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My review, based on nearly thirty years of research on Chernobyl and dozens of visits to the contaminated areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, argues that "Manual for Survival" ignores the thousands of scientific studies on Chernobyl which are available in the international scientific literature. In doing so, it presents a biased and misleading account of the health and environmental effects of the accident. I believe that this book only perpetuates the many myths about the accident effects and has very little basis in sound science.
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What is meant by “clean” when talking about nuclear energy? Cleanliness in the context of environmental crisis presumably means less pollution to the environment. And yet, the chapter argues that a different sense of cleanliness is applied in the sentence “nuclear energy is clean.” By analyzing how the expression is used in scientific and media portrayal of nuclear energy as clean energy, the chapter addresses the ways in which cleanliness in regards to energy is suggested as renewable, harmless, less carbon footprint, to scientific, and futuristic. As opposed to coal mining as a labor-intensive process of extracting, converting and producing energy, nuclear energy is seen as a scientifically researched modern energy that promises the future of energy production and consumption.
Article
In the thirty years since the Chernobyl disaster we have learned a great deal about the causes of the accident, the human side of the story of those who worked at the station, the operators and their families in the now-abandoned nearby town of Pripyat, the hundreds of thousands of “liquidators,” and the millions of individuals affected by fallout, including some 300,000 who were evacuated from various exclusion zones and heavily affected rural areas, mostly to the north and east in (Soviet) Belarus, Ukraine, and small parts of Russia. What are the long term consequences of radioactive fallout to land and living things? How many people have and will die from exposure to radioactivity? In Manual for Survival , Kate Brown documents the efforts of scientists and doctors in Belarus and Ukraine to understand the short- and long-term impact of radiation exposure on Soviet and post-Soviet citizens, and the challenges even to simple data collection. Her conclusions stand in stark contrast to those of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations (UN) Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation that estimated perhaps 5,000 total deaths. The numbers will be much higher, perhaps on the order of 10,000 or 50,000 excess cancers and premature deaths. But we shall never know with certainty owing to a variety of factors—including the challenges of conducting research in the former Soviet Union, the obfuscation of data in some quarters who appear to seek to minimize the impact, and scientific uncertainty itself.
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This paper criticizes studies claiming huge radiation effects on wildlife at Chernobyl. There are likely to be subtle effects of radiation on organisms in the "hotspots" at Chernobyl. But it is argued here that studies claiming extensive population damage, and much greater sensitivity of organisms in the field than in the lab are not well supported by scientific evidence.
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Aquatic organisms at Chernobyl have now been chronically exposed to environmental radiation for three decades. The biological effects of acute exposure to radiation are relatively well documented, but much less is known about the long-term effects of chronic exposure of organisms in their natural environment. Highly exposed fish in freshwater systems at Chernobyl showed morphological changes in their reproductive system in the years after the accident. However, the relatively limited scope of past studies did not allow robust conclusions to be drawn. Moreover, the level of the radiation dose at which significant effects on wildlife occur is still under debate. In the most comprehensive evaluation of the effects of chronic radiation on wild fish populations to date, the present study measures specific activities of 137Cs, 90Sr and transuranium elements (238Pu, 239,240Pu and 241Am), index conditions, distribution and size of oocytes, as well as environmental and biological confounding factors in two fish species perch (Perca fluviatilis) and roach (Rutilus rutilus) from seven lakes. In addition, relative species abundance was examined. The results showed that both fish species are, perhaps surprisingly, in good general physiological and reproductive health. Perch, however, appeared to be more sensitive to radiation than roach: in the most contaminated lakes, a delay of the maturation of the gonads and the presence of several undeveloped phenotypes were evident only for perch and not for roach.
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2016 marked the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident. We and others wrote reviews for the 25th anniversary. Since then, additional papers have appeared and it seems timely to highlight lessons learned. To present, not a systematic review, but a commentary drawing attention to notable findings. We include not only recent reports and updates on previous results, but key findings from prior Chernobyl studies. The dose-dependent increase in Papillary Thyroid Cancer (PTC) following childhood I-131 exposure in Ukraine and Belarus has now been shown to persist for decades. Studies of post-Chernobyl PTCs have produced novel information on chromosomal rearrangements and gene fusions, critical to understanding molecular mechanisms. Studies of clean-up workers/liquidators suggest dose-related increases of thyroid cancer and hematological malignancies in adults. They also report increases in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. If confirmed, these would have significant public health and radiation protection implications. The lens opacities following low to moderate doses found earlier are also a concern, particularly among interventional radiologists who may receive substantial lens doses. Finally, there is some, inconsistent, evidence for genetic effects among offspring of exposed persons. Further efforts, including improved dosimetry, collection of information on other risk factors, and continued follow-up/monitoring of established cohorts, could contribute importantly to further understand effects of low doses and dose-rates of radiation, particularly in young people, and ensure that appropriate public health and radiation protection systems are in place. This will require multinational collaborations and long-term funding.
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Exposure to ionizing radiation is ubiquitous, and it is well established that moderate and high doses cause ill-health and can be lethal. The health effects of low doses or low dose-rates of ionizing radiation are not so clear. This paper describes a project which sets out to summarize, as a restatement, the natural science evidence base concerning the human health effects of exposure to low-level ionizing radiation. A novel feature, compared to other reviews, is that a series of statements are listed and categorized according to the nature and strength of the evidence that underpins them. The purpose of this restatement is to provide a concise entrée into this vibrant field, pointing the interested reader deeper into the literature when more detail is needed. It is not our purpose to reach conclusions on whether the legal limits on radiation exposures are too high, too low or just right. Our aim is to provide an introduction so that non-specialist individuals in this area (be they policy-makers, disputers of policy, health professionals or students) have a straightforward place to start. The summary restatement of the evidence and an extensively annotated bibliography are provided as appendices in the electronic supplementary material.
Article
Sonja Schmid extols two studies on the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe, from medical impacts to radioactive blueberries. Sonja Schmid extols two studies on the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe, from medical impacts to radioactive blueberries. Artwork on an abandoned structure in Pripyat, Ukraine, April 2017.
Article
The area affected by the Kyshtym accident in 1957 provided a unique opportunity for long-term studies of radiation effects in the environment. The biological effects observed in the area varied from deterministic lethal effects to an enhanced rate of mutations induced by radiation. This paper provides a comprehensive review of the long-term studies of biological effects in plants and animals inhabiting the Kyshtym affected areas over more than 50 years. Most of the observed effects were induced by the high irradiation during the 'acute' period after the accident. At the same time, some of the radiation effects were also because of long-term chronic exposure over many generations. Some phenomena such as (1) the increase of the mutation rate per unit dose with reduction of dose and dose rate, and (2) the radiodaptation of the affected populations to the chronic exposure were documented for the first time based on the radiobiological research performed in that area.
Article
Estimation of time changes in radiocaesium in foodstuffs is key to predicting the long term impact of the Fukushima accident on the Japanese diet. We have modelled > 4000 measurements, spanning 50 years, of ¹³⁷Cs in foodstuffs and whole diet in Japan after nuclear weapons testing (NWT) and the Chernobyl accident. Broadly consistent long term trends in ¹³⁷Cs activity concentrations are seen between different agricultural foodstuffs; whole diet follows this general trend with remarkably little variation between averages for different regions of Japan. Model blind tests against post-NWT data for the Fukushima Prefecture showed good predictions for radiocaesium in whole diet, spinach and Japanese radish (for which good long term test data were available). For the post-Fukushima period to 2015, radiocaesium in the average diet followed a declining time trend consistent with that seen after NWT and Chernobyl. Data for different regions post-Fukushima show a high degree of mixing of dietary foodstuffs between regions: significant over-estimates of average dietary ¹³⁷Cs were made when it was assumed that only regionally-produced food was consumed. Predictions of mean committed effective internal doses from dietary ¹³⁷Cs (2011 to 2061) in non-evacuated parts of the Fukushima Prefecture show that average internal dose is relatively low. This study focused on average regional ingestion dose rates and does not attempt to make site specific predictions. However, temporal trends identified could form a basis for site specific predictions of long term activity concentrations in agricultural products and diet both outside and (to assess potential re-use) inside currently evacuated areas.