Chernobyl radioactive waste returned

Feature story - 24 April, 2006
We have returned a large radioactive reminder of the Chernobyl disaster to the UN body pushing nuclear power. Radioactive soil was placed in the lobby of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that has been trying to hide the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Collecting soil samples from areas contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster.

To confront the IAEA with the realities of nuclear power we placed a250kg concrete container containing two 1kg radioactive samples intothe lobby of the UN agency building in Vienna. To ensure public safety, thesoil samples delivered to the IAEA were placed in a container with concrete and lead shielding.

But where the samples were collected there are no such safeguards foranyone. The radioactive soil was taken from locations between 40km and50km from the Chernobyl reactor - in areas well outside the exclusionzone in which people have free access. In the random soil sample there was asmall but highly radioactive grain of spent fuel, which was ejectedfrom the reactor by the explosion. This is highly dangerous if inhaledor ingested or when it comes into prolonged contact with the body.

In the same area from where the soil samples were taken, people harvest wood, mushrooms and berries from theforests, unwittingly exposing themselves to serious radiation risk. Thesamples are 10-25 times more radioactive than the limits set by theEuropean Commission for defining a substance as radioactive waste.

Our research at the location of the disaster in the Ukraine shows thereis serious radioactive contamination in places where people still live.

IAEA nuclear whitewash

Part of IAEA's mandate is to promote nuclear power. Promoting anindustry that is dirty, dangerous and expensive is a hard job,especially in the year marking the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl. Totry and down play the effects of the disaster they published a reportwith the World Health Organisation (WHO) in September 2005 claimingonly 4000 people would die from the disaster.

It is now clear that the IAEA report was deliberately misleading. Werecently published a report by 52 scientists whose research predictsapproximately 270,000 cancers and 93,000 fatal cancer cases caused byChernobyl. The report also concludes that on the basis of demographicdata, during the last 15 years, 60,000 people have additionally died inRussia because of the Chernobyl accident, and estimates of the totaldeath toll for the Ukraine and Belarus could reach another 140,000.

Even staff from the WHO now admit the report was intended as a political tool to deflect criticism from nuclear power:

Zhanat Carr, a radiation scientist with the WHO in Geneva, says the5000 deaths were omitted because the report was a 'politicalcommunication tool'. "Scientifically, it may not be the best approach,"she admitted to New Scientist. She also accepts that the WHO estimatesdid not include predicted cancers outside Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

What figures and statistics never tell is the pain and sufferinginflicted on individuals by the nuclear industry every day since thefirst nuclear bomb was exploded in 1945.

Nuclear technology has always been inherently dangerous. Today,thankfully, it is also unnecessary. Our energy needs can be met withsafe and efficient renewable energy technologies. So, why are so manypoliticians peddling nuclear power at the very time we need it least,when we have safe and sustainable sources available to power the world?

Is it the role of a UN agency, funded by your taxes, to advance theprofits of the nuclear industry? Do we not have the right to expect theIAEA to focus only on the values and principles of the UN - peace,security, and human rights - and not on private industry's profits?

Support us

Give now to help us campaign for an end to dangerous nuclear power.