Saturday, April 29, 2006 ... //

Twenty years after Chernobyl

On Wednesday morning, it's been 20 years since the Chernobyl disaster; see news.google.com. The communist regimes could not pretend that nothing had happened (although in the era before Gorbachev, they could have tried to do so) but they had attempted to downplay the impact of the meltdown. At least this is what we used to say for twenty years. You may want to look how BBC news about the Chernobyl tragedy looked like 20 years ago.

Ukraine remembered the event (see the pictures) and Yushchenko wants to attract tourists to Chernobyl. You may see a photo gallery here. Despite the legacy, Ukraine has plans to expand nuclear energy.

Today I think that the communist authorities did more or less exactly what they should have done - for example try to avoid irrational panic. It seems that only 56 people were killed directly and 4,000 people indirectly. See here. On the other hand, about 300,000 people were evacuated which was a reasonable decision, too. And animals are perhaps the best witnesses for my statements: the exclusion zone - now an official national park - has become a haven for wildlife - as National Geographic also explains:

• Reappeared: Lynx, eagle owl, great white egret, nesting swans, and possibly a bear
• Introduced: European bison, Przewalski's horse
• Booming mammals: Badger, beaver, boar, deer, elk, fox, hare, otter, raccoon dog, wolf
• Booming birds: Aquatic warbler, azure tit, black grouse, black stork, crane, white-tailed eagle (the birds especially like the interior of the sarcophagus)

Ecoterrorists in general and Greenpeace in particular are very wrong whenever they say that the impact of technology on wildlife must always have a negative sign.

In other words, the impact of that event has been exaggerated for many years. Moreover, it is much less likely that a similar tragedy would occur today. Nuclear power has so many advantages that I would argue that even if the probability of a Chernobyl-like disaster in the next 20 years were around 10%, it would still be worth to use nuclear energy.

Some children were born with some defects - but even such defects don't imply the end of everything. On the contrary. A girl from the Chernobyl area, born around 1989, was abandoned by her Soviet parents, was adopted by Americans, and she became the world champion in swimming. Her name? Hint: the Soviet president was Gorbachev and this story has something to do with the atomic nucleus. Yes, her name is Mikhaila Rutherford. ;-)

If you have Google Earth, you may also

Incidentally, if you want a three-dimensional modelling software, try

The files created by users are shared at

snail feedback (2) :

Lubos:

You can not diminish the danger of nuclear contaimination by citing the facts how animals thrived in the Chernobyl area. We know, for a fact, that animals thrive in all kinds of adverse environment, and the Darwinian Natural Selection quickly eliminate anything that this unfit and un-healthy so you don't see it.

To animals, if they give birth to 10 cubs and 5 of them died of birth defects caused by radiation. They THRIVE. Remember a fish lays billions of eggs and only one or two has a chance to surve to adulthood of the fish!!! But to human, if you have two children and one of them has birth defects due to radiation, that's absolutely devastating. So you can NOT compare human with animals.

The statistics of 56 killed directly and 4000 indirectly is NOT the final statistics. What about the people who may not be so evidently killed, but whose health is greatly affected by the disaster? For example one who could have lived healthly to 70, but died at age of 60 because poor health caused by radiation exposure? And some of the radioactivity lasts thousands of years before they diminish to below background level. How are you going to calculate the accumulative adverse effect of the radioactivity pollution to future generations?

Dear Quantoken,

most of what you write is incorrect (again).

The United Nations' counting of 4000 indirect deaths is the complete result of the 20-year work of the U.N. personnel as of today, and it contains the future deaths.

See here

About 50 lives were lost directly, mostly rescue workers.

Your comments about animals and people show that you are a kind of creationist. Humans are still mammals, and a healthy survival of the society requires more or less similar assumptions as for other relatives of us in the animal kingdom.

There are children being born with birth defects also independently of Chernobyl, and a rational evaluation of these things requires to compare the background and foreground, and other consequences of one decision or another.

I was not proposing that all people should have returned there. On the contrary, I like the idea that it will remain a natural reserve that will naturally repel people because there will still be radioactivity around. We don't have too many natural reserves in the mainstream mild climate zones.

But I was explaining that the Chernobyl meltdown was not, in any sense, an armageddon. The direct deaths were lower than 9/11 by orders of magnitude, and even the indirect deaths are comparable to 9/11.

Best
Lubos