Chernobyl will not die

Posted April 26, 2011 on 1:20 pm | In the category Europe, Russia | by Mackenzie Brothers

Exactly twenty-five years ago today a rather remote nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine – at that time still in the Soviet Union – exploded and sent a deadly dose of radioactivity into the atmosphere where it eventually spread out over the skies of neighbouring Belarus, in particular, but soon over much of northern and central Europe as well. At first the Soviet government denied that there was a serious problem and sent in men on suicide missions with shovels and fire hoses to supposedly cover up a potential danger which in fact was already completely out of the bottle. The results are now there for all to contemplate. One third (!) of the soil of Belarus is contaminated, a substantial zone around Chernobyl is uninhabitable and will remain so for centuries, and scores of thousands have died.
And now in far-of and technologically sophisticated Japan, something similar is going on. The government greatly understated the danger, courageous men were sent in, certainly better protected than the fireman of Chernobyl but still in mortal danger, but the evil genie was already out of the bottle, the ocean itself is contaminated and 80,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. There is no guarantee that they will ever be allowed to return. And this time there has been some reflection on what it means since it is very unlikely that the next catastrophe will need another twenty-five years. Germany has shut down, at least temporarily, its oldest reactors and is considering a future without nuclear power, with no easy solution once one has become addicted to it. But resource-poor France, and increasingly India and China, have made clear that they are putting all their energy bets on nuclear power and even poor Belarus is building its first nuclear reactor right on the Lithuanian, and EU, border. So much for learning from the past.

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