25 April 2012 - Chernobyl/Geneva: Despite 26 years passing since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, millions of people are still living in dangerous environments, and thousands are suffering health, social and financial impacts, but many governments still consider atomic energy and related technologies as economically efficient and reliable.
On 26 April, 1986, the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, northeast of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, exploded due to human and technical error, spewing a large cloud of radioactive dust into the air that, firstly, descended over surrounding communities. Due to atmospheric conditions, it later contaminated areas of nearby Russia, Belarus and Moldova, and, subsequently, swathes of continental Europe. Scores died in the initial blast and tens of thousands of people have since suffered from a range of health and social impacts.
Green Cross International President Alexander Likhotal, currently in Chernobyl as part of a Green Cross-organized study tour of radiation affected communities, says nuclear emergencies in Chernobyl and Fukushima underscore the dangers this technology poses and the need for the world to further develop safer forms of power, like solar and wind.
“Chernobyl’s deadly legacy still lingers in towns and villages in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus today, offering a terrible reminder of the folly of nuclear technology, including for power and weapons. In light of the Chernobyl and Fukushima tragedies, we have ample evidence now on the nuclear threat. Sustainable development and economic growth can and must be driven by environmentally friendly and safe forms of energy,” according to Mr Likhotal.
“Also, the economic benefits of nuclear technology are greatly exaggerated, particularly when we consider the great costs associated with construction, maintenance and decommissioning.”
Up to 9.9 million people still live in areas with residual contamination from the Chernobyl nuclear blast, according to a scientific review of studies and sources carried out by Green Cross under the direction of Professor Jonathan M. Samet, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California. This includes 1.1 million to 3.5 million people living in Ukraine, 1.6 million to 3.7 million in Belarus and 1.8 million to 2.7 million in Russia.
“Studies on the health effects of radiation caused by the Chernobyl disaster show there has been an increase in affected communities of leukemia, thyroid cancer and other chronic illnesses,” says Nathalie Gysi, Executive Director of Green Cross Switzerland.
Green Cross, led by its Swiss and Ukrainian chapters, undertakes health, social and economic projects in communities where the Chernobyl tragedy left long-term impacts. These projects include therapy camps, health services for treating chronic illnesses and targeted health and social support for mothers and children.
Green Cross International (GCI), founded by former Soviet Union President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993, is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization working to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation through a combination of advocacy and local projects. GCI is headquartered in Geneva and has a growing network of national organizations in over 30 countries.
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