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5 - Postscript


April 26, 2011 will not be the end for the suffering as a consequence of the Chernobyl accident. Ironically, it is likely that Chernobyl's public health impacts will be further down-played at the IAEA-sponsored conference in Kiev (20-22 April): “Chernobyl, 25 Years On: Safety for the Future”. This conference is intended to be "a forum for the scrutiny of the disaster mitigation measures implemented after the Cherno-byl disaster, and the examination of how the lessons learned can be used to improve nuclear and radiation safety around the world." 

Due to further downplaying of the health consequences by organizations linked to the nuclear establishment and the fact that the Chernobyl accident will fade away in the public debate and the collective memory, it will be extremely difficult to raise any public awareness on this matter in the future.

Let's make sure that past and future suffering due to Cher-nobyl will not be in vain by making April 26 the international 'phase-out nuclear' day and increase our efforts to end the nuclear age.


4- Aftermath: no lessons learned


April: At an international conference, "Fifteen Years After the Chernobyl Accident - Lessons Learned" in Kiev, experts, UN organizations and the IAEA reach a minimal consensus in the evaluation of health effects. A direct link between the accident and thyroid cancer among children is recognized internation-ally. Indications for other consequences are being observed, however with limited resources. 
4-8 June: International Sci-entific Conference on “Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident: Results of 15-Year Follow-Up Studies” in Kiev, Ukraine. One of the many findings: Liquidators' state of health worsened consi-derably since the accident, high levels of general somatic diseases, morbidity increased more than 17 times between 1991 and 2000. 
18 June: After being arres-ted in July 1999, Professor Bandazhevsky was brought to trial in Gomel in February 2001. On June 18, 2001, the Military Board of the Belaru-sian Supreme Court convic-ted him and sentenced him to eight years’ imprisonment. His property was confiscated, and he is prohibited from exercising his political rights and assuming any managerial position for five years fol-lowing his release. October: After visiting the affected regions, a delegation of national and international experts sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) calls for a new approach in aid programs. They recommend a develop-mental approach, shifting the emphasis from "help for vic-tims" towards helping people to help themselves. 

6 February:
The United Nations calls for an entirely new approach to helping millions of people impacted by the Chernobyl accident, saying that 16 years after the incident those affected remain in a state of “chronic dependency,” with few opportunities and little control over their destinies. The report “The Human Conse-quences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident” notes that some 7 million people are in some way or another recipients of state welfare connected with Chernobyl. 

Human consequences of the Chernobyl accident.
The United Nations calls for an entirely new approach to hel-ping millions of people impacted by the Chernobyl accident, saying that 16 years after the incident those affected remain in a state of “chronic dependency,” with few opportunities and little control over their destinies. The UN warns that populations in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine would continue to experience general decline unless significant new measures are adopted to address health, the environment and unemploy-ment. The study emphasizes the need for the recovery phase to focus attention on two broad groups: 
The first group includes some 100,000 to 200,000 people caught in the downward spiral. These are people who live in severely contaminated areas; people who have been resettled but remain unemployed; and those whose health remains most directly threatened, including victims of thyroid cancer. Some 2,000 people have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and the report states that as many as 8,000 to 10,000 additional cases are expected to develop over the coming years. The report states that this group of up to 200,000 people, spread across all three countries, is “at the core of the cluster of problems created by Chernobyl,” and focusing on their needs and hel-ping them take control of their futures must be a priority. 
The second group identified for priority action includes those whose lives have been directly and significantly affected but who are already in a position to support themselves. This group has found employment, but still must be reintegrated into society as a whole so that their ongoing needs are addressed through the mainstream provision of services using criteria applicable to other members of society. This group includes hundreds of thousands of individuals. 
The report also identifies a third group, encompassing millions of people, who have been indirectly impacted by the stigma, uncertainty and fatalism that have become associated with Chernobyl. This group, too, needs to be aided through clearer information and more open and continuous disclosures about the evolving situation in the region, the report argues. The report notes that some 7 million people are in some way or another recipients of state welfare connected with Chernobyl. The study, carried out by an international panel of experts in July-August 2001, was commissioned by the UNDP and the UNICEF, and was supported by the WHO and the OCHA  (the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

April: secret KGB documents released in Ukraine show that there were problems with the Chernobyl nuclear plant. One 1984 document notes deficiencies in the third and fourth block, and also of poor quality of some equipment sent from Yugoslav companies. 
27 June: The International Chernobyl Research and Informa-tion Network (ICRIN) is launched by the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl in Geneva. The objective of the international network is to make Chernobyl research results systema-tically accessible both to the affected population and to the authorities and decision-makers, and also to identify gaps in existing research findings. The web-site serves as an infor-mation platform for ICRIN members and the public at large. The activities and addresses of scientific institutions and organizati-ons can be accessed in a database on the website.
August: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said it would give Ukraine US$ 85 million this year to cover the gaping hole in reactor 4. The construc-tion of the new shelter will start in 2004. 

27 April: In New York, over 600 invited guests from numerous coun-tries attended the first public viewing of the film "Chernobyl Heart" since it won this year's Academy Award for the best docu-mentary two months ago. November: Scientific evidence that fallout from Chernobyl may have raised cancer rates in western Europe may have emerged. Researchers in Sweden showed a statistically relevant correlation between the degree of fallout and an observed rise in the number of total cancer cases. 

April: European Commission confirms that restrictions in the UK on the transport, sale and slaughtering of sheep remain in force ‘in numerous cattle breeding enterprises especially in the North of Wales” In Ireland and certain Scandinavian regions, monitoring is also still conducted. 
April: In certain game, wild grown berries and mushrooms and in carnivorous fish (from regions in Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland) the levels of Caesium-137 still vastly exceed normal levels. In the regions worst hit by the fall-out from Chernobyl, contamination levels will remain high and relatively unchanged for the next deca-des, the EC believes. 

12 May: At a pledging meeting in London the European Commission announced an additional €49 million to the international Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF). A total of about US$200 million are donated at the donor meeting. The project is estimated to cost US$1,091 million and is planned to be completed by 2009. 
4 August: Alpha-radiation from plutonium-241 decay pro-ducts is increasing. Pu-241 emits Beta-radiation and has a half-life of only 14.4 years. It decays in Americium-241which emits alpha-radiation and has a half life 432.2 years. Result: in Belarus alpha-radiation is currently three-times as high as in 1986 and in the year 2276 the level will still be twice as high as shortly after the 1986 disaster. The zone’s americium-241 will reach its maximum level in 2059. Am-241’s alpha radia-tion is even more powerful than plutonium’s, and it decays to neptunium-237, which also decays by way of an energetic alpha particle and has a half-life of more than 2 million years. However, the vast majority of radiation exposure is from beta-emitting caesium-137 which is declining with a half-life of about 30 years. 
5 August: As a result of amnesties, Professor Bandazhevs-ky's eight-year prison sentence was reduced to seven years in July 2002 and, in early 2004, his sentence was reduced to six years. According to the Belarusian government, Articles 90 and 91 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus stipulate that Professor Bandazhevsky's sentence could be reduced when he had served half of the term of the prison sentence handed down by the court, and conditional early re-lease (“parole”) reportedly was possible after two thirds of the sentence had been served, on January 6, 2005. But it was not until August 5, 2005, under an amnesty declared by President Lukashenka to celebrate the 60th anniversary of World War II, that Professor Bandazhevsky was released. 
30 August: The latest radiation measurements in the area immediately surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant indicate that the levels of radioactive contamination are fal-ling. Ukraine’s authorities are therefore opening some of the evacuation zone of 2,800 square kilometers, from where all inhabitants were relocated after the 1986 nuclear accident, for partial resettlement. However, those who return will lose the welfare benefits they have been entitled to so far. 
31 August: The WHO completes its working draft Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programs Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group "Health". From this report and others in this series, IAEA cre-ates Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-economic Impacts and Recommendations to the Govern-ments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine [date of release: 5 September 2005]. Again the work of the WHO is overshadowed by the so-called WHA 12.40, which is the agreement between WHO and IAEA that allows either to keep information from the other, which would hurt their respective mandates. Since it is the IAEA's mandate "to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world", it is doubtful that IAEA could conduct unbiased health studies on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion. In fact, IAEA has no mandate to conduct health studies at all. 
September: Ukrainian authorities retrieve radioactive fuel believed to be stolen from Chernobyl. A plastic bag, contai-ning 14 pieces of fuel, where fond during a routine search of the reactors perimeter. The material is believed to be stolen in 1995 but left in the plant when additional security measures to detect radiation were installed after the theft in 1995 
5 September: According to the IAEA’s press release Cherno-byl: The True Scale of the Accident, introducing the contro-versial report “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts” a total of up to four thousand people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl accident. And “as of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster”. 

IAEA study “rubbish”
Chernobyl relief organizations and many radiation scien-tists dispute and criticize the data and figures in the re-port, calling them “poor”, “quite inappropriate” or simply “rubbish”. The report is accused of playing down the true dimension of the catastrophe. Some statements of the study are challenged as “demonstrably false”. Experts are also concerned that the UN’s IAEA, may have had “too great an influence” on the study.
Dr. Rosalie Bertell, a well known expert, has made many comments on the IAEA’s press release. One of these comments is on the following quote: “Approximately 1000 on-site reactor staff and emergency workers were heavily exposed to high-level radiation on the first day of the accident; among the more than 200,000 emergency and recovery operation workers exposed during the pe-riod from 1986-1987, an estimated 2200 radiation-caused deaths can be expected during their lifetime”. Bertell: “Radiation-caused deaths is a loaded statement. It assu-mes that only death is considered to be detrimental, and eliminates the consideration of all severe and debilitating morbidity. Moreover, these scientists, trained by the documents released by International Commission on Ra-diological Protection (ICRP) over the last fifty years, have accepted without question that the only health effects “of concern” attributable to radiation are deaths from cancer. Non-fatal cancers are basically of no concern. These are administrative decisions and not science.[..]” 
Dr. Angelica Claussen from the German branch of the IPPNW remarks: “Studies conducted for the International Chernobyl Project of the IAEA took place from January 1990 to the end of February 1991. In 1990 alone the rate of new cases of thyroid cancer in children in Belarus was 30 times higher than the 10 year average.” The IAEA report states however: “The official data that were exa-mined did not indicate a marked increase in the incidence of leukemia or cancers. (..) 
Reported adverse health effects attributed to radiation were not substantiated either by those local studies that were adequately performed or by the studies under the Project.. (..) The children who were examined were found to be generally healthy. (..).” Later independent research by the BBC has proved that the IAEA and its international commission of experts were already in possession of all of the relevant facts at the time of the conference and the presentation of the report, including the histopathological evidence for a marked increase in the rate of thyroid can-cers. It is alarming to ascertain that this deliberate decep-tion of the general public was practiced by such experts as Professor Mettler (Director of the medical expert group of the International Chernobyl Project) and other experts from the EU and Japan.

November: Eleven farms, covering 11,300 hectares in Scot-land, are still so contaminated by the Chernobyl accident that their sheep are considered unsafe to eat. 
15 December: In a official statement Ukraine president Yush-chenko says no foreign fuel will be stored at Chernobyl. A week earlier, he stated that the government was studying the possibility of storing foreign nuclear fuel at Chernobyl. After a loud public outcry he apparently discarded the idea. 
16 December: France: The SCPRI (Central Service for Protection against Radioactive Rays) knew of high levels of contamination in Corsica and southeastern France but kept the information under wraps. The study was commissioned by a magistrate who since 2001 has been examining allegati-ons that the atomic cloud from Chernobyl caused a surge in cases of thyroid cancer in parts of France. According to the report the SCPRI issued imprecise maps that concealed high levels of fallout in certain areas. 

January: The EBRD stated the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) had reached a crucial point, with the awarding of the contract for the NSC (New Safe Confinement) expected within the next few months. The EBRD has said completion of the main construction projects is scheduled for 2008 or 2009. Stabilization work on the sarcophagus has begun, with two of eight stabilization activities already complete. The aim is to make the sarcophagus stable for 15 years, allowing time for the NSC to be constructed. A winner of a tender was said to be announced on a donor conference on February 14. Howe-ver, there were too many unsolved problems to announce the companies name. 
6 April: The New Scientist magazine is quoting two indepen-dent scientists from the UK, Ian Fairlie and David Sumner, who are accusing the IAEA and the WHO of downplaying the impact of the Chernobyl accident. They say that the death toll from cancers caused by Chernobyl will in fact lie some-where between 30,000 and 60,000, up to 15 times as many as officially estimated. Fairlie and Sumner accuse the IAEA/WHO report, released 5 September 2005, of ignoring its own prediction of an extra 5000 cancer deaths in the less conta-minated parts of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and of failing to take account of many thousands more deaths in other coun-tries, where more than half of Chernobyl's fallout ended up. Zhanat Carr, a radiation scientist with the WHO admitted that the deaths were omitted because the report was a “political communication tool”. Fairlie and Sumner's accusations are backed by other experts. 
6 April: Also released on this day is the report Health Ef-fects of Chernobyl – 20 Years After the Reactor Disaster by the IPPNW in Germany and the German Society for Radia-tion Protection (GfS). They also belies the claim by the IAEA that less than 50 people died as a result of the accident at Chernobyl. The facts presented by the composers of the report show that the IAEA figures contain serious inconsisten-cies. For instance, the IAEA claim that future fatalities due to cancer and leukemia in the most heavily exposed groups are expected to number 4000 at the most. However, the study by the WHO, that this claim is based on, forecasts 8930 fatali-ties. “And when one then reviews the reference given in WHO report, one arrives at 10,000 to 25,000 additional deaths due to cancer and leukemia”, says Dr. Pflugbeil from the GfS. The IPPNW report documents the catastrophic dimensions of the reactor accident, using scientific studies, expert estimates and official data. Some of them are mentioned here: 
- 50,000 to 100,000 liquidators (clean-up workers) died in the years up to 2006. Between 540,000 and 900,000 liquidators have become invalids; 
- Congenital defects found in the children of liquidators and people from the contaminated areas could affect future gene-rations to an extent that cannot yet be estimated; 
- Infant mortality has risen significantly in several European countries, including Germany, since Chernobyl. The studies at hand estimated the number of fatalities amongst infants in Europe to be about 5000; 
- In Bavaria alone, between 1000 and 3000 additional birth defects have been found since Chernobyl. It is feared that in Europe more than 10,000 severe abnormalities could have been radiation induced; 
- In Germany, Greece, Scotland and Rumania, there has been a significant increase in cases of leukemia; 
18 April: A new Greenpeace report has revealed that the full consequences of the Chernobyl disaster could top a quarter of a million cancer cases and nearly 100,000 fatal cancers. The challenges the UN IAEA Chernobyl Forum report, which predicted 4,000 additional deaths attributable to the accident as a gross simplification of the real breadth of human suffering. The new data, based on Belarus national cancer statis-tics, predicts approximately 270,000 cancers and 93,000 fatal cancer cases caused by Chernobyl. The report also conclu-des that on the basis of demographic data, during the last 15 years, 60,000 people have additionally died in Russia because of the Chernobyl accident, and estimates of the total death toll for the Ukraine and Belarus could reach another 140,000. The report also looks into the ongoing health impacts of Chernobyl and concludes that radiation from the disaster has had a devastating effect on survivors; damaging immune and endocrine systems, leading to accelerated ageing, cardiovascular and blood illnesses, psychological illnesses, chromosomal aberrations and an increase in fetal deformations.
28 October: There are 36 areas of upland Norway where Chernobyl contamination still requires controls on sheep. 
According to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority 
(NRPA), levels of caesium-137 reached 7 kBq/kg in sheep this year, more than twice the maximum levels in previous years. The discovery of such high levels of radioactivity so long after the Chernobyl accident came as a surprise, a NRPA spokes-man says. 
10 November: Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko issues a decree establishing 14 December as an annual holiday called "Liquidators' Day". 
30 November: Today is the 20th anniversary of the techni-cal acceptance (licensing) of the sarcophagus, built under extreme conditions and designed to last 30 years, though the Ukrainian Institute for Nuclear Power Plant Safety considers it impossible to define a service life for the facility. Currently about 100 contract workers in addition to 80 plant staff work daily on the sarcophagus. The reinforcement work will consi-derably reduce the risk of the sarcophagus's roof collapsing. The next stage in the Shelter work is erection of a so-called New Safe Confinement. A French-led consortium called Novarka and a group led by CH2M Hill of the US are vying for the job. 

21 April: In Science of Superstorms, a BBC2 documentary Russian military pilots describe how they create rain clouds to protect Moscow from radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl disaster. More than 10,000 km2 of Belarus were sacrificed to save the Russian capital from toxic radioactive material. 
23 April: A study of birds around Chernobyl suggests that nuclear fallout, rather than the impact of relocation and stress and deteriorating living conditions, as suggested by the IAEA, may be responsible for human birth defects in the region. Ti-mothy Mousseau, at the University of South Carolina, Colum-bia, and his colleagues examined 7700 barn swallows from Chernobyl and compared them with birds from elsewhere. They found that Chernobyl's swallows were more likely to have tumors, misshapen toes and feather deformities than swallows from uncontaminated parts of Europe. "We don't fully understand the consequences of low doses of radiation," says Mousseau. "We should be more concerned about the human population." 
2 June: The impact of the Chernobyl disaster is often seen as a problem in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. The medical ef-fects of Chernobyl disaster, however, have spread all around the world. Courier-Life Publications reports on a story of a New York based medical specialist: "There are between 150 and 200 thousand people in the NY metropolitan area who come from the affected region, and the 'cancer rates are going up and up'" 
4 June: The incidence of cancer in northern Sweden in-creased following the accident at Chernobyl. This was the finding of a much-debated study from Linköping University in Sweden from 2004. Two studies using different methods has shown a statistically significant increase in the incidence of cancer in northern Sweden, where the fallout of radioactive cesium-137 was at its most intense. 
16 August: Swedish children born in the months following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster suffered mental impairment from the radioactive fallout, a study found. The report by economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund from Columbia University, New York, and their Stockholm University colleague Mårten Palme carried out an analysis of more than 560,000 Swed-ish children born between 1983 and 1988. They found that academic performance was generally weaker in all children still in utero at the time of maternal exposure to Chernobyl fallout, and this effect was most pronounced for those fetuses at 8 to 25 weeks post conception. This is the peak period of brain development when cells may be particularly vulnera-ble to being killed by relatively low doses of radiation. The researchers say it appears prenatal exposure to radiation levels previously considered safe was actually damaging to cognitive ability. 
17 September: The French-led consortium Novarka signs 
a contract to build a new Shelter around the site of Reactor 4 for more than Euro 430 million. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and the French trade minister, Herve Novelli, oversee the signing by the consortium, which includes French builders Bouygues and Vinci. The consortium will build an arch-shaped metal structure 105m tall, 260m wide and 150m long to cover the existing containment structure, which stands over the reactor and radioactive fuel that caused the accident. The new sarcophagus will weigh about 18,000 tons -- more than twice the weight of the Eiffel tower and will res-emble a half-cylinder and slide over the existing sarcophagus. According to official estimates, the reactor still contains about 95% of the original nuclear fuel from the plant. The EBRD is contributing Euro 330 million (about US$460m.) to the project and says it will take about 1,5 years to design the shelter and another four years to build it. 
Officials also signed a US$200m contract with the US firm Holtec International to build a storage facility for spent nu-clear fuel from Chernobyl's NPP three other reactors, which kept operating until the station was shut down in 2000. 

23 February: Publication of "Anecdotes and empirical re-search in Chernobyl" by researchers from the Royal Society in Biology Letters. The scientists mop the floor with all the stu-dies on the consequences of Chernobyl that has been done so far and have received wide attention by the international media. They state: "Although Chernobyl is perhaps the largest environmental disaster ever, there has been minimal monito-ring of the status of free-living organisms or humans in stark contrast to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where careful monitoring has continued for over 60 years." And asking themselves: 
"Why has there been no concerted effort to monitor the long-term effects of Chernobyl on free-living organisms and humans?" Further on: "The official reports by IAEA, WHO and UNDP were narrative renditions of parts of the literature [..]. Scientific enquiry depends on rigorous analysis of data rather than rendition of anecdotal evidence." 
5 March: Atomstroyexport has begun work to extend the service life of the Chernobyl protective concrete shelter. This contract envisages the repair of the roof over the confine-ment, installation of protection systems, and the reinforce-ment of supporting beams. The project will buy time for the next stage: the construction of a new confinement, or arc. The project moderator is the International Chernobyl Shelter Fund and is financed by the G8 and European Union coun-tries. The EBRD has already accumulated US$1b. for the project. 
April: The English Edition of Le Monde Diplomatique states in a background article: "For 50 years dangerous concentrations of radionuclides have been accumulating in earth, air and water from weapons testing and reactor incidents. Yet serious studies of the effects of radiation on health have been obscu-red - not least by the World Health Organization." The whole article, entitled Chernobyl: the great cover-up, can be found at: []
25 April: The Food Standards Agency Wales reveals that 
up to 359 Welsh farms are still operating under restrictions imposed in the wake of Chernobyl, almost 22 years after reactor 4 went into meltdown. Heavy rain washed radioactive material from clouds onto fields. The radiation is absorbed from the soil by plants, which are then eaten by sheep. For the hundreds of Welsh farmers still living with Chernobyl's legacy, the restrictions me an their animals are only allowed to enter the food chain after rigorous safety tests. 
26 April: Ukraine pays homage to victims of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, 22 years after the disaster. "The Cher-nobyl catastrophe became planetary and even now continues to take its toll on people's health and the environment," the Health Ministry said in a statement. 
Activists from across Russia, Ukraine and Belarus turned out in force in urban centers across the former Soviet republics to hold ceremonies commemorating 22nd anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster and express outrage at Russia's current nuclear plans. 
UN chief Ban Ki-moon marks the anniversary by pledging UN assistance for the stricken region's renewal. In a statement to mark the anniversary, he notes that the UN General Assembly has proclaimed 2006-2016 a "decade of recovery and sustai-nable development" for the Chernobyl area. 
2 October: Researchers from Case Western Reserve Univer-sity in Cleveland, Ohio, have tracked the Chernobyl fallout to reveal that much more plutonium was found in the Swedish soil at a depth that corresponded with the nuclear explo-sion than that of Poland. They took soil samples in various locations in the two countries, measuring the presence and location of cesium-137, plutonium (239, 240Pu), and lead- 210Pb. Radionuclides occur in soil both from natural proces-ses and as fallout from nuclear testing. The collected soil samples reveal insights based on several conditions, such as how the radionuclides were delivered to the soil, whether from a one-time event like the Chernobyl disaster or from atmospheric bomb testing. As the team examined a range of soil types from the two countries, they found a spike in 239, 240Pu in Sweden's soil at a depth that coincides with the Chernobyl disaster, yet no similar blip in Poland's soil. Mete-orological research showed that it rained in Sweden while the radioactive cloud was over that country. Leeched of much of its radionuclides, much less plutonium fell on Poland when the cloud later crossed over its borders. 

30 January: President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko signs the law on the government program for decommissioning of the Chernobyl NPP, and transformation of the Shelter confi-nement facility into a safer object. The law, coming into force on January 1, 2010, says the nuclear plant will be finally shut down by 2065. The decommissioning will take four phases. The nuclear fuel rods will be removed in 2010-2013 and the reactor systems will be put in dead storage in 2013-2022. After a cool down of the reactor systems in 2022-2045, the systems will be demounted in 2045-2065 concurrently with decontamination of the nuclear power plant's site. 

January: 'Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment'  written by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko is published by the New York Academy of Sciences. The book is in contrast to findings by the WHO, IAEA and United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) who based their findings on some 300 western research papers, and who found little of concern about the fallout from Chernobyl.
While the most apparent human and environmental damage occurred, and continues to occur, in the Ukraine, Belarus and European Russia, more than 50 percent of the total radioac-tivity spread across the entire northern hemisphere, potentially contaminating some 400 million people. Based on 5000 published articles and studies by multiple researchers and observers, mostly available only in Slavic languages and not available to those outside of the former Soviet Union or Eastern bloc countries, the authors estimated that by 2004, some 985,000 deaths worldwide had been caused by the disaster. All life systems that were studied – humans, voles, livestock, birds, fish, plants, mushrooms, bacteria, viruses, etc., with few exceptions, were changed by radioactive fallout, many irreversibly. Increased cancer incidence is not the only observed adverse effect from the Chernobyl fallout – noted also are birth defects, pregnancy losses, accelerated aging, brain damage, heart, endocrine, kidney, gastrointestinal and lung diseases, and cataracts among the young. Children have been most seriously affected – before the radioactive Chernobyl releases, 80% of children were deemed healthy, now in some areas, only 20% of children are considered healthy. Many have poor development, learning disabilities, and endocrine abnormalities.
September: Clearance of the assembly site for the New Safe Confinement (NSC) right next to the shelter of Unit 4 and excavation work for the foundations have been completed. Pilling for the foundations and the lifting cranes started. Funds for the construction of the NSC are still lacking. The completion of the Shelter Implementation Plan, of which the NSC represents about two thirds of total costs, requires an additional 600 million euro, with current overall cost estimates about 1.6 billion euro. So, despite all positive reports on financial contributions and donor-countries, fact is that only 60% of the necessary funds have been collected. A 'pledging event' will take place in Kiev in April to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the accident.

Ukraine legalizes tourist tours to Chernobyl and Pripyat. Visitors have to sign a waiver, exempting the tour operator from all responsibility in the event that they later suffer radiationrelated health problems. Driven round at breakneck speed, and told not to touch any of the irradiated vegetation or metal structures, "tourists" are invited to briefly inspect the stricken number four reactor as the Geiger counter, which guides carry, clicks ever higher. The most arresting "attraction" is not the ruined plant, however, but nearby Pripyat. Visitors can walk through the debris-strewn corridors of its Palace of Culture, admire its crumbling Olympic-sized swimming pool, and wander through the empty classrooms of one of its biggest schools. 
4 February: Birds living around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident have 5% smaller brains, an effect directly linked to lingering background radiation. The finding comes from a study of 550 birds belonging to 48 different species living in the region. Evidence for developmental errors in the nervous systems of people exposed to radiation is widespread, including reduced head size and brain damage. Low levels of ionizing radiation cause changes in both central and autonomous nervous systems and can cause radiogenic encephalopathy. Electroencephalographic studies revealed changes in brain structure and cognitive disorders. However, psychological effects of radiation from Chernobyl have recently been attributed to post-traumatic stress rather than developmental errors, and increased levels of neural tube defects in contaminated areas may be ascribed to lowdose radiation, folate deficiencies or prenatal alcohol teratogenesis. Surprisingly, studies of high school performance and cognitive abilities among children from contaminated areas in Scandinavia that were in utero during the Chernobyl disaster show reductions in high school attendance, have lower exam results and reduced IQ scores compared to control groups. These cognitive effects are assumed to be due to developmental errors in neural tissue caused by radiation during early pregnancy.



3- Trying to minimize the consequences


Collaboration between Western scientists and experts from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia begins. A delegation of German scientists visits the Chernobyl nuclear power station and the affected regions. 
April: According to Yuri Shcherbak, vice-chairman of the Su-preme Soviet Commission on Environment & Nuclear Energy said some US320 billion will be needed to handle the conse-quences of Chernobyl in the next 10 years. 
26 April: A marathon broadcast of 24 hours to raise aware-ness and money for Chernobyl victims. On soviet national television Telethon Chernobyl on Channel 3 collects about US$100 million. 
19 August: IAEA claims the sarcophagus is due to high tem-peratures and radiation no longer reliable. A new catastrophe cannot be ruled out.
September. Computer data stolen in Minsk and destroyed about health situation and radiation levels from over 670,000 people living in the eastern part of Belarus. Also contamina-tion details from 20,000 settlements were on the disks. 
21 September: The IAEA and the Governments of the Soviet Union, the Belarussian and Ukrainian SSR sign a framework agreement on the international consequences of the accident. “The Chernobyl area affords” according to the IAEA press re-lease, “unique possibilities for carrying out scientific research under post-accident conditions, including some areas where radiation levels have subsides but are still above normal background levels.” 

A specialized enterprise was organized, and all further work in the zone was done on a professional basis. (All people who worked in the zone until 1990, no matter what task, got status as "liquidator" and the right to social benefits.) 
April: Soviet authorities announce 200,000 people have been evacuated, in 1991 another 112,000 will be evacuated and in 1992 about 12,000. 
April: Laka Foundation publishes in the WISE News Commu-nique an extensive list of contaminated foodstuffs dumped on the world market (especially in southern countries) in the first five years. (see:
15 April: rumors circulating since May 1986 about Soviet air force producing artificially rain from radioactive clouds mo-ving towards Moscow in the first days after the accident early May 1986 are confirmed by soviet scientists during a confe-rence in Berlin, Germany. At the same conference Professor Chernousenko claims, already 7,000 – 10,000 people have died as a result of Chernobyl. 
26 April: On the fifth anniversary of Chernobyl there are mass demonstrations in Kiev and Minsk. The world press focuses on the event, highlighting new evacuations, alleged sicknes-ses in contaminated zones, and the continuing operation of Soviet RBMK reactors, including those at Chernobyl. 
26 April: a special stamp to commemorate the accident is launched in the Soviet Union.

Sovjet stamp to commemorate Chernobyl accident, 1991.

21 May: IAEA/IAC releases study: “Assessment of Radio-logical Consequences and Evaluation of Measures for the Chernobyl Accident” 
IAEA conclusions: 
- there were no health disorders that could be directly attri-buted to radiation exposure. There were no indications of an increase in the incidence of leukemia and cancers; 
- there were significant non-radiation related health disorders in the populations of both the surveyed contaminated set-tlements and control settlements; 
- the accident had substantial negative psychological conse-quences in terms of anxiety and stress due to continuing and high levels of uncertainty, relocation and other  measures; 
- early evacuations undertaken by the authorities – in cases which could be assessed by the projects – were broadly reasonable and consistent with internationally-established guidelines 
- protective measures taken or planned for the longer term, generally exceed what would have been strictly necessary - official procedures for estimating doses were significantly sound 
- etc 
Main criticism on the report: 
- study excluded from its subject of investigation the liquida-tors (estimated up to 600,000) 
- study excluded the 30 km contaminated zone 
- study excluded the evacuees from the zone (up to 95,000 – 100,000) 
- study excluded hot spots 
- There is some ambiguousness about the settlements cho-sen for the study: it would seem the selection was deliberate and arbitrary 
- The report substantially underestimate the amount of ex-posure, particularly the lifetime dose. It appears that external exposure is estimated at one-third to one-fourth, and internal exposure at about one-tenth 
- It is not clear how control groups were obtained. Thus, even though the study recognizes many illnesses and deaths, it was not able to link them to radiation 
- Friends of the Earth claims that the IAEA scientists  are scientifically incompetent because they draw concrete con-clusions on the basis of what they themselves admit are “not always adequate data”. 
- The scientist had little or no access to pre-accident health records, leaving them unable to compare pre- and post-acci-dent levels of disease and health disorders 
- Etc. 
According to Greenpeace the only aim of the study was to 
“produce a thirty-second sound-bite which is pleasing to the ear of the Soviet authorities – ‘we didn’t find radiation-induced health effects’ is constructed to avoid implicating radiation in the disaster 
24 August: Ukraine declares independence from the Soviet Union after a failed hard-line coup in Moscow. 
29 August: On top of the ‘want’-list of the independent Uk-raine is the closure of Chernobyl 
12 October: After a fire breaks out in the second Chernobyl reactor, this unit too has to be shut down for good. 
18 November: Ukraine plans to close the remaining reactors at Chernobyl in 1993 at the latest. 
12 December: Two Bulgarian ex-ministers are sentenced to imprisonment of 3 and 2 years, because they found guilty of hushing up the dangers of Chernobyl to the Bulgarian popula-tion after the 1986 accident.

Ukrainian government reports that cracks have ap-peared in the sarcophagus. An international competition is to be held for a design for a replacement roof. 
May & August: forest fires lift radiation levels in Belarus, again 
July: Ukrainian government launches an international compe-tition (‘Shelter-2 competition’) for the best project to prevent the ruins of the reactor from threatening public health and the environment. A new shelter (‘sarcophagus’) is urgently needed. 
18 September: US experts estimate the economic damage for Ukraine due to Chernobyl at about US$150 billion 
15 October: Block 3 is brought back online. Number 2 will follow at the end of the month 
29 November: Ukrainian nuclear experts warn for Ameri-cium-241. This Pu-241 daughter emits alpha-radiation and is seen as more dangerous as its parent. Experts say alpha-ra-diation will be much higher in 50-70 years from now and hope it will not spread outside the 30km zone. (see August 4, 2005) 

January to March: Establishment of a thyroid centre in Gomel by the Otto Hug Strahleninstitut, Munich. Gomel is a large city with a population of 500 000 in the most severely contaminated region of Belarus. 
April: World Health Organization expects sharp rise in both leukemia and cancers, after numbers in both are increasing 18 June: The international Shelter-2 competition ends. But Ukrainian government does not award a first prize. The French consortium Campenon Bernard receives a second prize. None of the 19 concepts on the shortlist fulfils all Uk-rainian requirements. Unclear what happens next. Ukraine is  looking to establish an international fund to raise money. 
22 October: Ukrainian government decided, due to electricity shortage not to close the remaining Chernobyl reactors and suspends a moratorium on new built 
9 December: Russian geochemist Valerin Kopejkin claims that if international radiation limits for Strontium-90 would be installed in the Ukraine, Kiev has to be evacuated. 

February: The U.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) releases report: emissions at Chernobyl five times higher than official IAEA estimate of 50 million curies. MIT claims 185-250 million Curies was released. 
9/10 October: Decision that remaining Chernobyl reactors will not be closed before 1996 at the earliest 

February: The first phase of the European Union-study for stabilizing the sarcophagus ends. The study claims it is a huge open radiation source. The consortium is pointing to the danger of collapse of the first sarcophagus and the problems of radioactive waste in case of constructing a second con-tainment. Start of construction is foreseen in April 1996. March: 100 times more thyroid cancers in Gomel, Belarus, WHO claims in report published in British Medical Journal. 13 April: President Leonid Kuchma declares Ukraine is ready to shut down the remaining reactors of the plant by the year 2000. His statement follows a meeting with European Com-mission officials in Kiev. 
25 April: Ukrainian minister of public health Andrej Serdchuk: 125,000 people died due to Chernobyl, 432,000 still treated, 3.66 million affected. 
July: In a resolution adopted at a Kiev Conference organi-zed amongst others by WHO, it is said that mental disorders spreading among Chernobyl-affected people 
20-23 November: new findings presented at a WHO confe-rence in Geneva, suggest that radiation could also be increa-sing the incidence of strokes, heart attacks and liver disease, as well as damaging the brains of babies at the womb 
22 December: At a meeting in the Canadian capital Ottawa, Ukraine and the G7 group of the world's leading industrialized nations sign a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to close Chernobyl. It involves commitments worth a total of some US$2.3 billion in aid from the G7 to support Cherno-byl's closure by the year 2000. The agreed package of loans for Ukraine's energy sector includes the completion of two more modern nuclear reactors at Rivne (R4) and Khmelnytsky (K2) stations in the west of the country. The aid package includes US$498 million in G7 member grants and $1.8 billion in loan financing from international agencies. Most of the grant money -- US$349 million - will be for nuclear decom-missioning and safety. More than US$1.9 billion will be spent to upgrade nuclear plants and the energy sector as a whole. 

April: 20 seconds before the 1986 accident an earthquake occurred in that region. According to Russian scientists it is not impossible the seriousness of the accident could have been increased as a result of that. 
April: Genetic mutations have occurred twice as often in children of families exposed to the radioactive fallout as elsewhere 
8-12 April: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission (EC), organized the conference "One Decade after Chernobyl: Summing up the Consequences". The conclusions of the IAEA on the health effects of the Cher-nobyl disaster are as follows: 
- The death rate among "liquidators" did not exceed that for a corresponding age group. 
- Thus far, the only admitted health effect due to radiation is an increase in thyroid cancers in children. 890 cases were detected. In the coming decades, several more thousands of cases of thyroid cancer (4,000-8,000) can be expected. 
- No significant increase in leukemia has been found. 
- Future cancer deaths will be about 6,660: 2,200 among liquidators and 4,460 among residents and evacuees of con-taminated areas. 
- Other health effects are related to psychological stress: fear of radiation and a distrust in the government.[1] 

25 April: A French government minister acknowledged that the French were misled about the impact of the disaster. Whether forecasters on state television even told viewers that the radioactive cloud had stopped at France’s borders. 
26 April: The President of the UN General Assembly, Diogo Freitas do Amaral (Portugal), delivers a statement at the spe-cial commemorative meeting on the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. In his speech he states: “There continues to be an acute need for further assistance to the peoples and countries for whom Chernobyl represents a crushing burden [..]. To ignore this continuing humanitarian tragedy would be to reduce these people and the areas most affected to mere objects of scientific research.” 
November: Chernobyl shuts down reactor Number One. Only reactor Number Three remains in operation. 
11 November: Cases of thyroid cancer among children in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are up by roughly 200 per cent compared to the 1980s. The WHO estimates that around 4 million people in these three countries have been affected by the nuclear disaster. Roughly one million are undergoing medical treatment for consequential health impairments.
December: Authorities of Belarus launched a campaign to return people to regions which have suffered from Chernobyl. Nesterenko (director of Institute for Radiation Safety) warns for a serious error. 

April: Belarus has to spent 25% of its national annual budget on dealing with the effects of the 1986 disaster. 
June: President Kuchma says Ukraine is spending US$1 bil-lion a year to combat the aftermath 
November: At a conference in New York, dozens of nations collect $350 million to rebuild the rapidly deteriorating con-crete sarcophagus. The reconstruction cost is estimated at $760 million. 

November: an international assistance program for the affec-ted areas is launched by the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs. The program covers more than 50 projects in such areas as the health sector, social-psychological and econo-mic rehabilitation, and the environment, and is based on the findings of an inter-agency needs assessment mission to Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine, undertaken in May. December: The Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF) was set up with the purpose of funding the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP).  The total costs of the SIP are estimated by the EBRD at US$768 million. Others however think the costs will be much higher. Vladimir Asmolov of the Russian Kurchatov Nuclear In-stitute and involved in the original construction of the shelter thinks that the costs could reach as much as US$2.5 billion. 

26 November: Scientific seminar on: “Thyroid Diseases and Exposure to ionizing Radiation: Lessons learned following the Chernobyl accident” in Luxembourg, organized by the Euro-pean Commission. One of the major health consequences of the Chernobyl disaster is the sudden and great increase in the number of persons, particularly children, with thyroid carcinoma. The presentations made at the seminar reviews the existing knowledge on the subject of radiation induced thy-roid diseases especially in relation to the Chernobyl accident. The subject is treated from the four points of view: genetic and environmental factors influencing the radiation induced cancer risk; thyroid doses reconstruction and risk after the Chernobyl accident; age and molecular biology; and lessons learned following the Chernobyl accident. 
14 December:  for the first time Ukraine speaks about clo-sure of the remaining Chernobyl reactors under conditions: money from the international community to finish construction of two reactors to replace Chernobyl (K2/R4) 

Reconstruction of the sarcophagus begins. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) releases US$130 million in grants for this first phase (improve-ments of the existing shelter). 
14 May: In an internal memo to France prime-minister Jospin environmental Minister Dominique Voynet states: “a program to improve energy efficiency, would fit better to the Memo-randum of Understanding for closure of Chernobyl,  as K2/R4 replacement nuclear reactors”. 
5 August: Belarus: After being arrested on July 13, on August 5, 1999, however, Professor Bandazhevsky was formally charged under Article 169 (3) of the Belarusian Criminal Code with allegedly accepting bribes from students seeking admis-sion to the Gomel Medical Institute. Professor Bandazhevsky founded the Gomel State Medical Institute and was serving as its rector at the time of his arrest. His scientific work fo-cused on the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on the health of the people living in and around the city of Gomel, a region close to the nuclear reactor and thus seriously affected by its radioactive emissions. According to Amnesty International, Bandazhevsky was outspoken in his criticism of the Belarusi-an authorities’ handling of the Chernobyl disaster’s impact on the population’s health and had repeatedly stressed the need to find “innovative solutions” to the problem. He reportedly was particularly critical of the way that the Ministry of Health spent the scant resources available for research in this area. Shortly before his arrest, Bandazhevsky wrote a report about research conducted by the Belarusian Ministry of Health’s Scientific and Clinical Research Institute for Radiation Medi-cine on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. In this report, he criticized the manner in which the government’s research was carried out and its conclusions. 
He was held for more than five months in pre-trial detention under harsh conditions that included temporary isolation, a poor prison diet, and no access to legal counsel. During his detention he reportedly suffered from heart ailments, sto-mach ulcers, and depression and lost approximately 44 lbs, resulting in his hospitalization. Professor Bandazhevsky was conditionally released from prison on December 27, 1999, pending trial.

20 September: Nobody is allowed to live permanently within 15 km of the power plant site. And yet, in the early 1990s, elderly people began to re-occupy their houses in the said zone. According to the authorities, there have been some 1500, two thirds of them women. About 50 people again took up residence in Chernobyl itself. This resettlement is being tolerated by the authorities. 
18 November:  A Coordination Committee Meeting at the Ministerial Level on International Cooperation on Chernobyl takes place in New York. US$9.51 million is required for the 1999 Appeal distributed in May. Though the international community has largely contributed to the shelter fund, the affected populations have been chronically under funded. The nine priority projects in the 1999 Appeal are: the modernizati-on of the Bragin Hospital, the establishment of child rehabi-litation centers, the rehabilitation of contaminated sectors in the Gomel area (Belarus); providing diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of liquidators, improving management and use of contaminated forests, and studying the health status of the posterity of persons affected by radiation. (Ukraine); the screening of 100,000 children exposed to radiation for early diagnosis of thyroid pathology, strengthening the network of centres for social and psychological rehabilitation, and pro-duction lines for measuring and packaging of diary products for the Bryansk region. 

13 January: The Ukrainian Government commissions an overall concept:  parts of the Chernobyl area are to be re-cultivated. 
March: According to documents from the Ukrainian Atomic Energy  regulatory commission, published by Greenpeace, the safety of the remaining Chernobyl reactors is not guaran-teed after August 
March: Belarus: Girls in affected areas had five times the normal rate of deformations in their reproductive systems and boys three times the norm. “It is clear we are seeing genetic changes, especially among those who were less than six years of age when subjected to radiation”, says Vladislav Ostapenko, head of Belarus’ radiation medicine institute April: Kuchma reaffirms Chernobyl is to be closed by the year end, but gives no date. 
April: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Af-fairs (OCHA) releases the report "Chernobyl disaster – a con-tinuing catastrophe". The authors concludes: “The radiologi-cal conditions in the area immediately surrounding the plant have largely improved, thanks to the international commit-ment to improved safety at Chernobyl, which allowed for the reconstruction and now reinforcement of the sarcophagus. However, the human consequences of the accident continue to be relentlessly harsh. The EBRD expects to complete the refurbishment of the Chernobyl plant site by 2007. A sum of US$400 million has already been pledged for this operation. A contribution from donor countries of just 3 per cent of this amount would have a substantial impact on the alleviation of human suffering that has resulted from this accident.” 
26 April: While visiting the Chernobyl zone, president Luk-ashenko of Belarus announces plans to re-locate people 
to the zone. “People moving from other parts of the Com-monwealth of Independent States will be given the Belarus nationality within one week”, he says. 
May: Swedish radiation protection authorities have issued recommendations for the handling of ashes from biomass-fuelled electricity plants. It was calculated that 5-7% of the yearly amount of bio fuel ash has to be stored as radioactive waste. 
6 June: Kuchma tells visiting U.S.-President Clinton that the ex-Soviet state will shut down the station on December 15. Clinton says the U.S. will give Ukraine $78 million in fresh funds to help improve safety at the plant. 
5 July: The EBRD administers the Chernobyl Shelter Fund. As of July 2000, 37 countries had contributed US$715 million to the fund, which is 93% of the overall project cost estimate. Most of the money comes from the European Union and the G-7 countries. 
The first phase of the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) consisted of an expedited review of the collapse risk and the most critical repairs were conducted. Further, studies were conducted and designs been made for a structural stabiliza-tion of the shelter, to be conducted in the second phase. Two projects of the first phase which had to start without delay were repairs of the beams supporting the roof of the shelter (1999) and stabilization of the ventilation stack (1998), whose possible collapse was also threatening the then still operating reactor 3. The second phase will consist of the actual streng-thening of the present sarcophagus and the construction of the new covering shelter. 
November-December: Chernobyl engineers prepare to shut down the last functioning reactor, Number Three, on De-cember 15. The last fuel rods will not be removed until 2008 and it will be between 30 and 100 years before the station is completely decommissioned. The EBRD and the European Union each pledge to lend Ukraine hundreds of millions of dollars to finish construction of Soviet-era reactors at Rivne and Khmelnitsky (K2/R4) in western Ukraine, to replace lost capacity from Chernobyl. The EBRD loan is for US$215 mil-lion, while the EU pledges $585 million. Environmentalists protest against the loans, which they say are going toward re-actors which, although safer than Chernobyl's, are still based on ageing technology. 
12 December: The Chernobyl reactor complex is shut down. 


2- The accident and immediate consequences


Unit 4 of the Nuclear power plant at Chernobyl explodes. Debris flies into the air and lands on the roof of Unit 3 which is right next to the exploded Unit 4. The units share a communal machine turbine hall with a roof of bitumen, a flammable ma-terial. Thirty fires develop. The fact that the accident happens at night has one great advantage: in the daytime, 2000 people are working on the construction of Chernobyl Units 5 and 6. These people are now at home. 

01.25 hours: The fire alarm rings at the local fire station. Meanwhile more people are killed: The nuclear plant's fire fighters arrive with three fire engines. The leader, Lieutenant Pravik, quickly realizes that his team is too small and asks the fire brigades from Pripyat, the town of Chernobyl and the entire area of Kiev for their assistance. Pravik and his team climb onto the roof of the machine hail and start their at-tempts to extinguish the fire. The fire brigade, from Pripyat arrives minutes later and fights the fires in the reactor building. Pravik and several firemen from Pripyat die later of radiation illness. 
01.45 hours: New teams of fire fighters from the area arrive. They know nothing about the danger of radiation, have no protective clothing or dosimeters. One of the fire engine drivers, Grigory Khmel later said: "We arrived at ten minutes to two in the morning. We saw graphite lying everywhere. I kicked a bit of it. Another fireman picked up a piece and said 'hot'. Neither of us had any idea of radiation. My colleagues Kolya, Pravik and others all went up the ladder to the roof of the reactor. I never saw them again." 
02.15 hours: The Pripyat department of the Ministry of Home Affairs calls a crisis meeting. It is decided to organize a road block in order to prevent cars from entering or leaving the town. Police assistance is requested. Thousands of police ar-rive; and, as with the fire fighters, they have no knowledge of radiation, no dosimeters or protective clothing. Later, in 1988, it is admitted that a total of 16,500 police were deployed. At that moment (1988) of those, 57 people had developed chro-nic radiation illness, 1500 of them suffered from chronic respi-ratory problems and 4000 suffered from other symptoms.
03.12 hours: An alarm signal goes off at the army headquar-ters in the central area of the Soviet Union at 03.12 hours. General Pikalov decides to send in troops to help. They arrive in Kiev at 14.00 hours. These are the first people to arrive well prepared for their task. About the same time, the responsible authorities such as the Energy Minister, A. Mayorets, hear that an accident has occurred, but are led to believe it is a small defect. 
05.00 hours: In spite of the fires, Chernobyl Unit 3 is not closed down until five o'clock am. 
06.35 hours: No fewer than 37 fire brigades, with a total of 186 fire fighters, have been called in to extinguish all the fires; the fire in the reactor could not actually be extinguished. The importance of the deployment of these fire fighters cannot be emphasized enough. The roof of Unit 3 caught fire immedia-tely, which meant that this reactor could have been seriously damaged as well. The nuclear plants' machine hell is also connected to Units 1 and 2. An explosion in the machine hall could have led to the destruction of all four Chernobyl reactors. An explosion was only averted by spraying nitrogen at the last minute. Four of the eight people who did this died shortly afterwards. 
20.00 hours: A government committee is established, led by Valery Legasov; at eight o'clock in the evening the committee arrives in the area. They are surprised by the bits of graphite they see lying around. None of them suspect a graphite fire. 

26 April to 4 May 1986: Most of the radiation is released in the first ten days. At first, southerly and southeasterly winds predominate. The first radioactive cloud went high into the atmosphere and winds blew it northwest away from Ukraine toward Sweden. It was Kiev's good fortune that the wind carried the radioactive cloud away at first rather than directly to the Ukrainian capital and its 3 million population as it did several days later. At the end of April the wind switches to the north and northwest. There are frequent but local showers. This results in a very varied regional and local distribution of the radiation. 

27 April (Sunday) 
A radius of 10 km around the plant (cities of Pripyat and Ya-nov) evacuated (“for three days” they are told) (50.000 people) to the town of Poliske (50 km west – coincidently -?- wind is blowing in that direction too). Dosimeters are confiscated. 01.13 hours: The operation of Units 1 and 2 had already been stopped at 01.13 and 02.13 hours, twenty-four hours after the start of the accident at Block 4 
07.00 hours: General Pikalov sets out in a truck fitted out with radiation apparatus. He rams through the closed gates and stops at the plant to measure the radiation. He establi-shes that the graphite in the reactor is burning, and that an enormous amount of radiation and heat is being given off. Shortly afterwards - the government in Moscow is warned. The government committee discusses the necessity of evacuation of the nearby town of Pripyat. Everyone supports evacuation except Professor A.L.Ilyin, chairman of the Soviet Council for Radiation Protection. He thinks the radiation situ-ation will improve. By now, as it is understood that graphite is burning and that radiation is being released, further steps are taken. Firstly, extinguishing water is added. This is a dangerous mistake. Due to the high temperature, the water separates into hydrogen and oxygen, and this mixture of gas can explode; an explosion like this releases heat. Thus, the fire is not extinguished, but fanned by the water. After three fruitless attempts to extinguish the fire, the authorities decide to throw sand, lead and boron carbide onto the reactor from helicopters. Boron carbide can absorb neutrons and stop the uranium fission. Lead absorbs heat, enabling the temperature to drop. Sand is to extinguish the fires. Between 27 April and 1 May, about 1800 helicopter flights deposit around 5000 tons of extinguishing materials such as sand and lead onto the burning reactor.

28 April (Monday) 
Forsmark NPP Sweden (times are Chernobyl-times) 
09:00 hours: An alarm was sent from Reactor 1, where a routine check revealed that the soles of the shoes worn by a radiological safety engineer were radioactive. 
Lars Wahlström, radiology supervisor at Forsmark, has given this summary of the events: 
"Something indicated that radioactivity had leaked out from one of the blocks at Forsmark. Rumors about the activity circulated between noon and 14hours and people said 'Now let's leave here.' At the same time news arrived that radioac-tivity had been detected in Finland. I said, I want evidence. Among other things I called Studsviks Energiteknik AB, where management was sitting in a crisis meeting and where they said 'We think it's coming from one of our laboratories.' But that wasn't so. Soon I also began to have doubts that there was anything wrong in any of the Forsmark reactors, which I told the National Institute of Radiation Protection. We had even been inside the chimney and checked. Then the Institute said the fallout had come from somewhere in the east, and by around 15.30 it was determined that the fallout definitely did not come from Forsmark." 
20:00 hours: Radio Moscow broadcasts a Tass’ statement that there has been an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station and that there have been casualties. “Measures are being taken to eliminate consequences of the accident. Aid is being given to those affected. A government  com-mission has been set up” according to Tass. From about 30 minutes later west-European news agencies are reporting an “incident in a Ukrainian nuclear reactor” 
23:00 hours: A Danish nuclear research laboratory announ-ces that an MCA (maximum credible accident) has occurred in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. They mention a complete meltdown of one of the reactors and that all radioactivity has been released. 

29 April (Tuesday) 
- The sixth item on the main television evening news pro-gram, Vremya, says that 2 people died during the accident, a portion of the reactor building was destroyed, and residents of Pripyat and three nearby towns were evacuated. 
- The first real information in the western world came on Tuesday morning, when a powerful American reconnaissance satellite provided Washington analysts with photos of Cher-nobyl. They were shocked to see the roof blown off above the reactor and the glowing mass still smoking. The first Soviet photos of the Chernobyl accident were censored by removal of the smoke before being printed in the newspapers. 
- The first official statement by German authorities: Minister of the Interior Zimmermann states there is no danger for the German public: “danger only exists in a radius of 30-50 km of the reactor”. 
- Polish authorities decide to distribute iodine tablets in the north-east of the country to infants and children to protect them from thyroid cancer. 

30 April (Wednesday) 
- Tass carries a government statement denying western reports on mass casualties. The statement repeats the earlier assertion that only two people died during the accident and that 197 have been hospitalized and levels of radiation are decreasing 
- Press reports on fire in second unit: scientist see second fire on satellite images, claims are later denied 
17.00 hours: The reactor fire seems to be extinguished. 

May - December 1986 
1 May: The accident did not interfere with the May Day parades held on the 1st of May in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and the Belarusian capital Minsk. Apparently the government wanted to emphasize that all was "normal" although the reactor was still burning and invisible, deadly radioactivity was pouring into the air. However, the Soviet Communists bureaucrats and the nomenclature immediately after the ac-cident removed their children from Kiev and other threatened areas while assuring others that everything was normal until several days later 
- The authorities claim the situation is stable. But the amount of radiation released is still enormous, besides which, the wind has changed direction and is now blowing in the direc-tion of Kiev. The material thrown onto the plant does not com-pletely extinguish the fire and in fact generates a rise in tem-perature. Scientists and engineers become aware of a new danger. The hot reactor core could melt into the cement and end up in the water reservoir underneath. A steam explosion would follow, even more powerful than the first explosion. 
2 May: More and more radioactivity is released into the area. Fire fighters start pumping the water out of the storage reser-voir underneath the reactor, a long and dangerous task, not completed until 8 May. As a reward, the fire fighters receive 1000 rubles each (approximately 2000 US dollars according to the official rate of exchange). 
- Politburo members Ryzhkov and Ligachev visit Chernobyl. 
Ukrainian party leader Volodymyr Shcherbitsky visits the area also. Shcherbitsky survived the Chernobyl crisis and was not criticized in the Western press as was Gorbachov for his long 18 day delay in speaking publicly about Chernobyl 
- A 30 kilometer zone around the reactor is designated for evacuation (90.000 people). 
- According to the Russian permanent representative at the IAEA, chain–reaction inside the reactor has stopped 
4 May: The first film footage, shot from a helicopter, is shown on Vremya. The commentator says the film disproves Western reports of massive destruction 
- A second step taken to prevent a steam explosion is that of making holes in the earth under the reactor. Fluid nitrogen is pumped into them to freeze the earth. 
- Radioactive cloud reaches Japan (8-9,000 km from Chernobyl).
5 May: A government report says an embankment is being constructed on the Pripyat River to prevent it from being contaminated 
- To start with, there is a great deal of radioactivity released, nearly as much as on 26 April. However, the release later stops almost entirely. No acceptable explanation has yet been found for this fact. According to Grigory Medvedev, who was a member of the government committee, the fire was extin-guished because the graphite had burnt up. 
- Canada: health officials found that Ottawa rains carried six times as much radioactive iodine as is considered acceptable for drinking-water 
- Increased radiation levels are measured in the USA, too 
- Hans Blix, director-general, and a IAEA delegation arrives in Moscow. Unsure if the can visit the area 
6 May: The first extensive report on the situation appears in Pravda. 
- schools in Gomel and Kiev closed, all children are sent elsewhere. This brings total number of people forced to leave: 500.000. 140.000 of which are not allowed to return 
- Kiev radio finally, eleven days late, warned its audience not to eat leafy vegetables and to stay indoors as much as possi-ble. The Soviet government was very slow to warn its citizens of the precautions they should take: keep children and preg-nant women indoors, avoid fresh vegetables and milk, don't drink rainwater, and wash your clothes and your shoes every time you come in. 
7 May: Tass reports that many Kiev residents are trying to leave the city and that additional trains and flights have been scheduled. The (Russian) media drops its insistence that everything is under control. 
- Bavarian Environmental minister Alfred Dick criticizes maxi-mum radiation levels for vegetables and meat of the (German) Radiation Protection Agency. He says: “If we now start to have maximum levels for Cesium too, we will not even be able to eat meat shortly!” 
8 May: In an interview with Izvestiya, Academician Yevgeny Velikhov, vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and chief scientist sent to Chernobyl, says the disaster is 
“without precedent”. 
9 May: IAEA states that Moscow started to encapsulate the reactor, especially pouring concrete under the reactor, pre-venting it from reaching groundwater 
10 May: According to the IAEA the fire is extinguished, but temperature in reactor is still rather high. Meanwhile Ukrainian government official states: reactor is still burning and fire-fighters are continuously trying to put the fire out. 
11 May: three local officials  in charge of the transport com-bine at the plant, are expelled from the party, or reprimanded for mistakes concerning evacuations 
14 May: Gorbachov speaks for the first time publicly about the accident on Vremya.  He insisted there was no cover-up:  “The moment we received reliable data we gave it to the Soviet people and sent it abroad”. He declared his desire for "serious cooperation" with the IAEA, with respect to four specific proposals: 

  1. The creation of an international regime for safe development of nuclear energy involving close cooperation among all nuclear energy-using states; 
  2. A highly authoritative special international conference in Vienna under the aegis of the IAEA to discuss these "complex questions"; 
  3. An increased role and scope for IAEA;
  4. Safe development of "peaceful nuclear activities," involving the United Nations and its specialized departments, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

These proposals suggested that Gorbachov was broadening the scope of the accident to one of international concern, but at the same time he was implying that such accidents were common enough to warrant the establishment of a global regime to deal with them. 

Mikhail Gorbachov
Mikhail Gorbachov had been in office only 13 months when Chernobyl occurred. He had arrived to a warm res-ponse from Western political leaders. Much younger and more active than his predecessors, he appeared to herald a time of change in the USSR. In 1986, however, he inherited an ossified Soviet state that was Leonid Brez-hnev's legacy. Gorbachov's reaction to Chernobyl was very cautious but, in addition to the defensive posture adopted by his government initially, he also indicated a willingness to cooperate with the IAEA. It should be noted that in 1985 the USSR had agreed to IAEA inspections of some of its nuclear reactors, and thus this policy was not necessarily a new departure. Similarly, aid offered from long-established "friends of the USSR" abroad was also accepted, while that of individual governments was turned down. 

15 to 16 May: New fires break out and more radiation is released. 
22 May: Russian First Deputy Health Minister denies popular believe that vodka (& red wine) is a good cure for radiation exposure. 
23 May: A Soviet government committee orders the distribu-tion of iodine preparations. At this point, such prophylaxis is of no medical value. Radioactive iodine is only active for ten days, and will already have accumulated in the thyroid glands of the inhabitants of the contaminated territories. 
27 May: A month after the accident the danger is not yet over,. A concrete foundation will be made, the idea of the sarcophagus is born 
30 May: An unprecedented concert took place in Moscow’s Olympic Stadium. The pop concert was organized by leading Soviet rock bands to raise funds for the Chernobyl victims 

Soviet authorities try to hush up the scale of the tragedy, admitting reluctantly that about 30 people had died in the first few weeks after the blast. Hundreds of thousands of people (many military reservists) from all over the Soviet Union, now popularly known as "liquidators," are mobilized by the Communist Party to clean up the disaster. 
The ‘Liquidators’ are those people who were recruited or forced to assist in the cleanup or the "liquidation" of the consequences of the accident. As a totalitarian government the Soviet Union forced many young soldiers to assist in the cleanup of the Chernobyl accident, apparently without sufficient protective clothing and insufficient explanation of the dangers involved. Over 650,000 liquidators helped in the cleanup in the first year. The total number is estimated to be over 1 million. Many of those who worked as liquidators became ill and according to some estimates about 8,000 to 10,000 have died in the first few years after the accident from the radioactive dose they received. Many more of these young healthy men died in the following years.

9 June: ‘By accident’ a foundation of lead was established under the reactor. Tons of lead thrown on the burning reactor, melted and leaked under the reactor. When the temperature decreased it solidified. 
15 June: Almost the complete management team of the reactor has been dismissed for ‘irresponsibility and lack of control’, Pravda announces. Amongst them Chernobyl Direc-tor Victor Bryukanov and deputies (senior engineer) Nikolai Fomin who will be brought on trial a year later. 
20 July: Report (which will be published in full later) of the Government commission of inquiry found that human error caused the disaster. 
20 August: The full report on the cause of the accident was submitted (in Russian) to the IAEA. It states there was an extraordinary sequence of carelessness, mismanagement and violations of safety codes leading to the accident.
26 August: Estonian press tell of strikes and demonstrations by Estonian military reservists forcibly conscripted Chernobyl for clean-up labor. In November reports claim 12 people were executed. 
20 September: The Soviet Union paid already US$3 billion, mainly for relocation, compensation and loss of power. 
29 September: Block 1 of the Chernobyl NPP restarts again, and connects to the grid on Oct. 1.
10 October: Construction-work on Block 5 & 6 is resumed. 9 November: Block 2 restarts.
14 December: A concrete roof ("sarcophagus") is completed over the fourth reactor. It is built to protect the environment from radiation for at least 30 years. 300,000 tons of concrete and 6,000 tons of metal constructions were utilized. 

March: Vladimir Chevchenko, a Russian filmmaker who made the documentary: Chernobyl, chronicle of frightening weeks, dies due to radiation illness 
21 April: Reactor 3 is supplying electricity again 
24 April: Construction work on Block 5&6 halted after it was resumed on Oct 10, 1986. On May 23, 1989 it is decided not to complete the reactors 
30 July: it was reported that three Russians, Chernobyl Direc-tor Victor Bryukanov and deputies Nikolai Fomin and Anatoly Dyatlov were brought to trial and "were found guilty of gross violation of safety regulations which led to the explosion" and were sentenced to 10 years in labor camp. They were released at the end of 1990. 
16 September: The Chernobyl disaster will cost the Soviet Union UKPounds 200 billion economic damage, a senior Moscow official disclosed. 
November: The U.S. government officially doubled its esti-mate of the ‘background’ radiation. 
5/6 December: Still problems with radiation escaping form reactor 4.

Norway increased the limit for cesium in reindeer meat for consumption to 6000 Bq/kg. This is extremely high. Sweden also increased their limit to 1500Bq/kg from 300Bq/kg in May 1987. Most countries have a limit of 600 Bq/kg. And even this figure is heavily criticized. But due to this limit much of the reindeer meat can be sold in Scandinavian countries 
5 January:  Block 3 (which shared a turbine-hall with Block 4) is restarted. 
February: In the period May-August 1986, between 20,000- 40,000 more Americans than usual died. Statistics can’t prove whether or not it was caused by Chernobyl, but “you can’t escape the fact that something happened in the summer of 1986” 
27 April:  Two years after the accident Valery Legasov commits suicide. He was the director of the Kurchatov Institute for Nuclear Energy, where the RBMK reactors were designed. He was also chairman of the scientific team sent to Chernobyl immediately after the accident on 26 April 1986  He left behind his memoirs in which he expresses his anger and des-pair about the safety of nuclear energy in the Soviet Union. He wrote that he wanted to study the safety problems of the RBMK reactors, and for this reason was opposed by people who said there were no problems. Legasov also wrote that there was a certain inevitability in working towards the acci-dent at Chernobyl. Valery Legasov was the head of the Soviet delegation presenting the research report to the congress in Vienna.. 
August: Sweden: With the opening of the deer hunting sea-son came alarming news. The Samen in northern Scandinavia are hard hit by the fall-out as there culture and livelihood depends on reindeer. The majority of animals killed contained more than the consumption limit of 1500 Bq/kg caesium-137. The level of cesium in lake fish has also increased over last year. 
September: Soviet authorities decided to turn the 30 km zone into a national park. All human activity, including farming is banned there. 
22 December: Soviet scientists announce that the sarcopha-gus now enclosing the reactor was designed for a lifetime of only 20 to 30 years. 

Start of the second resettlement phase. About 100 000 peo-ple have to leave their villages in the severely contaminated territories of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. 
26 January: Politburo unexpectedly announced a new cam-paign (concentrated on Belarus) to cope with the consequen-ces of the disaster. 
February: The first maps highlighting radiation fallout from Chernobyl are published in the Soviet press. 
23 February: First visit of Soviet president Michael Gorba-chov to Chernobyl. He spends one hour at the site. 
May: Norway: According to the Isotope Lab of the Agricultu-ral University of Norway, 95% of radioactive elements are still present in upper soil layers and weathering processes within the next few years may increase the uptake of the Chernobyl fallout in the food chain (major grazing areas for livestock and domestic reindeer have been particular affected). 
23 May: Decision not to complete the two units under con-struction. Construction work on Block 5 & 6 resumed on Oct 10, 1986, and already halted on April 24 1987 
26 October: Tass reports that during the following year 100,000 people will be evacuated from contaminated areas in Belarus. 


1- Prelude: an accident waiting to happen


Chernobyl is safe…. Well, until April 26, 1986, that is…Before the Chernobyl accident very little was known about the Chernobyl type reactor, the RBMK. One of the few publi-cations before 1986, in the December 1983 issue of the Ger-man nuclear industry monthly atomwirtschaft was written by H. Born from one of the main German utilities VEW. He writes: "For operational safety, the nuclear power plants (VVER and RBMK) are equipped with three parallel safety systems. The power plants are designed to withstand natural disasters (hur-ricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc.) and to withstand aircraft crash and blasts from outside. The safety is increased by the possibility in Russia to select a site far away from bigger towns." (page 647: "Zur Betriebssicherheit sind die Kraftwer-ke (VVER and RBMK) mit drei parallel arbeitenden Sicherheit-systeme ausgeruested. Die Kraftwerke sing gegen Naturka-tastrophen (Orkane, Ueberschwemmungen, Erdbeben, etc) und gegen Flugzeugabsturz und Druckwellen von aussen ausgelegt. Die Sicherheit  wird noch durch die in Russland moegliche Standortauswahl, KKW in gewisser Entfernung van groesseren Ortschaften zu erstellen, erhoeht."

In the June 1983 issue of the IAEA-bulletin, Mr. B. Semenov, Deputy Director General, Head of IAEA Department of Nu-clear Energy and Safety, sums up "many factors favoring the channel-type graphite-uranium boiling-water reactors" and concludes: "The design feature of having more than 1000 individual primary circuits increasing the safety of the reac-tor system – a serious loss-of-coolant accident is practically impossible." (page 51).

In 1972 a discussion took place in Kiev about the type of nuclear plant to be built at Chernobyl. Chernobyl's director, Bryukhanov, supported construction of Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs). He informed the Ukraine Minister of Energy, Aleksei Makukhin, that an RBMK (a boiling water reactor) releases forty times more radiation than a PWR. However, the scientist Alekzandrov opposed this, saying that the RBMK-1000 was not only the safest reactor, it produced the cheapest electricity as well. For this reason it was decided to build the RBMK pressure tube reactors. 

February-March: according to data in the possession of the KGB, design deviations and violations of construction and assembly technology are occurring at various places in the construction of the 2nd generating unit, and these could lead customary for all sections of public employment to have their own special day, when they receive public acclaim for their work and are given extra bonuses. 
That the production of electricity started on 20 December is quite remarkable, because usually there is a time lapse of about six months between the completion of the construction and the plant becoming operational. On this subject Zhores Medvedev noted that it was common practice in the Soviet Union for people to declare an industrial project to be ready for operation on the understanding that any problems will be solved as quickly as possible. In this way, the production plan already set can still be met. Besides which, not signing the declaration on 31 December 1983 would have resulted in thousands of employees missing their chances of bonu-ses and other extras. This concerns bonuses of up to three months salary extra. Later it became apparent that in the period up to 1985 the turbine had been tested, but without results. The question is still why the test was not repeated again immediately, but had to be left until April 1986.

Nuclear Europe, January 1984

In April 2003, secret KGB documents released in Ukraine show that there were problems with the Chernobyl nuclear plant. One 1984 document notes deficiencies in the third and fourth block, and also of poor quality of some equipment sent from Yugoslav companies. 

April: The Minister of Energy, Anatoly Mayorets, decreed that information on any adverse effects caused by the functioning of the energy industry on employees, inhabitants and environment, were not suitable for publication by newspapers, radio or television. On 18 July 1986, shortly after the Chernobyl accident, this same minister forbade his civil servants from telling the truth about Chernobyl to the media. 

February: Vitali Sklyarov, Minister of Power and Electrification of Ukraine, in reference to the nuclear reactors in Ukraine, is quoted in Soviet Life magazine (page 8) as saying: “The odds of a meltdown are one in 10,000 years.” 
27 March: Literaturna Ukraina (Ukrainian Literature) publis-hes an article written by Ms Lyubov Kovalevska (believed to be a senior manager at Chernobyl NPP) in which she writes that substandard construction, workmanship and concrete, along with thefts and bureaucratic incompetence are creating a time bomb “The failures here will be repaid, repaid over the decades to come.” 
It remains uncertain whether the information on the course of the accident is completely reliable. In 1987, five pos-
sible courses of events leading up to the accident were put forward. However, the following account is the one generally accepted. 

The turbine test 
One of the tests incompletely carried out before the reactor becoming operational was on the functioning of the turbine in the case of a defect. 
That the production of electricity of the fourth Chernobyl reactor started on 20 December 1983 was, as said, quite remarkable, because usually there is a time lapse of about six months between the completion of the construction and the plant becoming operational. 
All the components have to be tested before the actual production process is started. But, in Unit 4 at Chernobyl there was a celebration in March 1984 (only three months after the reactor was operational) to mark the fact that already one million kilowatt hours had been produced, even though at that time not all the components had been thoroughly tested. 
One of the tests incompletely carried out before the reactor becoming operational was on the functioning of the turbine in the case of a defect. 
If a defect is present, the turbine should then slow down, but continue to produce electricity. This electricity is ne-cessary to work the circulation pump and control rods, and to provide lighting for the control room and control panel. This supply of electricity is essential for the safety of the reactor, and on no account should it fail. 
Because it takes twenty seconds for the control rods to reach their most extreme position in the case of a defect, it is of vital importance to know whether the turbine can pro-duce the necessary electricity for those twenty seconds, until the emergency generator is able to take over the sup-ply of electricity. This test was carried out on the night of 25 - 26 April 1986, and was the cause of the disaster. This test should have been carried out before the power plant was put into operation. In actual fact, such a test was carried out earlier - but failed. This became apparent in July and August 1987 during the trial of six people held to be responsible for Chernobyl. The judges' verdict states that on 31 December 1983, director Bryukhanov signed a document declaring that all the tests had been carried out successfully.

Local times: At the time of the 1986 accident, Ukraine was one of the Republics of the USSR (Union of Socia-list Soviet Republics) and had Moscow-time (GMT+3). Although Ukraine changed its time to GMT+2 after it declared independence from Moscow in August 1991, times mentioned in the Chronology are historical local times (GMT+3). Times mentioned concerning Sweden's Forsmark, are also GMT+3. Time difference (in 1986) between Chernobyl and Sweden was 2 hours.

25 April (Friday) 
13.05 hours (local time): Preparations for the turbine test begin. For this test, the plant's capacity must be reduced and for this reason one turbine is turned off. 
14.00 hours: The controller of the Ukraine electricity network requests that the test be delayed. All electricity from Unit 4 is necessary. It is not clear why it was not predictable before-hand that work would have to continue all through Friday afternoon in order to achieve the production planned for April.
16.00 hours: The day shift leaves. The members of this shift have been given information about the test during the pre-vious days, and know about the entire procedure. A special team of electronic engineers is present. 
23.10 hours: Preparations for the test start again. The ten hour delay has a large number of consequences. Firstly, the team of engineers is tired. Secondly, during the test, the eve-ning shift is replaced by the night shift. This shift has fewer experienced operators, besides which they were not prepared for the test. Achier Razachkov, - Yuri Tregub and A. Uskov are the operators who were responsible for carrying out the test earlier in the day: later in interviews they declared that test procedures were only explained to the day and evening shifts. Yuri Tregub decides to stay and help the night shift.

26 April (Saturday) 
01.00 hours: During preparations for the test, the operators have difficulty keeping the capacity of the nuclear plant sta-ble. While doing this they make six important mistakes. 

  1. The control rods which can stop the reactor are raised higher than regulations permit. Operator Uskov of the day shift said later that he would have done the same. He said: "We of-ten don't see the need to follow the instructions to the letter, because rules are often infringed all around us." As well as this, he pointed to the fact that during training it was repeated over and over again that "a nuclear power plant cannot ex-plode". Operator Kazachkov said: "We have often had fewer control rods than were required, and nothing ever happened. No explosion, everything just went on as normal." 
  2. The plant's capacity decreases to below the safe level. Because of this the core becomes unstable. Preparations for the test should have been stopped by now. It should have been obvious that all attention should be given to measures for regaining the plant's stability. 
  3. In order to raise the capacity, an extra circulation pump is turned on. Because of the strong cooling down, the pressure falls, thus reducing the reactor's capacity rather than increa-sing it. Normally at this stage the scram system should start working, but in order to still be able to carry out the test, this system is turned off. 
  4. The automatic emergency shut-down system is turned off in order to prevent the reactor stopping itself. 
  5. The systems to prevent the' water level decreasing too much and the temperature of the fuel elements becoming too high are also turned off. 
  6. Finally, the emergency cooling system is turned off to prevent it working during the test. 
    1.23.04 hours: The real test now begins. The power plant's capacity suddenly increases unexpectedly. 
    1.23.40 hours: Leonid Toptunov, responsible for the control rods, presses a special button for an emergency shutdown. The test has been going on for 36 seconds. 
    1.23.44 hours: The control rods start to descend, but shocks can be felt. The operators see that the control rods have be-come stuck. The fuel tubes have become deformed because of the large increase in the steam pressure. 
    1.24.00 hours: The test has now been going on for 56 seconds. Pressure in the reactor is now so high that the fuel elements burst and small particles land in the cooling water. The cooling water turns into steam and pressure in the tubes increases: they burst. 
    The 1000 ton lid above the fuel elements is lifted: the first explosion. The release of radiation starts. Air gets into the reactor. There is enough oxygen to start a graphite fire. The metal of the fuel tubes reacts to the water. This is a chemical reaction which produces hydrogen, and this hydrogen explo-des: the second explosion. Burning debris flies into the air and lands on the roof of Chernobyl Unit 3. (There was barely any attention paid to this hydrogen explosion in the Soviet report about the accident. In studies commissioned by the US government, however, it was concluded that the second explosion was of great significance, and that the original ex-planation of the accident was incorrect. Richard Wilson of the Harvard University in the US said this second explosion was a small nuclear explosion.) 
    The head of the night shift, Alexander Akinhov, and the engi-neer responsible for industrial management, Anatoly Diatlov, do not believe that an accident has taken place. When some-body claims the core has exploded, they send out operators to examine the core. These people are killed by radiation. On hearing the report that the reactor has been destroyed Aki-mov cries out, "The reactor is OK, we have no problems." Akimov and Diatlov, assisted by manager Bryukhanov and engineer N.Fomin, keep ordering the operators to add more cooling water. They remain convinced that there is nothing wrong. Akimov and Toptunov, who was responsible for the control rods, both died of radiation illness. Diatlov and Fomin were both sentenced to ten years imprisonment for infringe-ment of the safety regulations. However, at the end of 1990 they were both released. 

Chernobyl; chronology of a disaster


At 1.23 hr on April 26, 1986, the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. 
The disaster was a unique industrial accident due to the scale of its social, economic and environmental impacts and longevity. It is estimated that, in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia alone, around 9 million people were directly affected resulting from the fact that the long lived radioactivity released was more than 200 times that of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Across the former Soviet Union the contamination resulted in evacuation of some 400,000 people. About 200,000 km2 of land was, and is, contaminated by radioactive Caesium-137 above 37,000 Bq/m2 (intervention level). In area terms, about 3,900,000 km2 of Europe was contaminated by caesium-137 (above 4,000 Bq/m2) which is 40% of the surface area of Europe. Curiously, this latter figure does not appear to have been published and, certainly has never reached the public's consciousness in Europe.
This contamination will persist for centuries, and many countries as well as Belarus, Ukraine and Russia will need to continue with food restriction orders for decades to come. The economic consequences of the accident remain a mas-sive burden on the countries most affected; Ukraine and Belarus continue to spend a large percentage of their Gross National Product on trying to deal with the consequences of the accident. 

About the health consequences of the Chernobyl accident, much research has been conducted, many reports have been written and still many uncertainties exist. Although official ac-counts points to 4,000 expected cancer deaths from Cherno-byl in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, the real prediction in IAEA/WHO reports is more than 9,000. Many other studies are expecting a multiple of that number. A 2009 publication that looked to Russian and Ukraine language reports, left out of the official studies, calculate a number of casualties of up to 900,000. The full impact of the Chernobyl disaster may never be known.

Chernobyl -  200,000 sq km contaminated; 600,000 liquidators; $200 billion in da-mage; 350,000 people evacuated; 50 mln Ci of radiation. Are you ready to pay this price for the development of nuclear power? (Poster by Ecodefence, 2011).

Europe is ill-prepared for a Fukushima-level accident

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nuclear Transparency Watch (NTW), composed of activists and experts from across the European continent, has released the results of a year-long investigation into the preparedness of European governments and nuclear utilities for a nuclear accident. The study collected information on Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP&R) measures in 10 EU countries.

Michèle Rivasi, chair of NTW and Member of the European Parliament, said:

"The disaster of Fukushima has shed light on a number of very serious dysfunctions: in one of the evacuated city, Futaba, patients of the hospital have been left on their own for three days because the medical staff had run away. The panic made all plans useless, despite the famous "Japanese discipline". Besides the unforeseeable reactions (which will lead in any way to chaos), the theoretical plans revealed totally inefficient. There are numerous shocking facts. Some patients were transported to places without any care facilities and the evacuation zone was ill defined and too small (it jumped arbitrarily from 2km to 3km and then to 10 and 20km, whereas the US authorities ordered their expats to leave from the 80km zone)."

Despite the Fukushima experience, EP&R measures in Europe vary considerably and are generally inadequate. The European Commission and European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group initiated a process of stress tests for all operating nuclear power plants in Europe in the aftermath of Fukushima, but this process did not include off-site EP&R. Later attempts by the European Commission to take action on this issue seem to have come to a virtual halt. EP&R plans in Europe are mostly based on INES Level 5 nuclear accidents and they generally cannot cope with an INES 7 accident, which is the level of the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents.

Specific problems include:

Emergency drills – Many regional and local authorities are not properly prepared for a nuclear accident. Sufficient dedicated staff, accurate evacuation plans and full scope exercises involving the local population are missing. Lessons learned from exercises and drills are not taken into account in new versions of plans, nor are they communicated to stakeholders.

Updating plans – The report notes inadequate updating of EP&R plans regarding spatial changes (new residential neighborhoods, medical centers, schools, roads, etc.) and recent changes in technology (internet, mobile phones, new social media, etc.). EP&R plans inadequately address cross-border issues and the multi-lingual, multi-national and multi-cultural character of contemporary European societies.

Communication – Even during exercises and drills, the communication and notification lines for responsible institutions exhibit deficiencies. Contact details of involved personnel are sometimes wrong or out-dated. Some concerned administration services do not communicate between themselves, and for others, their communication is inadequate or delayed, or even both.

For example, in Germany, the crisis teams of the Federal Ministry for the Environment and the federal states Environmental Ministries failed in a communication exercise in September 2014. The outcomes show that more than one million inhabitants would have been affected by radioactive releases before any public warning by the authorities and some regions would have received instructions (to close the windows, doors, etc.) five hours too late. How are the communication lines supposed to work between two neighboring countries if it is so chaotic already on a national level?

Distribution of iodine tablets – The heterogeneity of measures in different countries
(like the distribution of iodine, evacuation perimeters and zoning) is a crucial transboundary issue.

As an example, in Austria and Luxembourg, iodine tablets can be collected in any pharmacy to be stored at home in the whole territory.

In the Czech Republic, iodine tablets are pre-distributed and stored in houses only in an emergency zone up to 13 km around the Temelín NPP and 20 km around the Dukovany NPP. Today, not all parts of the population in the emergency zone have iodine tablets.

In Belgium and France, iodine tablet pre-distribution zones are established within 20 km and 10 km around the nuclear power plants respectively. For residents living outside the pre-distribution zone, there are centralized stocks, which need to be distributed after the nuclear accident happens.

In Germany, iodine tablets have to be collected by the public itself after the accident. The question is how will the iodine tablets reach the affected population in time?

In Japan, stocks existed locally before the Fukushima disaster. But given the fact that the authorities failed to give appropriate instructions to the public, iodine tablets could be distributed only for a very small number of residents in the area surrounding the damaged plant.

Food standards – There is a need for clarification of food standards and their harmonization especially in the post-accident context. There are several different food standards imposing radioactivity limits per mass or volume. A repetition of the chaos in food standards after the Fukushima catastrophe has to be prevented at all cost.

NTW calls for systematic involvement of civil society in the development of EP&R plans. NTW's assessment makes it clear that the usual top-down approach in EP&R should be changed and that local populations and interested civil society organisations should be actively involved and supported in this participation.

Nuclear transport accidents and incidents

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Burning truck, burning ship carrying uranium hexafluoride

Recent reports have detailed an August 22 event in Ohio, USA, involving a burning truck carrying uranium hexafluoride. Nuclear regulators in Canada – where the cargo originated – and in the US were not informed of the incident. Indeed there was no requirement for them to be notified.[1]

The fire was caused by brake overheating. Driver Brian Hanson doused the fire with water and thought he had extinguished it, and climbed back into the cab to call for a service truck. Then he realised the fire wasn't out and disconnected the trailer.

Hanson said: "I wound the legs down and disconnected it from the truck, losing the hair on my arms because it was really burning at that time – which I figure was kind of crazy in hindsight. But we're so programmed and told about the danger of a load, and the media danger. We're basically taught that the media's like terrorism. We're supposed to do everything we can to avoid media. I wanted to get the fire away from the uranium hexafluoride because it's heat activated ... It's really nasty stuff, and they would have had to evacuate a huge neighbourhood we were beside."

Hanson added: "So I got the truck disconnected, it was burning like crazy, fire blazing out the back, trying to get to a safe place to get off the highway and away from the load. I made it two miles before the truck was disabled, but I got off on the exit ramp and by that time the police were just seconds behind me, and the fire trucks were on the way."

A new rig was dispatched to pick up the uranium load.

The shipment came from a Cameco refinery in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada. Cameco said: "Uranium hexafluoride is transported in special containers that are designed and tested to withstand a significant impact and at least 30 minutes engulfed in flames at a temperature of 800 degrees Celsius." The material is transported in a cylinder about 1.2 metres in diameter and 6 metres long, containing 12,000 kilograms.

According to Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) – a U.S. Department of Energy research lab – if uranium hexafluoride interacts with water or water vapour, it is "chemically toxic," forming dangerous hydrogen fluoride gas. "Uranium is a heavy metal that, in addition to being radioactive, can have toxic chemical effects (primarily on the kidneys) if it enters the bloodstream by means of ingestion or inhalation," ANL says, and hydrogen fluoride "is an extremely corrosive gas that can damage the lungs and cause death if inhaled at high enough concentrations."

Atlantic Cartier ship fire

In May, fire damaged the Atlantic Cartier ship carrying nine tons of uranium hexafluoride while it was in the Port of Hamburg. The uranium was destined for the Areva-owned uranium enrichment plant at Lingen, Lower Saxony.[2] Authorities said containers with dangerous substances were promptly removed from the ship.[3]

From 2008−2013, inspections recorded 20 deficiencies involving the Atlantic Cartier relating to: international safety management; documentation of compliance with dangerous goods legislation; safety of access to working areas; Marpol (UN marine pollution convention) Annex 1 fire prevention issues; speed and distance indicators; safety of navigation (voyage plan); loadlines; propulsion auxiliary engine concerns; accident prevention (onboard personnel); ships certification and documentation; operational procedures (engines and equipment); and distress signalling.[4]

Canada − Trucks with radioactive cargo fail inspections

Since 2010, more than one truck in seven carrying radioactive material has been pulled off the road by Ontario ministry of transportation inspectors for failing safety or other requirements.[5] The information is contained in a notice [6] filed with a panel studying a proposal to establish a radioactive waste repository near Kincardine.

The notice states that since 2010, inspectors examined 102 trucks carrying "Class 7 Dangerous Goods (Radioactive material.)" Of those, 16 were placed "out-of-service," which means the vehicle "must be repaired or the violation corrected before it is allowed to proceed." Violations included faulty brake lights; "load security" problems; flat tires; false log; damaged air lines; and a driver with no dangerous goods training.[6]

In other cases, trucks were allowed to proceed but were slapped with enforcement actions for problems with hours of service; annual inspection requirement; missing placards; exceed gross weight limit; speed limiter; overlength combination; overheight vehicle; and vehicle registration / insurance.[6]

In total, 25 of the 102 inspections − nearly one in four − resulted in the vehicle being place out-of-service and / or enforcement action taken against the operator of the vehicle.[6]

[1] John Spears, 31 Oct 2013, 'Burning truck hauling nuclear load flies under radar',
[2] Martyn Lowe, 25 Aug 2013, 'Next Destination − Antwerp',
[3] May 2013,
[4] UK Nuclear Free Local Authorities, 28 Aug 2013, 'NFLA alarmed about docking of Atlantic Cartier in Liverpool,
[5] John Spears, 15 Nov 2013, 'Trucks with radioactive cargo fail inspections',
[6] Ministry of Transportation − Undertaking #61:

Is Fukushima the new normal for nuclear reactors?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Benjamin Sovacool − Director, Centre for Energy Technologies, AU-Herning at Aarhus University; Associate Professor, Vermont Law School

The new crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan saw radioactive water leak again from the crippled facility, raising fears that groundwater flowing into the Pacific Ocean could be contaminated.[1] The Japanese government also raised the international incident level – the scale used to assess nuclear accidents – from one to three out of seven. The original nuclear meltdown following the 2011 Japanese earthquake was scaled seven.

Even if Fukushima was ultimately caused by the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, accidents such as this beg the question: can nuclear energy ever be truly safe? There are three reasons to think that nuclear accidents are common, and could increase – and it's not because of the technology. Let's have a look at the evidence.

Lessons from history

In the early 1980s, Yale sociologist Charles Perrow argued that the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island was a "normal accident".[2] The crux of his argument was that complicated technological systems have unavoidable problems that can't be designed around.

Perrow's argument − still relevant today − rested on three pillars. First, people are fallible, even at nuclear reactors. Operator error is still a very common factor in incidents and accidents.

Second, big accidents almost always have very small beginnings. Nuclear power plants are so complex that relatively simple things — shirt tails, fuses, light bulbs, mice, cats, and candles — can disrupt the entire system.

And finally, many failures are those of organisations more than technology. Given the right event, all these factors can lead to system-wide failure. Perrow concludes that such high-tech, dangerous systems are hopeless and should be abandoned, as the inevitable risks of failure outweigh any conceivable benefits.

Nuclear reactors do have inherent advantages over fossil fuels, but Perrow's argument raises serious questions about nuclear safety.

Never-ending accidents

Even so, Perrow was writing in the 1980s. Surely things have improved since then? Well, perhaps not.

If you consider the full range of incidents and accidents reported on the International Nuclear Event Scale [3], there have been hundreds of events over the past few decades. One peer-reviewed study identified 105 nuclear accidents totalling U$176.9 billion in damages and 4,231 fatalities worldwide from 1952 to 2011.[4] The International Atomic Energy Agency also reports no less than 2,400 separate incidents since the organisation began collecting data in the 1950s.

Most of these incidents involved no major releases of radiation or fatalities. But three emerging trends still cause reason for grave concern.

First, major modern nuclear power accidents are no longer one-off events. Instead, they can span years or even decades, creating a sort of "continuous accident".

The infamous Chernobyl nuclear power accident may have started on April 25 1986, but it continued into the early 1990s. Secrecy, further accidents, and wildfires in the exclusion zone meant that exposure to dangerous levels of radiation weren't controlled immediately.

We can see this same "continuous" trend with the accident at Fukushima. The triple meltdown itself at Fukushima in March 2011 was just the beginning.

In March 2013 a power outage left four underground spent fuel pools without fresh cooling water for several hours. The same month, it surfaced that a TEPCO crew laying down rat-proof netting caused another outage. In April 2013 regulators discovered that thousands of gallons of radioactive water had seeped into the ground from a leaking system of plastic sheeting.

In May, a fire broke out near Fukushima Unit 3 — ostensibly caused by cardboard boxes catching flame. And most recently in August 2013, regulators announced that 300 tons of radioactive water was found leaking from storage tanks.

New designs, new problems

There is some evidence that newer reactor designs and systems are more prone to accidents. Dennis Berry, Director Emeritus of Sandia National Laboratories, explains that the problem with new reactors and accidents is twofold: scenarios arise that are impossible to plan for in simulations, and people make mistakes.[5] As he put it: "Fabrication, construction, operation, and maintenance of new reactors will face a steep learning curve: advanced technologies will have a heightened risk of accidents and mistakes. The technology may be proven, but people are not."

Former nuclear engineer David Lochbaum has noted that almost all serious nu­clear accidents have occurred when operators have little experience with a plant.[6] This makes new systems incredibly risky.

Lochbaum cites numerous historical examples of nuclear reactor accidents, including Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, which suffered accidents immediately or soon after opening. Only Fukushima seems to have defied the trend; it was opened in 1971 and continued operating until the 2011 earthquake.

Electric pressure

The third problem is electric market restructuring. This puts more pressure on nuclear operators to keep costs low, potentially compromising safety.

The problem is, as former Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Peter Bradford states, "nuclear energy can be cheap, or it can be safe. But it can't be both."[7] And even then, "there's always the possibility somebody will cut a corner".[8]

For example, the pressure to build new generators on existing sites to avoid finding new locations can increase the risk of catastrophe, since there is a greater chance that one accident can affect multiple reactors.

Nuclear waste storage is also becoming more dangerous, with many spent fuel pools packed with more fuel rods to keep costs low, making them hotter and denser.[9] Operators have to add boron to water pool to absorb neutrons, increasing the risk of chain reaction, or criticality, accidents.

The industry has also been trying to tinker with reactor sizes and promote designs that operators have little experience with, making operator training a factor. Some of these new reactor designs use more fuel and create more heat, meaning they have bigger cores containing larger quantities of dangerous fissionable materials, increasing the magnitude of any accident that could occur.

These factors are worrying (to say the least) given the severity of what a single, serious accident can do. Too bad it seems a matter of when, not if, we will see more of them in the future.


Risk of major nuclear accidents underestimated

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jos Lelieveld

Major reactor accidents of nuclear power plants are rare, yet the consequences are catastrophic. But what is meant by “rare”? The results of a new study indicate that previously the occurrence of INES 7 major accidents and the risks of radioactive contamination have been underestimated. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz (Germany) have calculated that such events may occur once every 10 to 20 years (based on the current number of reactors) - some 200 times more often than estimated in the past.

Nuclear accidents associated with the melting of the reactor core are caused by the failure of the cooling systems, and can have major environmental and societal consequences. In total about 20 core melt events have occurred in military and commercial reactors worldwide since the early 1950s (Burns et al., 2012). An accident risk assessment of nuclear power plants by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1975 estimated the probability of a core melt at 1 in 20 000 per year for a single reactor unit. A follow-up report in 1990 adjusted this number and indicated that the core damage frequency is not a value that can be calculated with certainty, though an appendix presented the following likelihood of a catastrophic accident (NRC: Severe Accident Risks – An Assessment for Five U.S. Nuclear Power Plants, NUREG 1150, 1990):

a. Probability of core melt 1 in 10 000 per year;
b. Probability of containment failure 1 in 100;
c. Probability of unfavourable wind direction 1 in 10;
d. Probability of meteorological inversion 1 in 10;
e. Probability of evacuation failure 1 in 10.

The product of these possibilities is 1 in 1 billion per year for a single reactor (this assumes that factors (a)–(e) are independent, which is not the case, so that the actual risk of a catastrophic accident should be higher than this). Given this, with a total of about 440 active civilian reactors worldwide, and an estimated mean remaining lifetime of 20–25 yr (together ~10 000 reactor years), then the probability of such a major accident occurring in this period would be roughly 1 in 100 000. In light of the uncertainties, the simplicity of this calculation is appealing.

However, based on the evidence over the past decades one may conclude that the combined probabilities (a) and (b) have been underestimated.

To evaluate the global risks, empirical evidence can be used to estimate the factors (a) and (b) from above. In the past decades, four INES level 7 catastrophic nuclear meltdowns have occurred, one in Chernobyl and three in Fukushima. Note again that INES 6 and lower level accidents with partial core melts such as Three Mile Island (USA), Mayak (a plutonium production and reprocessing plant in Siberia) and Sellafield (UK) are not considered. The total number of operational reactor years since the first civilian nuclear power station in Obninsk (1954) until 2011 has been about 14 500 according to the IAEA in 2011. This suggests that the probability of a major reactor accident, i.e., the combined probability of the factors (a) and (b), is much higher than estimated in 1990.

Simply taking the four reactor meltdowns over the 14 500 reactor years would indicate a probability of 1 in 3625 per reactor per year, 275 times larger than the 1990 estimate. However, since 2011 is at a junction in time with impacts of a catastrophic meltdown still unfolding, this direct estimate is high-biased, and it is rounded off to 1 in 5000 per reactor per year for use in the model simulations. This is actually only a factor of two higher than the estimated core melt probability noted above, factor (a), although originally this factor also represented partial core melts, which have occurred more frequently. Based on the past evidence, this principally assumes that if a major accident occurs, the probability of containment before substantial radioactivity release is very small. The researchers thus argue that including the factors (b)–(e) can distort the risk perception. The rounded estimate implies that with 440 civilian reactors worldwide a major accident can be expected to occur about once every few decades, depending on whether counting Fukushima as a triple or a single event.

Furthermore, by using a state-of-the-art global atmospheric model they can directly compute the anticipated dispersion of radionuclides, avoiding the need to guess the factors (c) and (d). In doing so, they find that the vast majority of the radioactivity is transported outside an area of 50 km radius, which can undermine evacuation measures, especially if concentrated deposition occurs at much greater distances from the accident, as was the case for Chernobyl in May 1986. Furthermore, even if an evacuation is successful in terms of saving human lives, large areas around the reactors are made uninhabitable for decades afterwards. Therefore, they argue that such events are catastrophic irrespective of evacuation failure or success, and exclude the factor (e).

In the report, the cumulative, global risk of exposure to radioactivity due to atmospheric dispersion of gases and particles following severe nuclear accidents (the most severe ones, INES 7), are assessed using particulate Cesium-137 and gaseous Iodine-131 as proxies for the fallout..

Using a global model of the atmosphere the scientists compute that on average, in the event of a major reactor accident of any nuclear power plant worldwide, more than 90% of emitted 137Cs would be transported beyond 50 km and about 50% beyond 1000 km distance before being deposited. This corroborates that such accidents have large-scale and transboundary impacts. Although the emission strengths and atmospheric removal processes of 137Cs and 131I are quite different, the radioactive contamination patterns over land and the human exposure due to deposition are computed to be similar. Citizens in the densely populated south-western part of Germany run the worldwide highest risk of radioactive contamination, associated with the numerous nuclear power plants situated near the borders between France, Belgium and Germany, and the dominant westerly wind direction.

In Western Europe, where the density of reactors is particularly high, the contamination by more than 40 kilobecquerels per square meter is expected to occur once in about every 50 years. According to the IAEA, an area with more than 40 kilobecquerels of radioactivity per square meter is defined as contaminated. But of course, an objective measure for dangerous radioactive contamination is debatable

If a single nuclear meltdown were to occur in Western Europe, around 28 million people on average would be affected by contamination of more than 40 kilobecquerels per square meter. This figure is even higher in southern Asia, due to the dense populations. A major nuclear accident there would affect around 34 million people, while in the eastern USA and in East Asia this would be 14 to 21 million people.

The report 'Global risk of radioactive fallout after major nuclear reactor accidents', by J. Lelieveld, D. Kunkel, and M. G. Lawrence is available at:

Contact: J. Lelieveld (

Construction Chernobyl new safe confinement starts

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On April 26, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych launched construction of the New Shelter Confinement that will be placed over the damaged Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The construction launch was timed to mark the 26th anniversary of the explosion and fire in Chernobyl Unit 4 that resulted in the world's worst nuclear power plant accident.

A few weeks earlier, the first batch of steel has arrived at the reactor site for the giant arched structure that will protect the ruined power plant and enable its dismantling. Last July enough funds for the Chernobyl Shelter Fund were collected (almost 1 billion dollars) and work was then expected to start in October 2011.

The 149 ton consignment received at the site will go towards the central segment of an arch some 108 metres high that will extend for 257 meters over the plant buildings. Supplied from Italy, the first batch arrived by rail; the second, which makes up some 1030 tons, will follow by sea and road. In total some 20,000 tons of steel will be required for the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement (NSC) project.

The structure will be assembled on concrete rails and slid into place over the broken buildings of Chernobyl 4, which was destroyed by the steam and hydrogen explosions that followed a power excursion in April 1986. The structure is scheduled to be moved over the sarcophagus and confine the remains of the plant from the outside world for about 100 years. It is expected to be completed in 2015. It will allow engineers to remotely dismantle the hastily constructed 'sarcophagus' that has shielded the remains of the reactor from the weather since the weeks after the accident. The stability of the sarcophagus has developed into one of the major risk factors at the site, and its potential collapse threatens to liberate more radioactive materials. A project to shore up the structure was completed in mid-2008 but the NSC would reduce the consequences of a collapse while also allowing the sarcophagus to be taken apart under controlled conditions.

Other objectives for the structure are to generally reduce emissions from the buildings for a design-life of 100 years while at the same time stopping the ingress of water, which increases the risk that nuclear fuels scattered inside the building could potentially see sustained fission reactions. The huge building is meant to enable the eventual removal of materials containing nuclear fuel and accommodate their characterisation, compaction and packing for disposal. This task represents the most important step in eliminating nuclear hazard at the site - and the real start of decommissioning. The NSC will facilitate remote handling of these dangerous materials, using as few personnel as possible.

The environmental restoration work at Chernobyl is funded by 29 donor countries to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, set up in 1997, which is administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

In March 2004 the EBRD invited tenders for detailed design and construction of the New Safe Confinement: a freestanding arch to provide protection from weather and condensation and to minimise further corrosion for 100 years. It was then expected to be finished in 2010. In August 2007, the French consortium Novarka was announced as winner of the tender.

In July last year, the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs announced that sufficient funds had been pledged to enable the start of construction of the NSC. Kostyantyn Grushchenko notified President Viktor Yanukovych of the outcome of a meeting of the international donors to the Chernobyl clean-up fund at the headquarters of the EBRD in London. Aside from the news on funding, Grushchenko noted that there were still a number of "issues requiring technical completion." But he said: "It is very important for us that already now, this year, we can start building the shelter, which will protect Kiev, Ukraine, the world from possible risks associated with the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster", he said.

According to a report from the German Press Agency (DPA), a spokesman from the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the country had received international pledges of US$941 million to build the steel-and-concrete structure.

The pledges will be used primarily to complete the New Safe Confinement. But the pledges will also help to complete the construction of a storage facility on the site for the used fuel from the three other Chernobyl units, which continued operating after the 1986 accident. The facility will provide dry storage for more than 20,000 used fuel assemblies on completion in 2014-5.

Sources: Nuclear Engineering International: Chernobyl – New safe century, April 2004 / Ria Novosti, 16 April 2006 / World Nuclear News, 9 August 2007, 13 July 2011 and 20 March 2012.


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

China denies nuclear accident reports.
China has denied reports that it was forced to shut down its newest nuclear reactor last year after an incident. A report from Japan's Atomic Energy Agency said the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) stopped generating electricity in October following an accident. The incident sparked alarm in Japan and South Korea over the prospect of radiation leaking from the CEFR. According to a Tokyo newspaper, which cited the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency's investigation, those fears were intensified by Beijing's failure to report the accident or release details of what happened. But Wan Gang, the director of the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE), denied there had been an accident or any cover-up and also refuted the allegations of poor safety. "CEFR hasn't been operating since July last year so reports that an accident occurred in the autumn are extremely inconsistent with the facts," Gang told Chinese media. But that again, is not in line with reports sofar. On July 21, 2011, exactly one year after achieving first criticality, the head of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), Sun Qin, declared that the unit had successfully achieved grid connection.

CEFR is a fourth-generation reactor and China's first fast reactor. The sodium-cooled, pool-type fast reactor has been constructed with some Russian assistance at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIEA), near Beijing, which undertakes fundamental research on nuclear science and technology. The reactor has a thermal capacity of 65 MW and can produce 20 MW in electrical power.
World Nuclear News, 21 July 2011 / Telegraph (UK), 27 January 2012 /, 28 January 2012

Germany: site selection HLW repository after 2019
Under a new plan, agreed on by the national government and federal states, the Gorleben salt dome in Lower Saxony would be a reference site for the site selection of a spent fuel disposal facility. The plan does not rule out using Gorleben but also says no decision has been made to use the site. The scientific study of the site, Germany’s only existing candidate for a high-level nuclear waste repository, was halted under a moratorium 2000. The moratorium was lifted 2010 years after the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, or Bfs, filed an application to resume studies and prolong Gorleben’s operating license through September 2020.

Under the new plan, the first step will be the development of the legal and regulatory framework which is scheduled to be completed in mid-2012. The plan calls for development of safety requirements and determination of what types of geologic formations might be used for waste disposal, between mid-2012 and mid-2013. They could include salt domes and mines, clay and crystalline rock, according to the plan. Hydrological parameters will also be set. By mid-2013, the German parliament is scheduled to put the criteria into a federal law governing repository development. The authorities involved in site selection will have until mid-2014 to identify potential sites and until the end of 2014 to select candidate sites. Surface studies are planned through the end of 2019. After that, underground studies will be done and a site will be chosen, although the plan does not specify a date for that decision. Construction and commissioning approvals are to be issued after 2019.
Nuclear Fuel, 26 December 2012

Africans and the Global Uranium Trade.
A new book to be published early March 2012 and written by Gabrielle Hecht: Being Nuclear: Africans and the global uranium trade. Uranium from Africa has long been a major source of fuel for nuclear power and atomic weapons, including the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In 2002, George W. Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein had "sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" (later specified as the infamous "yellowcake from Niger"). Africa suddenly became notorious as a source of uranium, a component of nuclear weapons. But did that admit Niger, or any of Africa's other uranium-producing countries, to the select society of nuclear states? Does uranium itself count as a nuclear thing? In this book, Gabrielle Hecht lucidly probes the question of what it means for something--a state, an object, an industry, a workplace--to be "nuclear."

Hecht shows that questions about being nuclear--a state that she calls "nuclearity"--lie at the heart of today's global nuclear order and the relationships between "developing nations" (often former colonies) and "nuclear powers" (often former colonizers). Nuclearity, she says, is not a straightforward scientific classification but a contested technopolitical one.

Hecht follows uranium's path out of Africa and describes the invention of the global uranium market. She then enters African nuclear worlds, focusing on miners and the occupational hazard of radiation exposure. Could a mine be a nuclear workplace if (as in some South African mines) its radiation levels went undetected and unmeasured? With this book, Hecht is the first to put Africa in the nuclear world, and the nuclear world in Africa. Doing so, she remakes our understanding of the nuclear age.

Gabrielle Hecht is Professor of History at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II and editor of Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War, both published by the MIT Press. Hardcover: 440 pages, published by MIT Press (expected on 2 March, 2012). ISBN: 978-0262017268

'Worst scenario' on Fukushima crisis kept under wraps.
Japan's nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono has said ‘the worst scenario’ on development of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima complex, which was compiled two weeks after the crisis began, was shared only by a few lawmakers, including then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, due to fears it might cause confusion among the public. "The scenario was not a possibility in fact. If it had been made public at that time, it was likely that no one would have remained in Tokyo," Hosono was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. "It would have caused trouble regarding the government's handling of the nuclear crisis," he said.
Asian Age, 30 January 2012

Cold shutdown reached at Fukushima?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

September 28, 2011 marked a milestone of sorts for the Fukushima Daiichi reactors: some six-and-a-half months after the onset of the accident, temperature levels at all of the reactors and fuel pools fell below the boiling point (100 degrees Celsius) for the first time since March 11. But there are some caveats to that statement. Meanwhile, hydrogen detected in a pipe will cause no explosion "in the immediate future". Plutonium has been found as far as 45 km from the plant.

The temperature at Unit 2 fell only to 99.4 degrees Celsius, and has been going up and down in recent days, so could quickly return to the boiling point. Moreover, while the reactor temperatures are measured at the bottom of the pressure vessel, it’s not clear that is where the hottest temperatures are. Since fuel melted and containments failed, allowing fuel to go below the pressure vessel, temperatures below the vessel where the molten fuel has collected may remain higher than the boiling point.

Meanwhile, the cooling system that has brought down temperatures is a jerry-rigged system nothing akin to the normal cooling systems found in reactors, and its long-term reliability is in serious question. This is especially so because the region continues to suffer earthquakes (a 5.6 earthquake struck the region on September 29), not to mention typhoons and other problems.

In other words, there remains some time before cold shutdown of the reactors can be proclaimed. And in the meantime, radiation releases continue, although they are reported to be a small fraction of earlier releases. They’re now on the order of one million becquerels/hour (as opposed to a trillion/hour a few months ago and thousands of times more than that in March). Although, a caveat to that too: Tepco has admitted that it doesn’t really know how much radiation is being emitted--it’s estimating.

On Oct 2, Tepco announced that it had estimated that the interruption for about 38 hours of water injection into the cores would prompt their nuclear fuels to melt again. Unless water injection is restarted about 18 hours after being stopped, a massive amount of radioactive substances would be released into the environment. In the estimate for the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors at the March disaster-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, TEPCO assumed that their pressure vessels would have no water to cool nuclear fuels when water

injection stops. The temperate of the nuclear fuels would rise by about 50 degrees Celsius every hour from 300 degrees at the time of the coolant loss and reach 2,200 degrees about 38 hours later, the power utility estimated. At that time, the nuclear fuel would start melting, and some would break through the pressure vessel to fall into the containment structure, according to the company.

A couple of reports have struck us recently. One widely reported is that Tepco seriously considering abandoning the Fukushima facility in mid-March when it reduced its on-site workforce to 50 people. Another, also widely reported, is that then-Prime Minister Kan was actively considering ordering an evacuation of Tokyo in mid-March as conditions deteriorated and foresaw a potential end to Japan as a functioning nation. It may go without saying that if Tepco actually had abandoned its efforts at the time, that’s exactly what would have happened.

On September 23,Tepco said that hydrogen has been detected in a pipe at the No. 1 reactor, but there is no possibility it will cause an explosion "in the immediate future". According to Tokyo Electric Power Co., hydrogen of at least 10,000 parts per million was detected at two spots in a pipe passing through the containment vessel on the reactor building's first floor. This concentration was higher than Tepco had anticipated. Although Tepco is not certain how much hydrogen is still inside the vessel, the utility believes it is possible the concentration of the highly flammable gas is higher than had been assumed.

In air and liquid, 10,000 ppm is equivalent to 1 percent. Air containing at least 4 percent hydrogen and 5 percent oxygen is at risk of causing explosion. Tepco has been injecting nitrogen into the containment vessel since April so it is assumed there is virtually no oxygen. As a result, the utility ruled out the possibility of an explosion "in the immediate future."

Japanese officials said they have found, for the first time, small amounts of plutonium from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant as far as 28 miles (45 kilometers) away. At a  October 2, Tokyo news conference, federal officials announced the first discovery plutonium outside the immediate vicinity of the power plant, as well as radioactive strontium in 45 spots as far as 50 miles (80km) from the reactors, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile, Tepco is fighting to keep its pre-disaster emergency-response procedures a secret from politicians and the public, arguing they contain valuable trade information. In September the company angered members of a parliamentary committee when it handed over manuals outlining steps that its nuclear plant operators are meant to follow in the case of accidents. All but a few words of the texts were redacted with black ink.

The storm of controversy that followed – one newspaper columnist compared it to wartime censorship – seems not to have softened the company’s stance. Early October it asked Japan’s nuclear safety regulator, which had ordered it to resubmit the manuals without redaction, to allow it to keep much of the material secret. So far only the regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa), has seen the originals, which run to thousands of pages. It has not passed them on to the lawmakers who originally requested them. 

Tepco has told Nisa that if the manuals are to be made public, 90 per cent of the content related to “severe accidents” such as that at Fukushima should be kept under black ink. “The manuals contain knowhow that we have built up over a long period of operation,” a company spokesman said. “There are also issues of national security.”

Largest trade union changes policy on nuclear power. The leadership of Rengo, Japan's largest trade union organization will rethink the body's energy policy in light of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, with a view to shifting from its stance of promoting nuclear power to one that aims for a society not reliant on atomic energy, according to Rengo sources on October 3. Since Rengo is the largest supporter of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the turnaround is expected to have an impact on the energy policy of the DPJ-led government. Rengo, which counts labor unions of power utilities among its members, has struggled to reconcile differences within the organization over nuclear energy policy. But its leadership has decided on the policy turnaround by taking into account the seriousness of damage brought by the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, they said. In August 2010, Rengo decided for the first time to promote nuclear power generation and back construction of new nuclear power plants.
Japan Times, 5 October 2011

Sources: The Yomiuri Shimbun, 24 September 2011 /  NIRS Fukushima Update, 29 September 2011 / Jiji Press, 2 October 2011 /  UPI, 2 October 2011 / Financial Times (UK), 5 October 2011

Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Oppose Nigeria's nuclear plans.
On September 15, President Goodluck Jonathan formally inaugurated Nigeria's Atomic Energy Commission and urged its members headed by Erepamo Osaisai to quickly evolve implementable plans and timelines for the delivery of atomic energy for peaceful purposes in the country. We recall that the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission was established in 1976 to investigate the development of nuclear energy but little progress was made. It was reactivated in 2006 and President Jonathan appointed a new team this year.

Nigeria has the world's seventh-largest natural gas reserves, yet the nation is blighted by persistent electricity outages which force businesses and individuals who can afford them to rely on generators. Much of this vast gas reserves sit untouched under the ground or are flared into the sky. Despite being Africa's biggest crude oil exporter, decades of corruption and mismanagement mean Nigeria has never built the infrastructure to farm its huge oil and gas resources for much-needed domestic use.

Deficits in our existing institutions remain a defining albatross on the path to meaningful development. Cut to the bone, this scenario suggests that Nigeria currently lacks the indigenous capacity, supporting infrastructure, discipline and security wherewithal to build and manage an atomic power plant. It simply is another way of courting disaster - one we cannot manage.

Let us explore and exploit other safer, rational options. These include solar, gas, hydro, wind and coal options. Nigeria has these resources in stupendous quantities. A presidential directive requesting timelines for the generation of electricity through these options is far better than the timelines he recently demanded from the newly-inaugurated Atomic Energy Commission. Our scientist-president should think again.
Editorial Leadership newspaper (Nigeria),, 3 October, 2011

Belene construction agreement extended.
Russia's AtomStroyExport (ASE) and Bulgaria's National Electricity Company (NEK) have signed a supplement to their agreement on the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant, extending it until the end of March 2012. Under an earlier extension, the agreement - originally signed in 2006 - was extended until 30 September. According to ASE, the extension 'confirms the parties' interest in the continuation of the project.' NEK said that during the next six months, the two companies will continue their activities related to completing a market study, clarifying the financial model and studying the project finance proposal submitted by financial advisor HSBC. It added that the extra time will allow Bulgaria to conduct an analysis of the results and recommendations of stress tests being performed at nuclear power plants across the European Union. ASE said that work on the foundation pit for the first reactor at Belene has now been completed. It said that a concrete plant at the site has already been put into operation and that water treatment plants have been built.
World Nuclear News, 03 October 2011

UAE: Construction first unit will start mid-2012.
According to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), a government establishment created last year to oversee the ambitious nuclear construction project, said it would launch construction work for the infrastructure of four planned nuclear power plants in Barrakah in the western region in mid 2012 to pave the way for their operation in 2017. The UAE will award a contract in early 2012 for the supply of nuclear fuel to run its four nuclear reactors which the country is planning to construct as part of an ambitious nuclear power program.

Under the agreement to built 4 nuclear reactors, inked on December 27, the state-owned Korea Electric Power Corp (Kepco) and is partners in the consortium will design, build and run the reactors that will produce 5,600 MW of electricity. The contract to build the reactors is worth about US$20 billion (15bn euro).

The UAE has said the project is intended to diversify its energy supply sources and meet its rapid growing electricity demand, which is projected to surge to around 40,000 MW in 2020 from nearly 15,000 MW in 2009. The nuclear project will provide nearly 25 per cent of the UAE’s total energy needs of nearly 40,000 MW in 2020. Around seven per cent will be generated through renewable energy and the rest through conventional means.
Emirates 24/7, 25 September 2011

Pyhäjoki location for Finland's sixth reactor.
Fennovoima has chosen Pyhäjoki as the site for its nuclear power plant. Pyhäjoki municipality is located in North Ostrobothnia and the nuclear power plant will be constructed on Hanhikivi peninsula on the coast of Bothnian Bay. For the basis of the site selection, assessments were carried out during some four years. In the beginning of Fennovoima project in summer 2007, the company had almost 40 alternative sites. The number of alternatives was decreased gradually based on assessments and in December 2009 Fennovoima ended up having two alternatives, both located in Northern Finland: Pyhäjoki and Simo municipalities. In the final site decision, safety, technical feasibility, environmental matters, construction costs and schedule were the main factors examined as well as the ability of the site region to support a project that will bring thousands of people to work and use services there.

Fennovoima continues now the planning work together with the municipality, authorities and the plant suppliers and prepares applying for various licences and permits. For example, more detailed bedrock, environmental and water studies will be carried out on the Hanhikivi peninsula. Simultaneously, other preparations for the future phases of the project are carried out together with Pyhäjoki and Raahe region. First preparatory works on Hanhikivi will be started in the end of 2012 at earliest. The construction schedule will be elaborated after the plant supplier has been selected. Fennovoima sent bid invitations for Areva and Toshiba in July 2011 and the plant supplier will be chosen in 2012-2013.

Fennovoima has two owners: Voimaosakeyhtiö SF and E.ON Kärnkraft Finland. Voimaosakeyhtiö SF owns 66 percent of Fennovoima and nuclear expert E.ON Kärnkraft Finland 34 percent. Altogether Fennovoima has 70 shareholders. Voimaosakeyhtiö SF is owned by 69 finnish regional and local energy companies as well as companies in trade and industry.

Finland has 4 reactors in operation (two at Lovisa and two at Olkiluoto). The fifth (Olkiluoto-3) in under construction; over budget and over time.
Press release Fennovoima, 5 October 2011 / IAEA Reactor database.

Health effects radiation suppressed by tobacco companies.
Tobacco companies knew that cigarette smoke contained radioactive alpha particles for more than four decades and developed "deep and intimate" knowledge of these particles' cancer-causing potential; however, they deliberately kept their findings from the public. The study, published online in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, the peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, adds to a growing body of research detailing the industry's knowledge of cigarette smoke radioactivity and its efforts to suppress that information. The UCLA researchers analysed  dozens of previously unexamined internal tobacco industry documents, made available in 1998 as the result of a legal settlement.

“The documents show that the industry was well aware of the presence of a radioactive substance in tobacco as early as 1959; furthermore, the industry was not only cognizant of the potential 'cancerous growth' in the lungs of regular smokers but also did quantitative radiobiological calculations to estimate the long-term lung radiation absorption dose of ionizing alpha particles emitted from cigarette smoke." The study’s first author, Hrayr S. Karagueuzian, a professor of cardiology who conducts research at UCLA's Cardiovascular Research Laboratory, said: ‘We show here that the industry used misleading statements to obfuscate the hazard of ionizing alpha particles to the lungs of smokers and, more importantly, banned any and all publication on tobacco smoke radioactivity.” 

The radioactive substance, which the UCLA study shows was first brought to the attention of the tobacco industry in 1959, was identified in 1964 as the isotope polonium-210, which emits carcinogenic alpha radiation. Polonium-210 can be found in all commercially available domestic and foreign cigarette brands, Karagueuzian said, and is absorbed by tobacco leaves through naturally occurring radon gas in the atmosphere and through high-phosphate chemical fertilizers used by tobacco growers. The substance is eventually inhaled by smokers into the lungs.
LA Examiner, 28 September 2011

Dounreay: Belgium waste to be returned.
Dounreay has announced the return of reprocessing wastes from the BR2 research reactor in Belgium. The BR2 reactor in Mol was a good customer for Dounreay over the years, receiving new enriched uranium fuel from the reprocessed spent fuel. It planned to send considerably more spent fuel to Dounreay but the reprocessing plant was closed by a leak and never reopened. Wastes have already been returned to France and Spain. One Dounreay reprocessing customer has requested the substitution of vitrified high-level wastes for the intermediate level wastes at Dounreay (a consultation on this was held in 2010). However, Belgium wants to take back the intermediate level waste, as required by the original contract with Dounreay. Dounreay also had contracts with Australia, Germany and for Italian-owned fuel from Denmark.

There are 153 tons of BR2 reprocessing wastes cemented into 500-liter drums and this will involve an estimated 21 shipments over four years, starting this autumn. The shipments will be from Scrabster and will probably involve the former roll-on/roll-off ferry, the Atlantic Osprey.
N-Base Briefing 689, October 2011

IAEA Inspector exposed to radiation.
On October 5, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that one of its nuclear inspectors had been exposed to radiation during a 4 October inspection of the Belgoprocess nuclear waste facility in Dessel, Belgium. The inspector, along with an inspector from Euratom and a Belgoprocess employee, apparently received a dose of radiation after a vial or flask of plutonium accidentally fell on the floor, according to releases from the company and the Belgian Federal Nuclear Control Agency (AFCN). Plutonium is dangerous if ingested, but the amount received by the inspectors was less than the legal limit, the AFCN says. No radiation has been released beyond the site., 5 October 2011

Atucha II, Argentina's third nuclear power plant.
President Cristina Kirchner inaugurated Atucha II, Argentina's third nuclear power plant on September 28. The German-designed reactor is expected to be fully operational in six to eight months after engineers run a series of tests. Construction of the plant began in July 1981, but work soon stopped and did not resume until 2006, when then-president Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007), the current leader's late husband, ordered the plant to be completed.

Argentina's other nuclear plants are Atucha I (335 megawatts) and the Embalse plant (600 megawatts). Once Atucha II is online 10 percent of Argentina's electricity will be produced by nuclear power. Plans are on the drawing board for Atucha III plant as well as an overhaul of the Embalse plant to add 30 years to its operational life, said Planning Minister Julio de Vido. Embalse was connected to the grid in 1983. Atucha II is located on the banks of the Parana river in the town of Zarate, some 100 kilometers north of the capital Buenos Aires. It was built at a cost of more than 2.4 billion dollars.
AFP, 29 September 2011

Another USEC deadline for DOE loan guarantee.
On September 30, USEC, announced morning it will reduce its spending on the American Centrifuge Project (ACP) in Piketon by 30 percent over the next month. It will also send out notices to its 450 employees Ohio, Tennessee and Maryland that layoffs are possible if the company doesn’t receive a loan guarantee before October 31. USEC has invested approximately US$2 billion in the ACP but needs significant additional financing to complete the plant. In 2008, USEC applied for a US$2 billion loan guarantee from Department of Energy for construction of the ACP. USEC significantly demobilized construction and machine manufacturing activities in 2009 due to delays in obtaining financing through DOE’s Loan Guarantee Program. Since then, many 'final' deadlines were set by USEC (three in the past half year: June 30, Sept. 30 and now Oct, 31) to obtain the loan guarantee.

In a call with investors, USEC President and CEO John Welch said the company must see a loan guarantee during the next month or risk the end of the project. USEC expects October “to be a month of intense interaction with the DOE,” in hopes of securing the loan guarantee.

The company had faced a September 30 deadline with two investors — Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation and Babcock & Wilcox Investment Company — to receive a US$2 billion loan guarantee. They agreed September 30 to extend that deadline to October 31. If USEC receives the loan guarantee, the companies have promised US$50 million to support the project.

In a statement, DOE Spokesman Damien LaVera said, “The Department of Energy has been working closely with USEC as the company has continued to test and validate its innovative technology, obtain private financing and meet other benchmarks that would be required for a successful loan guarantee application. We are strongly committed to developing effective, domestic nuclear enrichment capabilities and are looking at all options on a path forward.”

The ACP will utilize USEC’s AC100 centrifuge machine, which has been developed, engineered and assembled in the US. The AC100 design is a disciplined evolution of classified U.S. centrifuge technology originally developed by DOE. DOE invested already US$3 billion over 10 years to develop the centrifuge technology.
Dayton Daily News, 1 October 2011 /  ACP website:

Taiwan: nuclear accident compensation increased.
On September 30, the Taiwanese Cabinet approved an amendment to the Nuclear Damage Compensation Act that imposes heavier compensation liability on nuclear power operators in the event of natural disasters such as an earthquake or a typhoon. Under the amendment, the maximum amount of compensation for losses caused by a nuclear accident was increased from NT$4.2 billion (US$138 million or 103 million euro) to NT$15 billion (US$5 mln or 3.7 mln euro) and the allowed period for compensation claims was extended from 10 to 30 years.

The amendment came after the Atomic Energy Council reviewed the act, which had not been amended since it was first enacted in 1997, in the wake of the nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin said the amendment fell short of her expectations as she had suggested further lifting the ceiling on compensation liability.
Tapei Times, 30 September 2011

36 year old construction permit extended. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has extended the construction permit for the unfinished Bellefonte unit 1 in Alabama.
The construction permit was originally granted in 1974. It was suspended in 1988, when Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) decided to halt work on the project, but the NRC agreed in 2009 to reinstate the permit. With the reinstated permit due to expire on 1 October 2011, TVA lodged an application for an extension in October 2010. The NRC has now agreed to that extension, meaning that the construction permit will remain valid until 1 October 2020. (see more in Nuclear Monitor 732, 9 September 2011)
World Nuclear News, 03 October 2011

Swiss parliament, no new reactors.
On September 28, the Council of States has followed the government’s lead by voting not to replace the country’s five nuclear power stations  and boost renewable energy resources. Switzerland currently has five nuclear power plants that will gradually come off the power grid at the end of their 50 year (!) lifespan: the first one in 2019 and the last one in 2034. The Senate followed the House of Representatives in calling on the government to ban new nuclear plants but keep parliament "informed about innovations in the field."

The clear result of the September 28 vote - with a three to one majority - came after a parliamentary committee prepared a compromise formula, promoted by the centre-right Christian Democratic Party, which will give parliament another chance to have a say at a later stage. “Even if we were to ban nuclear power plants now our successors in parliament could still one day decide on building on new reactors,” a Christian Democratic Senator, Filippo Lombardi from Ticino, said on behalf of the committee. Discussions on nuclear power are due to continue in the new parliament which is due to convene for the first time in December following general elections next month.

The Social Democrats, the Greens as well as the Christian Democratic Party hailed the Senate decision as an important step towards a new energy policy amid calls for further measures to switch to more renewable energy sources.

The government called for a withdrawal from nuclear energy in May – a proposal backed by the House of Representatives a month later. 28 September 2011

Hinkley Blockaded: No New Nuclear Power!
More than 300 people (even up to 400, according to a BBC-report), successfully sealed off the main entrance to Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset for nine hours on 3 October in opposition to EDF Energy's plans to build two new mega-reactors on the site. EDF said of 500 employees at the plant, only essential staff had been called in and had arrived by bus at dawn.

Blockaders were joined by a theatrical troupe who enacted a nuclear disaster scenario, while Seize the Day provided a musical backdrop to the event. 206 helium balloons were released to represent the number of days since the Fukushima meltdown. The balloons will be tracked, to show which areas of the West Country would be worst affected by a nuclear disaster at Hinkley.;; BBC, 3 October 2011

Marcoule explosion figures "erroneous if not lies"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The 12 September explosion in a furnace at the Centraco low-level radioactive waste processing facility at Marcoule in southern France has been rated at Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). The blast at the facility, owned by EDF subsidiary Socodei, resulted in the death of one worker and injury to four others. CRIIRAD found out that the figures given concerning the radioactivity of wastes at the Centraco furnace were erroneous, and probably deliberate lies.

In nuclear matters, the files keep changing yet the same conclusions can be drawn: every time the companies involved underestimate the risks, and the official experts show a lack of critical thinking, even a certain complacency.

On 23 September, the CRIIRAD contacted the French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire -ASN) and the ministries of Health, Industry and Ecology. Its task is to regulate nuclear safety and radiation protection, on behalf of the State, in order to protect workers, patients, the public and the environment from the risks involved in nuclear activities.

In their letter, CRIIRAD denounced the secrecy shrouding the key elements of the Centraco file, as well as the publication by IRSN (Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Security) which presented an astoundingly low figure (63 000 Bq) for the activity of 4 tons of metallic wastes present in the furnace at the time of the September 12 explosion. CRIIRAD considered this figure "absolutely incompatible" with the dose rate of 8,5 μSv/h (microSievert/hour) reportedly measured in the body of the explosion victim. Since the information on the dose came from an unofficial source, the CRIIRAD had not gone further than asking questions and seeking clarification from ASN.

On 28 September, from the website of Le Dauphiné Libéré, the CRIIRAD learnt of the declarations of the Procureur in charge of inquiries, M. Robert Gelli, its declarations confirmed the dose findings. CRIIRAD therefore sent an official letter to the Procureur de la République (a high-level attorney), emphasizing that it is "impossible to measure such a high dose rate if the contamination comes from metallic wastes as weakly contaminated as the operator and the IRSN claim them to be", and calling on the inquiries office to carry out dosimetric cartography and laboratory analyses in order to establish the real activity of the 4 tons of radioactive wastes.

On September 29, CRIIRAD sent a letter to ASN saying CRIIRAD has just became aware of the information published by ASN on its website the day before, which indicates that the "the furnace contained, at the moment of the accident, a load of about 4 tons of waste with an activity of 30 million Bq and not 63 thousand Bq as the operator at first announced". This new figure is 476 times higher than the one that had been circulating since September 1

This information prompts some very serious questions:

1. Would those new numbers also have been published if CRIIRAD had not officially, by registered mail, contacted the various authorities on September 23?

2. How come the state’s expert body, the IRSN, which was present onsite and has far greater resources than CRIIRAD, accepted without reservation the suspect figures given by SOCODEI, the operator. The figure of 63 kBq was published on September 12, by IRSN without any subsequent correction.

3. What credibility can we give to the operator’s self-monitoring, which is an essential aspect of the Centraco plant? From 63 kBq to 30 MBq, the discrepancy is not 10 or 20% but nearly 500 times! And it is highly improbable that this was a mere unlucky set of circumstances, that the explosion involved the operator’s only set of ill-measured wastes. CRIIRAD has studied the original projectplan for the Centraco plant and one of its main criticisms at the time concerned specifically the lack of a reliable system for monitoring the activity of wastes.

Is the Centraco plant not operating in complete breach of the rules prescribed for its operation? Does the plant not violate the authorization decree that limits the total activity it may hold; and exceed of the ceilings for radioactive and chemical pollutants discharged into the atmosphere and the Rhone river. If the real discharges are 10 times or 100 times greater than those declared, the limits for discharge of , for example, tritium or alpha emitters would certainly be exceeded.

The inquiries office will have to determine whether the underestimation of the activity of waste is due to a deliberate action by the operator or a failure to master the radioactive substances it deals with. Whichever explanation is the correct one, both are very worrying.

In order to obtain access to all parts of the dossier, the management of CRIIRAD have decided to place a Depot d'une Plainte en Justice (formal legal complaint) on the agenda of ASN’s next administration council meeting, scheduled for 14 October next.

The objective is to make sure that all responsibilities are well researched and well established. The explosion caused the death of an employee, and another is in a critical condition. Full light must be shed on the plant’s operating conditions and monitoring systems.

Source and contact: CRIIRAD (Commission de Recherche et d'Information Indépendantes sur la Radioactivité), 471 Av. V Hugo, 26000 Valence, France