Harvard Workshop on the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl Accident
Posted (gmoke) on 28-04-2011

Went to two full presentations and part of another presentation on the history and aftermath of Chernobyl on April 26, the 25th anniversary of the accident, at Harvard. I was surprised that the room was so small. The seminar’s room capacity was 17 people and 15 attended this session, the largest audience during the part of the event I attended.

Guess that what happened in Chernobyl and is still happening because of it is not very important any more, even in the wake of Fukushima.

Paul Josephson, Colby College
Ecological Effects of Chernobyl

Feature length documentary Battle of Chernobyl on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv3a4LXi_qc or

Ukrainian video on 20th anniversary – https://5.ua/newsline/226

Incomplete understanding of short and long term health effects of ionizing radiation even now
Surprisingly rapid recovery of natural environment according to the studies
Impact on Slavutych, a town (35 km from Chernobyl) built to replace the abandoned Pripyat (population near 50,000 at the time of the accident), has been significant
[Difficult multimedia essay on the children of Chernobyl at https://www.slate.com/id/2291888/ ]
14 exa-becquerels of radiation were released, 400 times what was released at Hiroshima
Cesium, strontium, and plutonium at high levels especially in Belarus
2000 square km affected – 30 km exclusion zone which will remain an exclusion zone into the indeterminate future
40% of the agricultural land in Ukraine and Belarus was affected although most now back close to background
Pine trees more susceptible to radiation than birches and only now coming back

Evidence about long term effects contradictory and confusing: small mammals seem to have recovered quickly
Really don’t know how many people were exposed and at what level of radiation in and around Chernobyl
IAEA estimated 4000 extra deaths
50,000 extra cancer deaths is Paul Josephson’s estimate
Douglas Weiner has written two books about Soviet/Russian attitude to nature: Models Of Nature: Ecology, Conservation, and Cultural Revolution in Soviet Russia and A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachev

10-11 years to construct a nuke on average
$6 billion to build one plant in France (will be higher elsewhere) but how much does a Chernobyl or Fukushima cost?

Tammy Lynch, independent researcher
Chernobyl’s Impact on Local Life and Politics

2.4 million have status as Chernobyl-affected
Don’t eat raspberries and strawberries in Kiev is common knowledge for travelers
[One participant spoke about the testing of vegetables for radiation months and years after the accident]

Matthew Bunn, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
Chernobyl, Fukushima, and the Future of Nuclear Energy

Stress and fear may have caused more health effects than radiation, including the failure of providing help like iodine pills to avoid thyroid cancers by the Soviet government [One study of Three Mile Island shows heightened levels of heart disease in one county near TMI which I suspect could possibly be an effect of that accident’s stress]
A dozen Chernobyl type reactors are still in operation [where?]
Chernobyl essentially stopped nuclear power plant construction around the world
All the reactors shut down safely from the earthquake at Fukushima but there will be additional releases in the coming months
Much less radiation has been released, 10% of Chernobyl [so far], much of it dispersed to the ocean

We should be thinking about safety and security at the same time and security issues are more difficult to solve
However, it appears that IEA [International Energy Agency] is only thinking about safety for upcoming June meeting
Upcoming EU stress tests on nukes will not be truly independent or international and will only look at safety issues but not security. The operators will do their own testing without outside monitoring.
About 20 cases of theft of heavily enriched uranium or plutonium to date

For climate change (500 ppm of CO2) we’d have to commission 25 new plants per year from now till 2050, going from 4 to 25 GWe/year of nuclear energy production
Nuclear power in the developing world, as currently proposed, will occur in countries with high rates of corruption and little regulatory control
There are reactors operating today that don’t have modern containment structures [how many and where?]
The current nuclear safety regime is almost entirely voluntary – no international monitoring or enforcement
Security for nuclear power is even weaker

We need more stringent standards for prolonged loss of offsite power, response to damage of cooling systems, emergency response (most plans have never been exercised or tested), protection against terrorism, seismic and flood safety [cyclones and drought and other natural disasters as well], management of spent fuel (US now stores hot rods next to cooler rods – checkerboarding – to minimize possible heat problems and sprinklers have been installed in case of cooling system failure)
In the 35 US boiling water reactors the spent fuel is not contained but in pressurized water reactors the spent fuel pools are within the containment
Fuel rods need 5 years in spent fuel pools before their temperature drops enough for dry cask storage

We also need independent international peer review and greater safety by design and security by design in new reactors [plus retrofit for existing plants?]
I asked about thorium reactors and Toshiba’s modular mini-nuke. In a recent expert survey of where to put R and D dollars, thorium rated 1% of that funding, far down the list. Just as much radioactive material is left as with existing reactors. Toshiba has yet to produce their mini-nuke design.

We will build the two nukes planned for Georgia but there won’t be many if any more because of the economics and the low cost of natural gas [that may change if fracking is as dangerous as some people say]
However, China, India, and Russia will continue to build nukes.

crossposted to dailykos.com and eurotrib.com

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