5. The Hidden Tragedy of Chernobyl Has Worldwide Implications

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Source: THE NATION, Date: 3/15/93, Title: “Chernobyl-The Hidden Tragedy,” Author: Jay M. Gould

SYNOPSIS: A devastating book on the far-reaching dimensions of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, written by Vladimir Chernousenko, a Ukrain­ian nuclear physicist involved in the emergency cleanup, has not received the media attention it deserves. Chernousenko, fired from his post at the Ukrainian Academy of Science for telling the truth about the catastrophic effects of the disaster, is, himself, now dying of radiation poisoning. His book, Chernobyl: Insight From the Inside, may never be published in Ukraine or Russia.

Chernousenko explodes many of the Chernobyl myths propagated by the Soviet authorities and eagerly accepted by the interna­tional nuclear establishment.

He points out that the accident was not the result of operator error but was caused by major flaws of design present in 15 other Soviet reactors that are still in operation.

In contrast to the widely accepted belief that only 31 people died from exposure to radiation in the effort to contain the emissions, Chernou­senko asserts that between 7,000 and 10,000 volunteers were killed.

But according to author Jay M. Gould, the most serious charge made by Chernousenko is that the accident released the lethal con­tents of 80 percent of the reactor core rather than the three percent figure announced to the world. “Chernousenko estimates that the radioactivity released was equiva­lent to more than one curie for every person on earth, i.e. more than 1 trillion picocuries per capita, to use the unit in which radioactive concentrations in milk and water are customarily measured. The radiation released was roughly equivalent to the explosion of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.”While the fallout was concen­trated mainly in the three Soviet republics of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, the reluctance of the Soviet authorities to recognize the true extent of the contamination of farmland resulted in the shipment of contaminated food and grain to all the former Soviet republics, thus spreading radiation illness.

Chernousenko reported that public health surveys in which he participated revealed that there is hardly a child in Belarus, which was hardest hit, who is not suffering from some immune deficiency dis­ease, either cardiovascular, lym­phoid or oncological. Most of these children are unable to attend a full day in school.

A 1989 public health survey reported that every second adult in the three biggest provinces of Ukraine was ill.

In Ukraine and Belarus, the inci­dence of the immune deficiency diseases has doubled or tripled since 1985 and is now spreading to all other areas that have been con­suming radioactive food. This dis­turbing statistic was confirmed by the World Health Organization in a letter published in Nature maga­zine. The letter reported the inci­dence of thyroid cancer cases among children in Belarus rose from two in 1986 to 55 in 1991; similar extraordinary increases in children’s thyroid cancer were reported in Gdansk, Poland.

A study by Gould, a former member of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, and Dr. Ernest Sternglass, published by the American Chemical Society in January 1989, charged that the effects of the Chernobyl accident were even apparent in the small but statistically significant excess mor­tality in the U.S. in May 1986. The disturbing results, which were not widely publicized, have yet to be challenged.

SSU Censored Researcher: Courteney Lunt

COMMENTS: The author, Jay M. Gould, co-author of Deadly Deceit: Low-Level Radiation, High-Level Cover-up, says that despite the overwhelming significance of the issue, it has received no exposure at all. He adds that this lack of expo­sure benefits “the international atomic energy industry and its two trillion dollar investment in this universally unpopular, expensive and dangerous way of boiling water.” In November, Gould updated the current health condi­tions with data provided by Dr. Chernousenko in late October. “As of 1993, some 15,000 of the 30,000 young conscripts who were unnec­essarily exposed to incredibly high radiation levels in order to permit the other three Chernobyl reactors to continue operations … have died since 1986. Because 100,000 square kilometers of productive land has become permanently uninhabit­able, contaminated food from these areas has been widely shipped to other areas of the former Soviet Union and consumed by an esti­mated 65 million persons, with varying degrees of consequent damage to their immune response.” Gould also noted that while Chernousenko received five com­mendations from Mikhail Gorba­chev for heroism, his final report on the true radiation levels was never published.