate people from radioactive areas in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine left 200,000 people still living in the affected areas today. In 1989, its credibility shattered, the Soviet government invited the UN-sponsored International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to review health impacts. Working with inadequate Soviet data, in 1991 the IAEA reported that no health problems could be linked to the disaster. And yet, according to Baverstock of the WHO, in 1990 the IAEA experts knew of twenty cases of rare childhood thyroid illness in Ukraine.
Next came the WHO, backed with $20 million from Japan to gather data and address thyroid disease, blood disease and brain damage in utero. But funds ran out in 1995. An international thyroid project launched by the WHO and the European Union in 1992 had similarly stalled, as did later efforts by other international bodies, including the G7 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Baverstock notes that about the only interested party that has never participated in Chernobyl research is the nuclear industry itself.
The latest piece of bad news comes from the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, which, while charged with monitoring Chernobyl science, appears to be disintegrating. UN funding slashes meant UNSCEAR had to cancel its annual meeting last year, and commission member Lars Eric Holm warns that cuts will "seriously affect" future research. Governments in Japan, the United States, the Netherlands and Germany all currently support worthy short-term studies, mostly focusing on thyroid cancer. But with decades of impacts ahead, and local officials concerned that breast cancer and genetic irregularities are emerging, there remains no concerted long-term research plan. Nor have governments in the directly affected countries helped much. Russia recently declared its radioactive zone "clean," despite high radiation readings in many populated areas. In Belarus, the government's approach is to try to lure people back into the radiation zones with tax breaks. Ukraine is investing in new Russian reactors while ignoring calls for more research.
Last year, UN Undersecretary General Kenzo Oshima expressed the hope that "the international community may be moved to action by a healthy combination of compassion and enlightened self-interest." But nobody has committed any cash in response. At the Bryansk diagnostic center in Russia's radioactive zone, chief geneticist Nikolai Rivkind said recently, "The Chernobyl experience--tragic as it is--should be a goldmine for world science." Standing in a threadbare lab where Internet access is as severely rationed as every other research tool, he added, "We've got maybe two years at most left to get organized. I'm losing hope."
Taken from : “Lessons from Chernobyl”, an article by Paul Webster that appeared in “The Nation” June 8th, 2003
The Chernobyl nuclear reactor was destroyed by an explosion and fire April 26, 1986. (Photo issued by Soviet authorities)
References: Ecological effects
Red pines: http://chornobyl.in.ua/en/red-forest-in-chernobyl-zone.html
As a result of the Chernobyl accident, tens of thousands of hectares of forests have experienced massive radioactive contamination, located in the immediate vicinity of the Chernobyl NPP and stretching approximately two kilometres west of the station. These were mainly single-crop plantings of Scotch pine (Pinus silvestris). Signs of radioactive mutation of conifers are already evident, having absorbed approximately 100 doses. It should be noted that the main radiation fallout on the pines resulting from the Chernobyl accident occurred during the revitalization process of plant growth. In such a period the radiosensitivity of plants increases 1,5 – 3 times as compared to other periods. The crown of fairly dense pines acts as an effective filter, which helped delay the effects of large quantities of radioactive dust and aerosols in the crowns of these trees. Pine needles are typically not dropped for 2-3 years, causing a slow natural cleaning of crowns as compared with hardwood trees. This factor increased the radiation effects on coniferous trees compared to other breeds.
Today, we see some branches with no needles, while some of it very long, or vice versa, shorter. It is also a generative mutations (morphosis) caused by radiation.
Dynamics of Cytogenetic Injuries in Natural Populations of Bank Vole in the Republic of Belarus
R.I. Goncharova and N.I. Ryabokon
The frequencies of different types of mutation as well as radionuclide content in bank vole populations in regions of Belarus with various densities of radiocontamination were studied. There were approximately 12-18 generations of animals over the period 1986-1991. The frequency of chromosome aberrations in bone marrow cells of animals in the most contaminated stations (90 and 1524 kBq.m-2 for 137Cs) remained at a high level during this period. The frequencies of genomic mutations (polyploid cells) gradually rose until 1991. Since the radiation load on vole populations was reduced by 1991, it can be stated that there is higher sensitivity of the hereditary apparatus of somatic cells of subsequent animal generations in comparison with ones prior to the Chernobyl fallout. In other words, there is no genetic adaptation to the mutagenic effect of low level radioisotope radiation for the whole investigation period in natural populations of bank vole.
Radiation Prot Dosimetry (1995) 62 (1-2):
Twenty years after the infamous catastrophe at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, scientists were cheered by the explosion of wildlife that seemed to be thriving in the 19-mile (30-kilometer) "exclusion zone" around the disaster site. Healthy-looking deer, boar, lynx, and eagle owls were among the animals found throughout the zone, despite the blast that had showered radioactive material over huge swaths of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia.
…a new study shows that barn swallows living near Chernobyl, which is in Ukraine, suffer from many more birth defects and abnormalities than would ordinarily be expected. In addition, the swallows are not living as long and are not breeding as successfully as their distant counterparts. By studying birds rather than humans, the researchers have been able to separate the physiological effects of the radiation from sociological and psychological ones.
"Birds don't drink, birds don't smoke, and they don't suffer the same kind of stresses as humans" that can cause diseases such as cancers, said study co-author Tim Mousseau, a biology professor at the University of South Carolina and a National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration grantee.
Reported by Kate Ravilious (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)
Chernobyl birds are small brained By Matt Walker Editor, Earth News, April 2011
In April 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded. After the accident, traces of radioactive deposits were found in nearly every country in the northern hemisphere. An exclusion has since been set up around the site of the accident. However, scientists have been allowed inside to gauge the impact the radiation has had on the ecology of the region. Last year Prof Moller and Prof published the results of the largest wildlife census of its kind conducted in Chernobyl - which revealed that mammals are declining in the exclusion zone surrounding the nuclear power plant.
Insect diversity has also fallen, and previously, the same researchers found a way to predict which species there are likely to be most severely damaged by radioactive contamination, by evaluating how often they renew parts of their DNA. In their latest study, the scientists used mist nets to collect birds from eight woodland sites around Chernobyl, which have seen a decline in the numbers of larger animals and small invertebrates living within.
After controlling for the differences between species, they found that the birds had brains 5% smaller on average compared to birds not exposed to background radiation. The effect was most pronounced in younger birds, particularly those less than a year old. That suggests that many bird embryos did not survive at all, due the negative effects of their developing brain.
The findings therefore suggest that people living near the affected zone could still be at risk even though radiation levels have declined.
Anders Møller, from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, led the team that has been monitoring the barn swallows since 1991 for signs of abnormalities such as deformed beaks, toes, and feathers and unusual coloring.
More than 7,700 birds have been examined, some from Chernobyl and others from control areas including Spain, Italy, and Denmark—far away from the explosion site. The team's results, published online today in the journal Biology Letters, show that abnormalities are much higher in birds from the Chernobyl population. For example, more than 13 percent of the Chernobyl birds had partial albinism—tufts of white feathers—compared to levels of around 4 percent in the control birds.
"Abnormal features [like albinism] are extremely rare in nature," Møller said.
The findings support the team's theory that even the low levels of radiation around Chernobyl are enough to cause the higher than average rates of abnormalities and birth defects reported in humans living in the region. "Based on the bird data, we think there is likely to be a plethora of human ailments associated with the Chernobyl radiation," said Mousseau, who is also carrying out a health study on children living in the Chernobyl region.
Radiation vs. Stress
The team's theory directly contradicts a 2005 report prepared by the Chernobyl Forum, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The forum had concluded that social stress and the collapse of agriculture after communism was overthrown in 1990 were the most significant causes of poor health in the region.
"We found that there was a lot of anxiety amongst the population," said Burton Bennett, a retired radiation specialist who chaired the Chernobyl Forum. "In general the doses of radiation that people were exposed to were low—comparable to background levels over the course of ten years or so."
Bennett is unconvinced by Møller and colleague's findings. "It takes very high levels of radiation to cause abnormalities, and I really doubt that this study can be substantiated," he said.
According to the Chernobyl Forum report, about 6.6 million people were exposed to high doses of radiation and 56 people were directly killed by the disaster. The report estimated that as many as 5,000 people may die from some form of cancer related to the radiation.
Møller and colleagues think that the health impact could be much worse.
Keith Baverstock, an environmental scientist at the University of Kuopio in Finland and co-author of a 2001 United Nations report on human health around Chernobyl, agrees that the results of the bird study are worrying.
"It confirms that even relatively low levels of exposure to radioactive fallout can result in genetic effects," he said.
If Møller and colleagues are right, then millions of people living in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia are still at risk.
"With proposals to increase the use of nuclear energy," Baverstock said, "this is a matter that needs urgent attention."
See www.nwaa.org.uk Issues Register for over 100 issues yet to be solved with regard to the legacy wastes which have accumulated from the current nuclear power station programme and which have not yet been addressed in spite of the UK government desire to build yet more nuclear power stations.
Posted by Reg Illingworth at 13:53