There’s great debate about the number of fatalities following Chernobyl; the International Atomic Energy Agency has predicted that there will be only about 4,000 deaths from cancer, but a 2009 report published by the New York Academy of Sciences says that almost one million people have already perished from cancer and other diseases. The high doses of radiation caused so many miscarriages that we will never know the number of genetically damaged fetuses that did not come to term. (And both Belarus and Ukraine have group homes full of deformed children.)
Nuclear accidents never cease. We’re decades if not generations away from seeing the full effects of the radioactive emissions from Chernobyl.
As we know from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it takes years to get cancer. Leukemia takes only 5 to 10 years to emerge, but solid cancers take 15 to 60. Furthermore, most radiation-induced mutations are recessive; it can take many generations for two recessive genes to combine to form a child with a particular disease, like my specialty, cystic fibrosis. We can’t possibly imagine how many cancers and other diseases will be caused in the far future by the radioactive isotopes emitted by Chernobyl and Fukushima.
As the US tries to con its citizens into accepting more nuclear power plants, you'll hear the line of BS often that only a handful of people died because of Chernobyl. They only count the firefighters and plant workers who died directly from radiation, which is around 30 people. When you hear that, you should start laughing. Here's some facts about Chernobyl from Iris Cheng, Return to Chernobyl And no, this is not old info from 25 years ago. This is all from a recent visit she just made.
Like every year Ukraine government needs to spend between six to eight percent of the fiscal budget to cope with the consequences of Chernobyl.
Like how tens of thousands of Ukrainian children need to be sent away every year to uncontaminated areas for at least a month, in order to allow the body to get rid of some of the Cesium-137 accumulated through eating everyday food like milk, mushrooms, berry jam and meat.
Like how food sold in every market needs to be tested for radionuclide like Cesium and Strontium.
Like how children of Rokytne get tonsillitis several times a year because their immune systems are compromised by radionuclide. According to deputy head doctor from the District Hospital, two-thirds of the population of 53,000 he cares for is affected by Cesium-137 contamination in food. Rokytne is 300km away from Chernobyl, on the other side of the country.
Like how the local health and sanitary station in some areas need to make maps to tell local communities where the radiation hotspots are and thus unsafe to go.
Like how in school children are taught the practical steps of radiation safety, and do emergency drills with gas masks.
Like how young expectant mothers get advice about what food they need to avoid, in order to minimise radionuclide uptake, which causes deformity in the developing fetus. They need frequent checks and if the fetus develops serious deformity then it may have to be aborted.
Like how it is considered impolite to ask workers building the new sarcophagus about their personal radiation dose. If it reaches the limit then they cannot work, which means they lose their job.
Like how radioactive waste containment and management had become an important sector of the economy, because of the Chernobyl disaster. The original sarcophagus, hastily built in the months after the accident, is meant to only last 25-30 years and now at risk of collapse. Underneath, the destroyed reactor is still on site and cannot be dismantled because of its extreme radioactivity.
The consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster lie in these mundane everyday facts. Life for these communities is brutally distorted, for centuries to come.
Yeah, Chernobyl was just this little ol event that was unfortunate but it only killed 30 people ... yeah, right. Got any other bridges to try to sell me?
Back to Dr. Caldicott and the effects of radiation ...
However, doctors know that there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation, and that radiation is cumulative. The mutations caused in cells by this radiation are generally deleterious. We all carry several hundred genes for disease: cystic fibrosis, diabetes, phenylketonuria, muscular dystrophy. There are now more than 2,600 genetic diseases on record, any one of which may be caused by a radiation-induced mutation, and many of which we’re bound to see more of, because we are artificially increasing background levels of radiation.
There is no 'safe does' for radiation. Oh, there's an exposure level where the statisticians of the nuclear industry will say that your cancer was likely to occur even if you hadn't been exposed to extra radiation from a nuclear plant or fallout from a reactor around the world. And, the lawyers for the nuclear industry will force you to admit that you do not have a solid, chain-of-evidence connection between your cancer and the nuclear plant up the road.
But, any time radiation hits the body, there's a chance for severe damage. Does the radiation hit some of the water of which we are so predominantly made? Then, maybe you are ok. But, if the radiation just happens to hit the DNA in the nucleus of that cell that's about to divide in just the right way, then that becomes a cancer cell. If the radiation hits an about to divide cell in a fertile egg or new fetus in just the right way, well, that's now one of the 2600 genetic disease mutations that Dr. Caldicutt talks about. And if the radioactive source gets inside of you, like a spec of plutonium dust getting into your lungs, or as in Cesium or Iodine or Strontium mimicking minerals your body needs and getting into you, well, now that's much more dangerous as it will now just sit there blasting all the bone and tissue around it with a constant stream of radiation.
There is no safe dose. There's only the level of dose at which the lawyers of the nuclear industry claim that you can't prove that your cancer, your death, or the birth defect of your child is their fault. That doesn't mean that the cancers and birth defects from their 'safe dose' don't exist. Just that you can't pin the blame on them beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Remember that whenever you hear the nuclear industry, and the news media that parrots their claims, talking about 'safe doses' and radiation levels that 'pose no danger'. No danger of of the blame getting pinned on them is what they really mean.