Sunday, September 18, 2005

Chernobyl a generation later

I was working in the nuclear power industry when Chernobyl happened in 1986. It was a very nasty accident, compounded by the fact that the Russian govt was trying to deny it happened even as outsiders could see the fire via satellite pictures. They couldn't very well evacuate people if nothing had happened, could they? What could we expect from a society that couldn't even run a farm?

The predictions were frightful. Fortunately for me, I was working around a bunch of people with the technical knowledge to show me that what had happened at Chernobyl simply couldn't happen at a US commercial power reactor - such a reactor never would have been licensed under US regulations. What's more, most Soviet reactors couldn't fail that way either - it was peculiar to RBMK models as opposed to the more common VVERs.

However flawed the design was, to call Chernobyl a failure is to be unfair to it - it simply wasn't designed to be operated the way it was at the time. The only reason why it was operated so was - are you ready for this? - to demonstrate how *safe* the design was.

Here Michael Fumento writes of a recent report on Chernobyl, produced by the UN with the benefit of almost 2 decades' worth of study of the aftermath of the accident. He writes
Indeed, “the largest public health problem created by the accident” is the “damaging psychological impact [due] to a lack of accurate information,” the Chernobyl Forum found. “These problems manifest as negative self-assessments of health, belief in a shortened life expectancy, lack of initiative, and dependency on assistance from the state.”
Well, now we have some accurate information based on years of observation.

And environmentalists have no excuse for failing to inform the public of the truth about Chernobyl.

Don't hold your breath.

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