Chernobyl: An Unbelievable Failure to Help

International Physicians for Humanitarian Medicine, Geneva.
International Journal of Health Services (Impact Factor: 0.88). 02/2008; 38(3):543-60. DOI: 10.2190/HS.38.3.i
Source: PubMed


The disaster at the Chernobyl power reactor near Kiev, which began on April 26, 1986, was one of the world's worst industrial accidents. Yet the global community, usually most generous in its aid to a stricken community, has been slow to understand the scope of the disaster and reach out to the most devastated people of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. This article probes the causes of this confusion of perception and failure of response; clearly the problem is one of communication. Has the International Atomic Energy Agency betrayed the victims of the Chernobyl disaster because of its plans to promote the "peaceful atom" nuclear program in the developing world? Has the World Health Organization failed to provide clear, reliable information on the health effects resulting from the disaster? Are other historical problems or actors interfering with reasonable handling of the late effects of a nuclear disaster? Most importantly, what can be done to remedy this situation, to assist those most hurt by the late effects of Chernobyl and prevent such injustice in future? With the current promotion of nuclear energy as a "solution" to global climate change, we need to take a sober second look at the nuclear energy experiment and management of its hazards.

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    • "Decades after the Chernobyl accident, nontechnical issues in the mitigation of consequences were highlighted as one of the greatest challenges. Psychological, sociological, political, and other impacts on the public perception were long-lasting due to poor risk communication (Sjö berg and Drottz 1987; Poumadere 1995; Dubreuil et al. 1999; Schmid 2001; Jackson et al. 2002; Havenaar et al. 2003; Abbott et al. 2006; Cantone et al. 2007; Bertell 2008; Oughton 2008). The public still remembers the Chernobyl accident 25 years after the event. "
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    ABSTRACT: Past nuclear accidents highlight communication as one of the most important challenges in emergency management. In the early phase, communication increases awareness and understanding of protective actions and improves the population response. In the medium and long term, risk communication can facilitate the remediation process and the return to normal life. Mass media play a central role in risk communication. The recent nuclear accident in Japan, as expected, induced massive media coverage. Media were employed to communicate with the public during the contamination phase, and they will play the same important role in the clean-up and recovery phases. However, media also have to fulfill the economic aspects of publishing or broadcasting, with the "bad news is good news" slogan that is a well-known phenomenon in journalism. This article addresses the main communication challenges and suggests possible risk communication approaches to adopt in the case of a nuclear accident.
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    ABSTRACT: In February 2010, the New York Academy of Sciences published the most complete and up-to-date collection of evidence, from independent, scientific sources all over the world, on the health and environmental consequences of the Chernobyl accident. For 24 years, through a high-level, internationally coordinated cover-up of the world's most serious industrial accident, the nuclear lobby has deprived the world of a unique and critically important source of scientific information. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), mouthpiece of the nuclear establishment, has coordinated the cover-up through the dissemination and imposition of crude pseudo-science. Regrettably, the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency on which the world's people rely for guidance, is subordinate to the IAEA in matters of radiation and health, has participated in the cover-up, and stands accused of non-assistance to populations in danger. The new book on Chernobyl makes available huge amounts of evidence from independent studies undertaken in the affected countries, unique and valuable data that have been ignored by the international health establishment. This comprehensive account of the full dimensions of the catastrophe reveals the shameful inadequacy of current international assistance to the affected populations. It also demonstrates, once more, that future energy options cannot include nuclear power.
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    ABSTRACT: After the Chernobyl accident, many publications appeared that overestimated its medical consequences. Some of them are discussed in this article. Among the motives for the overestimation were anti-nuclear sentiments, widespread among some adherents of the Green movement; however, their attitude has not been wrong: nuclear facilities should have been prevented from spreading to overpopulated countries governed by unstable regimes and regions where conflicts and terrorism cannot be excluded. The Chernobyl accident has hindered worldwide development of atomic industry. Today, there are no alternatives to nuclear power: nonrenewable fossil fuels will become more and more expensive, contributing to affluence in the oil-producing countries and poverty in the rest of the world. Worldwide introduction of nuclear energy will become possible only after a concentration of authority within an efficient international executive. This will enable construction of nuclear power plants in optimally suitable places, considering all sociopolitical, geographic, geologic, and other preconditions. In this way, accidents such as that in Japan in 2011 will be prevented.
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