Sunday, April 24, 2016
30 years down 3000 to go
And that is just an estimate of when the site of the failed reactor at Chernobyl will cease to be a threat. And until then it remains a radioactive wild life preserve with occasional guided tours and brave intruders.
It will be 30 years ago Tuesday that Pripyat and the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant became synonymous with nuclear disaster, that the word Chernobyl came to mean more than just a little village in rural Ukraine, and this place became more than just another spot in the shadowy Soviet Union.No joy in a 30 year anniversary when you can't open your present for another 3000 years.
Even 30 years later – 25 years after the country that built it ceased to exist – the full damage of that day is still argued.
Death toll estimates run from hundreds to millions. The area near the reactor is both a teeming wildlife refuge and an irradiated ghost-scape. Much of eastern and central Europe continues to deal with fallout aftermath. The infamous Reactor Number 4 remains a problem that is neither solved nor solvable.
All told, about 4,000 people would eventually die from the accident, according to a report by the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Others say those numbers are wildly low. Alexey Yablokov, a former environment adviser to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, estimated the global death toll to be 1.44 million. Other reports placed the cancer death totals at 30,000 to 60,000. Belarusian physicist Georgiy Lepin, a vice president of the association of liquidators of Chernobyl, the men brought in to fight the fire and clean up, estimated that within a few years, 13,000 rescue workers had died and another 70,000 were left unfit for work. The official number of disabled Chernobyl rescue workers today in Ukraine is 106,000.
A United Nations study says that “5 million people currently live in areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine that are contaminated with radionuclides due to the accident; about 100,000 of them live in areas classified in the past by government authorities as areas of ‘strict control.’ ” About 4,000 people, mostly children, developed thyroid cancer from the radiation, the U.N. says; the survival rate for the cancer is 99 percent.
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