Radioactive soil from Ukraine ‘returned’ to IAEA by Greenpeace

Press release - 24 April, 2006
Radioactive soil from a public area outside the exclusion zone at the site of the Chernobyl disaster – so contaminated it must be classified as radioactive waste under European law - was delivered today to headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by Greenpeace activists.

Greenpeace activists deliver radioactive soil from a public area outside the exclusion zone at the site of the Chernobyl disaster to the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA). The activists carry a 250kg concrete container containing two 1kg radioactive samples into the lobby of the UN building in Vienna, unfolding banners reading “IAEA Stop Whitewashing Chernobyl”.

Environmentalists carried a 250kg concrete container containing two 1kgradioactive samples into the lobby of the UN building in Vienna,unfolding banners reading "IAEA Stop Whitewashing Chernobyl". Theaction was carried out to highlight the IAEA's continued downplaying ofthe consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. To ensure publicsafety, the soil samples delivered to the IAEA were shielded by 10cm ofconcrete and a layer of lead.

The radioactive soil was taken by Greenpeace from locations between40km and 50km from the Chernobyl reactor - in areas well outside theexclusion zone to which people have free access. They were sent tolaboratories in Ukraine and Austria (1). Most worrying was thediscovery of a so-called 'hot particle' in a sample that was sent tothe laboratory. This is a small but highly radioactive grain of spentfuel, which was ejected from the reactor by the explosion. Such a grainis highly dangerous if inhaled or ingested or when it comes intoprolonged contact with the body.  

"People harvest wood, mushrooms and berries from those forests, notknowing that they are subjecting their health to serious radiationrisk. The samples are 10-25 times more radioactive than the limits setby the European Commission for defining a substance as radioactivewaste" said Ivan Blokov, Greenpeace nuclear campaigner.

The action coincides with the launch of a Greenpeace report (2)reviewing the present radioactive contamination in Ukraine and thecondition of more than 20 million cubic metres of  radioactivewaste, hastily dumped in the aftermath of the accident. This is aticking time bomb that could further contaminate the region possibly asfar as the Dnjepr River, the main drinking water reserve of Ukraine.Greenpeace is calling for urgent measures to control and condition thiswaste.

The IAEA should stop massaging statistics, denying facts and,downplaying the impact of Chernobyl, said Ivan Blokov." The samples arephysical evidence of how contaminated some parts of the Ukraine stillare, and IAEA consideration to relocate people in areas that have beenevacuated could involve serious health risks" he added.

The Greenpeace 'Health' report published last Thursday (3),demonstrated that the IAEA is minimising the health impacts of theChernobyl accident. Greenpeace accuses the IAEA of disseminatingdisinformation as part of its pro-nuclear agenda and is calling onGovernments worldwide to amend the Statutes of the IAEA and remove art.2 and its 'promotional' function (4), which contradicts its'controlling' function.

Other contacts: Jan vande Putte, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaign, +32496161584. Ivan Blokov, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaign, + 31 6 461 77536

Notes: (1) A laboratory analysis of the soil by the Austrian Oekologie Institute and the Ukrainian CREMZV – commissioned by Greenpeace - showed that the samples are so radioactive that they have to be categorised as radioactive waste under European regulations. Full analysis of the sample can be found in: Chernobyl – A nuclear catastrophe 20 years on report can be downloaded from the following link. The Chernobyl Catastrophe: Consequences on Human Health can be downloaded from the following link: *ARTICLE II: *ObjectivesThe Agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world. It shall ensure, so far as it is able, that assistance provided by it or at its request or under its supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose.