Sunday, April 03, 2011


Children of Chernobyl - Oncology department {Source: Belarus Guide)

Really important piece in The Guardian yesterday by their long-term environmental correspondent John Vidal.

Entitled ‘Nuclear’s Green Cheerleaders Forget Chernobyl at our Peril’ it does the valuable service of  trying to pin down the exact human toll of the Chernobyl disaster. The official figures from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency were 50 dead and perhaps 4,000 eventual fatalities.

Vidal begins by recounting his own experiences when, in 2006, he visited the ‘still highly contaminated areas of Ukraine and the Belarus border where much of the radioactive plume from Chernobyl descended.’ Here the picture was grim and the doctors and scientist he spoke to dismissed the UN figures as ‘insulting and grossly simplistic.’

He documents various reports and assessments published since the UN figures; the highest, published in the annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in 2006, puts the death toll at 985,000 people.

He concludes: ‘The fact is we may never know the truth about Chernobyl because the records are lost, thousands of people from 24 countries who cleaned up the site have been dispersed across the vast former Soviet Union, and many people have died. Fukushima is not Chernobyl, but it is potentially worse.’

The region around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, as seen from the Russian space station Mir (27th April 1997)

Another Guardian  writer Craig Bennett tackled the issue from a different perspective with his piece: ‘Fukushima shows us the real cost of nuclear power’ which argues that the economics of nuclear power don’t add up – which is even more reason to invest in renewable energy.'

The tide is turning. It's time to highlight the growing body of evidence showing we can keep the lights on with renewable power if we cut the amount of energy we waste. Experts from the Department of Energy and Climate Change's chief scientific adviser, David MacKay, to the respected European consultancy Ecofys, agree that it is possible to provide the energy we need and reduce carbon emissions without nuclear.

Nuclear power offers no safe solution for waste, economics that don't add up, and dangers of nuclear proliferation. An energy future is possible without these negatives.

Chernobyl safety guardian

Chernobyl tour guide Sergei clutches his faithful Geiger counter... [Source: Virgin Media)

Both Bennett’s and Vidal’s articles followed on from an article in The Guardian on the 21st March by George Monbiot, the veteran green commentator, entitled ‘Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power.’ It begins:

’You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.’

This generated a substantial postbag, leading GM to post an extensive piece on his Guardian blog, entitled ‘The double standards of green anti-nuclear opponents’ which begins:

‘The accusations have been so lurid that I had to read my article again to reassure myself that I hadn't written the things that so many of my correspondents say I wrote. So, before I begin the counter-attack, here's what I didn't say about nuclear power.’

Monbiot, published an earlier piece in The Guardian on 11th July 2006, entitled: ‘Sure, nuclear power is safer than in the past – but we still don’t need it’. It was subtitled: It’s true that another Chernobyl couldn’t happen in a new reactor, but the case against is as strong as ever.’

Monbiot is not the first ‘green’ to argue for nuclear.


Stewart Brand: Reinventing Environmental Thinking

James Lovelock: Man of the Moment


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