Friday, September 09, 2005

The Chernobyl myth revisited

The United Nations has confirmed that fears of hundreds of thousands dead and dieing from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 are unfounded.

As I pointed out in an article I wrote last January (see The solution for a cleaner environment: Go nuclear!) the reporting of the meltdown of the old No. 3 reactor in rural Ukraine nearly two decades ago continues to exaggerate what really happened there.

The United Nations report states that 56 emergency workers lost their lives in Chernobyl that day. Many more have gone on to develop cancers directly as a result of the accident. But these are all from the emergency services, not, as has been reported over and over again, from those living in, around, and far away from the reactor. Radiation did travel west and north of the town into Poland and Belarus, but nobody has died as a result.

But this has not stopped reporters from reputable organizations from repeating what has become another doomsday myth. For instance, the BBC in December 2000, when the reactor was finally shut down for good, stated that:

“Thirty-one people, mostly firemen, were killed immediately after the explosion, and several thousand more - those involved in the clean-up and children - have since died from radiation-related illnesses. Ukraine says the health of millions of its people have been affected by the disaster.” (see Chernobyl shut down for good)

The new UN report merely restates what an earlier report by the same organization (see United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) stated in 2000. The deaths that occurred were to emergency staff and not the local population, and that many less have died and will die than was originally reported.

Well, they would, wouldn't they?

I was at a dinner party shortly after I wrote my original story nine months ago, and was talking about the Chernobyl myth. I was asked how I knew all this, and I said that I just read a report by the UN and talked to one of the scientists that worked on the report, Zbigniew Jaworowski. The disbelieving response was typical: “Well, the UN would say that, wouldn’t they. I bet they have a lot to hide.”

When I asked my dinner party friend what he thought the UN had to hide by ‘covering up’ what happened in the Ukraine many years ago, he couldn’t answer. Incapable of having a discussion about nuclear energy, he fell back on that old, limp tactic of ‘Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they.”

And of course you can’t discuss something with somebody who sees cover-ups and conspiracies everywhere – even though they have no evidence to back up the claims. Looking for motives for saying x has become more important than looking at, and confronting what x actually means. Consequently, nothing is debatable. Nothing can be argued to be right, or wrong. We live in a world where people (mostly scientists and politicians) only think and believe things because of some ulterior motive.

So debating politics (or anyting else for that matter) has become impossible with these sorts of people. Debating nuclear energy is now impossible with the techno-luddite and the NYMBY.

And this is a shame at a time when the EU, and the Kyoto agreement is telling us to cut our reliance on fossil fuels.


BFuniv said...

Great stuff,

Somehow the truth is not what they want to hear.

"Give us fear, give us emotions, and we will act."

Your logic plays well. Maybe the next generation will learn to think.



jeronimo said...

Enjoying the reads!
But I believe it's NIMBY, but which when pluralized (yes, I'm American!) has been in print as NIMBIES, NIMBYS, NIMBYES, NIMBY(s), NIMBYers (which is probably the most correct!).
And those who really hate them call them NIMBeciles!