Date:   Tue, 1 May 2001 04:54:31 -0400
From:  "Bill Smirnow" <>
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Belarus brought to its knees by 'invisible enemy' - The Irish Times - OPINION
+ Fifteen years on, the Soviet legacy remains uncertain (see below)
  Internal exposure.
April 26, 2001
Fifteen years after Chernobyl, the world has moved on. But for
Belarus the problems are only beginning. Thyroid cancer rates
have risen by 2,400 per cent since the explosion, writes Eugene
At 1.23 a.m. on April 26th, 1986, an explosion occurred in the
No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine. Some 190
tons of highly radioactive uranium and graphite were blasted into
the atmosphere.
 The radioactive cloud released from the burning reactor
travelled north into the neighbouring country of Belarus. It then
moved east over western Russia and west across Europe.
 The fallout from the disaster has directly affected over nine
million people in Belarus, Ukraine and western Russia. The people
of these countries were exposed to radioactivity 90 times greater
than that released by the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The UN
has declared the disaster the worst environmental catastrophe in
 It is the country of Belarus which has suffered, and continues
to suffer, most from the disaster: 70 per cent of the radiation
has fallen on its land and people.
 Mr Vladislav Ostapenko, head of Belarus's Radiation Medicine
Institute, told a recent press conference that "science cannot
yet completely assess the consequences of the Chernobyl accident,
but it is plain that a demographic catastrophe has occurred in
our country.
 "We are now seeing genetic changes, especially among those who
were less than six years of age when the accident happened and
they were subjected to radiation. These people are now starting
 Medical research has shown that radioactive elements (primarily
caesium 137 and iodine 131) cross the placental barrier from
mother to foetus, contaminating each new generation. Faced with
soaring levels of infertility and genetic changes, the gene pool
of the Belarussian people is now under threat.
 The rates of thyroid cancer have increased by 2,400 per cent in
the 15 years since the disaster and this figure is expected to
continue to rise. There has been a 1,000 per cent increase in
suicides in the contaminated zones and a 250 per cent increase in
congenital birth deformities.
 With 99 per cent of the land of Belarus contaminated to varying
degrees, the people of this stricken country are forced to live,
eat, drink and breathe radiation.
 Ms Adi Roche, executive director of the Chernobyl Children's
Project, which has initiated 14 aid programmes for the stricken
regions, has travelled on many humanitarian aid convoys to
Belarus. She has found it to be "a country on its knees,
struggling to fight against the invisible enemy of radiation, an
enemy that is slowly destroying its people".
 The Chernobyl disaster has financially crippled Belarus. It has
cost the country 25 per cent of its annual national budget and it
is estimated that by 2015 the fallout from the accident will have
cost Belarus $235 billion.
 Because there is no international law governing an accident such
as that which occurred at Chernobyl, Belarus has received no
compensation for the damage to it from either Ukraine or Russia.
 In a vicious and toxic cycle, the country cannot afford to
minimise the effects of the disaster because it is so
economically crippled as a direct result of it.
 Within the world's most radioactive environment, some 2,000
towns and villages lie eerily silent and empty. These towns were
evacuated in the weeks and months following the disaster because
of the extremely high levels of radioactivity.
 Yet, in a very worrying development, the Belarussian authorities
are attempting to change the existing laws relating to the
protection of citizens suffering from the disaster to reduce the
financial burden on the state.
 Prof Nesterenko is a Belarussian scientist who carries out
independent research into the effects of the contaminated land.
His research is crucial to all aid work relating to the disaster
carried out in Belarus.
 He has warned that the authorities are propagating a return to
living in contaminated zones instead of giving objective
information to the population about the dangers to health of
living in contaminated areas.
 In spite of such a large-scale tragedy, the issue has been
largely forgotten or ignored by the international community and
the voices of the victims remain largely unheard.
 Fifteen years after the disaster - at a time when its full
consequences have not yet peaked - there is a growing complacency
within the international community about it.
 There is an urgent and vital need for the Chernobyl issue to be
placed back at the top of the international agenda.
 Most of the aid to the affected regions is collected and
distributed by international non-governmental organisations. If
the problems are to be correctly tackled, it is imperative that
increased financial commitments be given by UN member-states to
the relief effort. Every government and every country has a
crucial role to play.
 Although the Chernobyl power plant was finally closed down last
December, it is by no means the end of the problem. An
omnipresent threat of nuclear apocalypse still hangs over much of
 Within the last few weeks, a former director of security
services in the Chernobyl region, Mr Valentine Kupny, has warned
that radiation is still seeping from the entombed reactor.
Speaking in last week's German weekly *Focus*, he alerted people
to the fact that the steel casing entombing the nuclear reactor
was crumbling and in imminent danger of collapse. When this
casing collapses, much of what will happen will depend on the
 Mr Kupny has said that nobody knows exactly what is happening
inside the reactor. "In September 1996 we recorded the last
atomic chain reaction but it is very possible that something is
happening now. We don't know."
 Mr Kupny was dismissed from his post shortly after his interview
for the article. Many people do not want to hear the truth.
 Isn't it about time that we did?
 *Eugene Cahill is press officer of the Chernobyl Children's
Subject:  unexpectedly high increase in mutations among children

   Date:    Wed, 8 May 2001 20:40:37 -0400
   From:  "Scott D. Portzline" <>
     To:     "nukenet" <>

Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 23:39 GMT 00:39 UK
Chernobyl children show low radiation changes

Fifteen years on, the Soviet legacy remains uncertain + Internal exposure

By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby
Scientists say there is evidence that low radiation doses can cause multiple
changes in human DNA, that are passed on to future generations.

They found "an unexpectedly high increase" in mutations among children born
after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The children were born to parents who had cleaned up the reactor, and were
conceived after it exploded.

The scientists do not rule out the possibility of prolonged effects from the

The scientists, from Israel and Ukraine, report their findings in the
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, a UK journal.

They say that while exposure to ionizing radiation has for a long time been
suspected of increasing the mutation load in humans, events like the atomic
bombing of Japan "seem not to have yielded significant genetic defects."

Siblings as controls

Their study examined children born to the Chernobyl "liquidators" - members
of the clean-up teams sent in after the reactor exploded who, the scientists
say, "received the highest doses, presumably in some combination of acute
and chronic forms".

The area around Chernobyl remains banned

Children born to liquidator families (now living either in Ukraine or
Israel) conceived after their father's exposure to radiation (and in one
case their mother's as well) were screened for the appearance of new
fragments using multi-site DNA fingerprinting.

The children's siblings who had been conceived before their parents'
exposure served as internal controls, in addition to external controls from
families who had not been exposed.

The report says: "An unexpectedly high (sevenfold) increase in the number of
new bands in individuals conceived after parental exposure compared with the
 level seen in controls was recorded.

"A strong tendency for the number of new bands to decrease with elapsed time
between exposure and offspring conception was established for the Ukrainian

"These results indicate that low doses of radiation can induce multiple
changes in human germline DNA."

The germline is the collection of genes that parents pass on to their

The authors consider the possibility that the DNA changes they found could
have been caused in the children themselves, not in their parents. But they
reject it.

They write: "One may assume that the origin of the changes is somatic
mutation in the children conceived after parental exposure.

Decrease over time

"But, if so, how can one explain the much lower frequency of such changes in
their siblings born before exposure, who were subjected to the same
environmental factors during the same or even a longer period?"

They also found several factors linked to decreasing changes: the passage of
time between exposure and conception, and also the duration of the
liquidators' work in the contaminated area.

The report concludes: "The small contribution of these changes to the
immediate genetic risk does not exclude the possibility of prolonged

Nature resumes control round the plant

"The very fact that much lower doses of radiation than previously generally
believed can double the number of genomic changes needs serious attention.

"This is all the more important when a significant proportion of the human
population is subjected to increased mutagenic pressure."

Richard Bramhall, of the Low Level Radiation Campaign, told BBC News Online:
"We agree: these findings are important because so many people are exposed
to environmental mutagens.

Internal exposure

"There are several indications in the report that the real problem is
internal radiation.

"It shows a massive failure in the modelling of radiation risk by the
International Commission on Radiological Protection.

"That is based on the Japanese bombs, single massive bursts of gamma
radiation delivered externally.

"The ICRP studies are absolutely silent on the effects of internal