Tuesday, April 26, 2016

30 Year Anniversary of Chernobyl

Thirty years ago a nuclear accident occurred during experimental operation of nuclear power unit four at Chernobyl, Ukraine.  The ensuing meltdown of an entire generating plant and the release of huge amounts of radiation into the atmosphere (400 more times the amount released over Hiroshima) have left a poisonous legacy that continues to haunt the continent of Europe.   The 2600 square kilometer exclusion zone established after the disaster will be unfit for human habitation for the next 20,000 years should humanity manage to avoid its own annihilation for that long. Thirty years after the explosion milk produced at the border of the exclusion zone contains ten times the acceptable level of radioactive elements according to testing conducted by AP.

a band of feral Przewalski horses
Like human survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, animals and plants exhibit varying abilities to resist the effects of irradiation. Mammals exposed at Chernobyl exhibit eye cataracts and have smaller brains while many birds suffer malformed sperm. In the most radioactive areas about 40% of birds are completely sterile. Tumors of various types are also prevalent in plants and animals in areas receiving the heaviest fallout. All major groups of animals studied show declines in population and serious genetic damage. But not all species are affected similarly. Wolves seem to be unaffected by radiation levels, and there is a well documented increase in the number of game animals such as elk, boar and brown bear in less exposed areas of the ecosystem abandoned by man. There is controversy in the scientific community over the health status of animals reoccupying the zone. There is no denying, however, the Chernobyl disaster wreaked havoc on a pine forest ecosystem*. A thousand acres of the Red Forest perished and the land around the destroyed reactor turned into a desolate, toxic moonscape. Four square miles of topsoil was scraped off by heavy machinery and buried as contaminated waste.

Currently there are more than 400 nuclear power plants in operation around the world, and despite adverse economics 165 more are planned or ordered. The legacy of Chernobyl should be that these plants pose a present threat to Earth's well-being and consequently to humanity. US Person is proud to have participated in citizen opposition to this ill-advised method of power generation. The unlimited promise of the atom was touted for three decades after WWII by mega-corporations like GE, Westinghouse and Brown & Root, but the 'too cheap to meter' electricity generated by these ticking time bombs has, after Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima proved atomic power to be too risky to operate. Yet the captured NRC is in the process of re-licensing every US nuke in operation (99) for a life span of 60 years, two decades beyond original design capacity.  It is no mystery why the nuclear power industry cannot buy private insurance for its business.

*Not to mention the havoc visited on the human population of the region. According to a 2001 conference in Kiev on the subject of Chernobyl and its aftermath, the Soviet Union mobilized 800,000 young men from all over the nation to put out the radioactive fire and entomb the plant.  Already, one-third of the "liquidators" are dead, but these figures have never been published. Of the registered Ukrainian liquidators, 94% are ill. A press release from Ukraine's embassy in Paris in 2005 acknowledged 2,646,106 Ukrainians were victims of the Chernobyl disaster.  One third of these were children.