Thirty years after Chernobyl, and five years post Fukushima: Time to phase out nuclear power

Melbourne: Monday 25th April 2016 : 30 years ago on April 26, two explosions tore off the roof of the reactor core of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine. The explosions and subsequent fire released an estimated 12 trillion Becquerel of radioactive particles into the atmosphere - 200 times greater than the fallout from Nagasaki and Hiroshima combined. The contamination spread over many countries, with Belarus, Ukraine and Russia the worst affected (37% of total), and Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and the Balkans also suffering substantial fallout (53%).

While the official response to the accident was unconscionably slow, 346,000 people from the vicinity were eventually evacuated.  Health studies and estimates of doses sustained took years to commence, and there was no centralised death registry in 1986.

Today the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War have released a report compiling a large number of studies that look at the health impacts of the Chernobyl catastrophe. This report finds wide ranging health effects with cancers, non-cancerous illnesses and genetic impacts.

“Recent research has shown radiation increases rates of non cancer diseases as much or more than it increases rates of malignancies, with significantly increased rates of heart attack and stroke.” said Dr Beavis. “This means we find markedly increased overall harm from radiation.”

The simplest lesson we should draw from this, and from Fukushima 5 years ago, is that radioactive contamination from nuclear power plant accidents is so extensive that there is no adequate public health response to them. Accidents cannot be absolutely prevented because human error is always a possibility and deliberate harm is also an ever present possibility; therefore nuclear power plants present an unacceptable human health risk.

Less catastrophic sources of energy exist, and are not only safer but also cheaper. Our own Royal Commission in South Australia acknowledged earlier this year that building nuclear power plants was not commercially viable.

“The ultimate public health risk is in the form of nuclear weapons, and the most common way for countries to acquire nuclear weapons is via a nuclear power program. For these and other reasons, it is time to phase out nuclear power”

For more information contact Dr Margaret Beavis: 0401 99 56 99 Dr Bill Williams: 0428 616 245