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Harvard Workshop on the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl Accident

by gmoke Wed Apr 27th, 2011 at 11:26:43 PM EST

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:

or here

Ukrainian video on 20th anniversary - here

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 on slate.com ]
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.

More attention should be paid to Chernobyl?
. yes 100%
. no 0%
. not yes 0%
. not no 0%
. neither yes nor no 0%
. both yes and no 0%
. don't understand the question? 0%
. none of the above 0%

Votes: 2
Results | Other Polls
[ET Moderation Technology™]

Embedded the youtube vid using the macro explained here and fixed the lazy linking as explained here.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 03:51:49 AM EST
I have cross posted this piece at other places and keep forgetting that the format at eurotrib is different for video.

Solar IS Civil Defense
by gmoke on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 11:31:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What exactly was the distinction made between "safety" and "security"?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 03:52:44 AM EST
The same as between "aiding and abetting", "breaking and entering", "cease and desist"...

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 04:01:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Safety is normal operation and preparing for natural disaster.  Security is defending the plant and nuclear materials against willful threat, theft, and destruction.

Safe is secure and secure is safe.

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 11:33:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
which I mentioned here, by some Harvard researchers, dating from 2005?

Autopsy on an Empire: Understanding Mortality in Russia and the Former Soviet Union

Male life expectancy at birth fell by over six years in Russia between 1989 and 1994. Many other countries of the former Soviet Union saw similar declines, and female life expectancy fell as well. Using cross-country and Russian household survey data, we assess six possible explanations for this upsurge in mortality. Most find little support in the data: the deterioration of the health care system, changes in diet and obesity, and material deprivation fail to explain the increase in mortality rates. The two factors that do appear to be important are alcohol consumption, especially as it relates to external causes of death (homicide, suicide, and accidents) and stress associated with a poor outlook for the future. However, a large residual remains to be explained.

One can conjecture that the health effects, including both mortality and non-natality, of Chernobyl are orders of magnitude greater than the IAEA version (if only on principle; after all, why would they want to minimise health effects?) but it's difficult to demonstrate anything scientifically if the governments of the affected regions don't want anyone studying it.

Regarding your note on heart disease : I suspect that this subject has been seriously under-studied; it seems unlikely that heart disease in eight-year-olds, as observed by Galena Bandazhevsky, was due to stress rather than some as-yet unknown physiological effect related to nuclear fallout.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 06:33:11 AM EST
None that I recall.

As for heart disease, I did not know that young children had contracted it.  What I read of the PA study was not broken out by age and I assumed that they were talking about the over 37,000 registered people who lived in the area at the time of the TMI accident.  My guess is that few of them would have been children but I do not have any data to that effect.    

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 11:38:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting study.

A thing that struck me was the mortality belt that seams to follow the wind direction from Chernobyl.

The mortality crisis is not limited to Russia. Across tbe western countries of the former Soviet Union--the countries that we term "the mortality belt" and that range from Estonia in tbe north to Ukraine in tbe south there bave been significant declines in male iife expecumcy at birth, ranging from 3.3 years (Belarus) to nearly 5 years in Estonia aiid Latvia. Life expectancy for women fell substantially as well.

But not all countries fared this poorly. The countries that directly border this "mortality belt" and that also experienced a severe economic shock in the 1990s--
Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary and Romania--recorded negligible increases in mortality rates during their transition from communism, and since the mid-1990s many of these countries have enjoyed the fastest increases in life expectancy recorded in their recent history

On the other hand, why would Belorussia has lower mortality decrease then the Baltics? Hm...

Had also to check how much is left when the factors identified (shock therapy and alcoholism) has been counted in.

Approximately half of the mortality reduction is unaccounted for by the factors we identify. Perhaps the factors we identify are the right ones, and the uncertainty of these estimates encompasses the full mortality change. Alternatively, researchers need to identify other factors to explain Russian mortality crisis.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sat Apr 30th, 2011 at 09:08:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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