10th Commemoration Activities: April 26, 1996
Ongoing Consequences of the Nuclear Accident
On April 26, 1986, a catastrophic nuclear accident demolished the Russian-made RBMK-1000 type reactor at Chernobyl Unit 4 just 80 miles from Kiev, Ukraine. Power plant operators lost control of the reactor while conducting experiments at low power. An enormous explosion of the reactor core occurred and a mammoth amount of heat and fragmented radioactive fuel was violently thrown into the atmosphere. The atomic fire burned for days before Swedish authorities alerted the world to the return of nuclear fallout spewed high into the atmosphere. Only months early, the February edition of Soviet Life had propagandized that operating the Chernobyl nuclear power plants was "safer than driving a car."
The facts are still coming forward:
- There is roughly a 36 mile diameter "dead zone" surrounding the reactors from which over 160,000 people were evacuated, permanently abandoning over 600 years of continuous habitation and culture around the towns of Chernobyl and Pripyat. Numerous "hot spots" of radioactive contamination persist far beyond a "zone of alienation", many areas will continue to emit radioactivity at levels ranging from 40 to 100 curies/kilometer-squared.
- It is estimated that nearly 80% of Belarus was hit by iodine-131 fallout at 1000 curies/kilometer 2, but because this isotope is short-lived (8 day half-life) it was omitted from the long-term forecasts and analysis despite its extremely significant health consequences.
- Vast tracks of agricultural land and bodies of water have been poisoned in Ukraine, Belarus, southwestern Russia, with significant radioactive contamination persisting as far away as Poland, Norway and Sweden.
- In an effort to avert a second nuclear disaster at the site, the international atomic industry ponders its next move to prevent or contain the eventual collapse of the colossal concrete tomb hastily and at great sacrifice erected as a biological barrier. The concrete pillars supporting the "sarcophagus" are crumbling and ready to burst over the highly radioactive remains of the damaged reactor resulting in another catastrophic airborne release of radioactive particles to the environment.
- Wind and water continue to spread Chernobyl's radioactive contamination. Ground water flowing under the damaged Chernobyl reactor is spreading a radioactive plume underground into the Pripyat and Dnieper Rivers, threatening the city of Kiev's water supply.
- Now, nearly 10 years later, the Ukrainian government estimates 8000 people have died in their country from the nuclear accident as a result of radiation-related illnesses. The Ukrainian Ministry of Health places that figure at 125,000 with disease rates, miscarriages and birth defects steadily rising. Officials in Belarus estimate that roughly 2 million have suffered in some way as a result of the nuclear meltdown. Over 3 million Russians were exposed to radioactive fallout in 1986. An estimated 370,000 Russians are believed at significant risk for radiation illness according to a recent Moscow medical conference.
Chernobyl +10 Activities
In coordination with Greenpeace, Children of Chernobyl Relief Fund, and grassroots organizations all across the United States, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) is facilitating a campaign to refocus public attention on the growing medical and sociological consequences from the radioactive fallout of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and its obvious implications for the ongoing operation of aging nuclear power plants in the United States and around the world.
On April 26, 1996 an international community will observe the 10th commemoration of this catastrophic nuclear accident. This date provides the anti-nuclear movement in the United States an opportunity to educate and activate the public to the increasing danger that nuclear power poses to our local communities while simultaneously extending a helping hand to a growing population of radiological victims in Ukraine, Belarus and southwestern Russia.
Chernobyl+10 Education Packets
NIRS and Greenpeace are producing an education packet to supplement local organizing efforts utilizing well researched fact sheets on specific topics relating to the Chernobyl accident; a historical account of the accident, the current status of the damaged reactor and the sarcophagus, the ongoing health and sociological impacts of the radioactive fallout, and the implications for the US nuclear power station nearest your community.
Community Relief Collection Tables for
Chernobyl Victims at Your Local Nuclear Utility
Local groups can establish a legal presence outside of nuclear utility offices (headquarters, regional billing offices, nuclear power plant gates, etc.) as a distribution point for literature packets and publicized collection points for targeted relief supplies for Chernobyl victims. A specific list of needed supplies includes such items as over-the-counter drugs (children's aspirin, cough syrup, etc.), nutritional supplements (multivitamins, mineral supplements, etc.), and canned baby food. The targeted relief effort will specify the relief supplies would be collected and shipped for distribution (no clothes, please). Shipments of the collected supplies would then be made to New Jersey where the Children of Chernobyl Fund, an established and accredited relief agency, will facilitate the overseas transport of the relief materials to the radiation victims. These action/vigils are planned to begin well in advance of April 26, 1996 so as to build momentum and public awareness for the commemorative event.
Media events to publicize these activities will be coordinated locally, nationally and internationally to focus public attention on the dangers of nuclear power while promoting humanitarian relief to Chernobyl victims. Materials focused on alternatives to nuclear power will also be made available as part of the educational packet.
Nuclear Information and Resource Service, 1424 16th Street NW Suite 601, Washington, DC 20036 — 202/328-0002 fax: 202/462-2183
NIRS contact: Paul Gunter, Reactor Watchdog Project, 202-328-0002
A "Chernobyl +10" section is being posted on the NIRS Homepage at http://www.essential.org/nirsnet/