Chernobyl: 28 Years. Still Breaking Hearts.

Today, April 26, 2014, is the 28th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. As with the date of the Fukushima nuclear disaster (March 11, 2011), this date is permanently fused into my brain. I now live a mere 23 kilometres (14 miles) from the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, a gigantic, deteriorating 40-year old nuclear plant located right on the shores of Lake Ontario, just beyond Toronto’s eastern border – Toronto being Canada’s largest city & major economic engine.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and its nominal “regulator” the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, want to keep running these aging reactors beyond the 210,000 hours for which they were designed.

A great many of us think this is not only foolish, but downright dangerous.

You sure can’t seem to tell these nuclear industry folks much! Massive profits (& individually huge salaries for nuclear industry staffers) appear to blind them all to reasonable limits clearly visible to the average person. As we are always advised, follow the money! (Check out huge OPG salaries here)

Here’s what I know for sure: I am very afraid we will have our own Chernobyl or Fukushima accident right here in the Greater Toronto Area. Right on Lake Ontario, the source of drinking water for somewhere between 6 & 9 million people.

& since most of the people I care about the most live in the GTA, I really really really don’t want this to happen.

‘Chernobyl Heart’ – the documentary

I’ve been a bit preoccupied recently with thoughts about hearts. Ailing hearts, broken hearts. I guess there are about a thousand ways our hearts can be broken, hmmm?

Chernobyl Heart is certainly one of them. This 40-minute documentary, released in 2003 (based on footage from 2002, 16 years into the Chernobyl accident) is really a must-see for anyone who’s chosen to remain on the sidelines & assume nuclear power can ever be considered “safe.”

The award-winning documentary follows Adi Roche, founder of Ireland’s Chernobyl Children’s Project, as she tours deserted territory around the Chernobyl reactor site, then a number of homes for abandoned children, wards in mental asylums, & a maternity hospital where only 15-20% of the infants born are considered healthy.

You see room-fuls of children suffering from a variety of heart-breaking birth defects, teen-agers who have just been operated on for thyroid cancer, babies born with heart defects (the condition known as “Chernobyl heart”) & a teen-ager being operated on for a dangerous heart condition by an American medical team of volunteers.

Your own heart would have to be encased in lead not to be devastated by the footage in this film.

This is 40 minutes that I really recommend you consider spending. (Do be prepared for tears; they're inevitable.)

This is especially important for anyone naïve or uninformed enough to think we can believe the nuclear industry when they say “Just trust us!” – which, as it happens, is pretty much all the assurance they are really able to provide.

Only in Chernobyl & Fukushima, you say?

Ah, no, as it happens. A nuclear accident can happen anywhere.

Especially when reactors long past their prime are being pressed to do duty past their shelf life, as is the case currently with the Pickering reactors. All very well explained by Dr. Gordon Edwards here.

Canada’s CANDU reactors, as it happens, share an unfortunate similarity to the ill-fated Chernobyl RBMK reactor, the “positive void coefficient of reactivity,” explained in this 2013 submission by U.S. nuclear expert, Fairewinds Associates Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen.

It means that in the case of a loss of coolant accident, it’s like putting on the brakes in a car at the same time as pressing down on the accelerator. He adds that it means the CANDU cannot “meet international expectations for a
more passively safe nuclear reactor design.”

Oh dear. Oh dear me. Shall we just understatedly say.

Fallout

Radioactivity from nuclear accidents knows no boundaries. The fallout from the Chernobyl accident resulted in excessive levels of radiation reaching as far as Sweden, Wales, Ireland, Greece & Alaska. To name but a few.

At the time the ‘Chernobyl Heart’ documentary was made, the United Nations estimated that there were 6 million people continuing to live in contaminated areas (around Chernobyl).

Now, of course, we have Fukushima fallout, too. Families & children being forced to live in areas with levels of radioactivity guaranteed to make them sick.

And to pass genetic damage on to their children, & all future generations.

Horrified

I personally find an awful lot of what is going on in the world these days horrifying. Not being a TV-watcher, I have to read novels in order to escape when it all becomes too much. (I’m reading a lot of novels.)

What has happened/is happening to the people (especially the children) of Chernobyl & Fukushima is horrifying. Unforgivable. Despair-making.

I am horrified at the prospect that these things could possibly happen here, one day, to the people I live among & care deeply about.

As nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen says in a short interview last year, it only takes “one bad day.”

Once an accident happens? It’s too late.

Now What?

Well, I’ll continue being an activist on the nuclear front, & writing blog postings that I hope may occasionally motivate someone to get off her/his butt.

I live within the 30 kilometre/ 18 mile zone described in the Chernobyl documentary as “the exclusion zone.”

Where would I go … what would I do?

If it happened here?

Horrifying to contemplate.

Janet

p.s. did you know that a doctor in Belarus who was researching cardiac damage resulting from radiation exposure was arrested as a “terrorist”? Seems as though not everyone wanted that information to be shared around, for some reason. I gather this has happened quite a bit, & now speaking out about nukes in Japan can land you in jail as well.

Stuff to Check Out

 

‘Quote of the Day’ with this post: “…What part of Fukushima don’t you understand? If you don’t make the modifications [re: safety & emergency planning] you run the risk of destroying the fabric of a country. It happened at Chernobyl, and it’s happening right now in Japan…” – Arnie Gundersen in an interview with Al Jazeera on March 27/14.

Runners-up:

“Today no task is more pressing and noble, not only for a scientist, but also for any sober-minded individual, than to prevent nuclear insanity.” – Valery Legasov, head of the former Soviet delegation to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). He was upset over both the Chernobyl disaster & its handling at the IAEA & UN, & later took his life over it.

“The lesson of TMI (and Chernobyl, and Fukushima)? Shut ‘em down before they melt down!” – Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear

“It’s impossible to totally prevent any kind of accident or disaster happening at the nuclear power plants.  And so, the one way  to prevent this from happening, to prevent the risk of having to evacuate such huge amounts of people, 50 million people, and for the purpose, for the benefit of the lives of our people, and even the economy of Japan, I came to change the position, that the only way to do this was to totally get rid of the nuclear power plants.” – former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Toshimitsu Homma of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency stated recently [April 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada] at an international conference on Emergency Management that the most important lesson of Fukushima was that before the accident, “There was an implicit assumption that such a severe accident could not happen and thus insufficient attention was paid to such an accident by authorities.”

** tons more great quotes here