Thursday, April 07, 2011

Lies Of Chernobyl

Deputy of the USSR Supreme Soviet Alla Yaroshinskaya featured at 1 hour 17 minutes into the video posted here has an Internet post on some of the things she found out when she got her hands on a secret report of the Chernobyl accident.

Let me start with the editor's description of her post:

In 1990, journalist Alla Yaroshinskaya came across secret documents about the Chernobyl catastrophe that revealed a massive cover-up operation and a calculated policy of disinformation. The state and party leadership had knowingly played down the extent of the contamination and offered a sanitized version to the outside world.
I'm going to excerpt what I consider especially relevant bits of what she wrote. You should read the whole thing.
Despite the changes brought about by Mikhail Gorbachev's vaunted perestroika and glasnost, the catastrophe at Chernobyl remained a classic Soviet cover-up, one that survived the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The number of people radically affected by the explosion was kept secret and the result was far greater mortality and suffering. Only in recent years have researchers and scientists begun to uncover the full truth of Chernobyl.
The West is not immune to the mentality of keeping secrets. There are of course commercial reasons for that. Lawsuits. No point in giving your prospective opponents free discovery.
Under the Soviet system, it was quite natural that neither the government of the Soviet Union nor the local authorities were prepared to take legal responsibility for the ecological, social, and other problems caused by Chernobyl – even though Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika were already in place. However, the scale of the accident and the changes that had taken place in the society by that time made it impossible to conceal the fact of the accident altogether; people in the affected territories repeatedly demanded the introduction of legislation to cover their health problems, ecological damage, and compensation for material losses arising from the accident.
Even the USSR had commercial reason for the coverup.

The Supreme Soviet had this to say.
The accident at the Chernobyl NPP in its consequences is the gravest disaster of the present time, affecting destinies of millions of people residing in a vast territory. The ecological effect of the Chernobyl accident has made the country face the necessity of solving new, exceptionally complex, large-scale problems affecting virtually all spheres of social life, many aspects of science and manufacturing, culture, ethics, and morality.
I don't think the general problems for Japan will be any different.

And what about the investigations done?
...the dosimetric and epidemiological data are insufficient to establish parameters for dose distribution, social-biological effects – eg mortality rates – differentiation of people's sensitivity to radiation, and so on.
So despite what you read in the press including places like Instapundit no one knows the real death toll and medical costs of the Chernobyl accident. It reminds me of the old saw:

Never ask a question you don't want the answer to.

Maybe the real reason dosimiters for people working on the disaster were initially in short supply (despite them being available from other plants) was that the Japanese didn't want the workers or the general population to know how bad they had it.

She gives some early reports on medical problems from the accident and then says this:
So far, the number of sick had been increasing daily, but from 13 May, the number of hospital patients in the reports fell sharply, while the numbers of those discharged began to increase.
- Protocol of 13 May 1986:

Make note that in the course of yesterday, 443 persons have been hospitalized, 908 persons have been discharged from hospitals. 9733 persons including 4200 children are undergoing treatment and medical examination in hospitals. Diagnosis of radiation syndrome has been established in 299 cases including 37 children.
Why did the process of discharging people from hospitals become so rapid after the number of patients had exceeded 10 000? The answer is hidden in the same documents.
- Protocol of 8 May 1986:

[...] The ministry of health care has confirmed the new norms of acceptable radiation levels for members of the public as ten times the previous norms. Increase of these norms to levels 50 times higher than previously is permitted in specific cases [...] By these means the health safety of the public of all ages is guaranteed, even should the current radiation situation last for 25 years.
These norms applied even to children and pregnant women. In one stroke, the 10 000-plus people hospitalized because of exposure to radiation were automatically reclassified as "healthy" and discharged. The official number of people suffering from acute radiation syndrome also fell significantly. It goes without saying that Party bosses increased the acceptable dose in this way simply to hide the numbers affected.
Well isn't that interesting. It reminds me of a report my friend Eric of Classical Values sent me a while back about a secret plan to increase the radiation dose people are allowed to receive. I think the numbers in the report are in error. But the plan to increase the allowable dose may be in fact correct. For obvious reasons. Especially with government so heavily involved in both insuring medical care and insuring the nuclear industry. Not to mention reducing the costs of accident and nuclear waste site cleanup.

Back to Alla's report.
During hearings before the Supreme Soviet in 1990, Academician Ilyin, the director of the Institute of Biophysics, and one of those responsible for concealing the truth about the health situation in the affected areas, admitted under the pressure of deputies' inquiries that:
1.6 million children received radiation doses that are causing us concern; a decision should be taken on further action [...] If the dose limits were lowered to 7 rem[1] per 35 years [of life], we would have to increase the number of 166 000 people currently scheduled for resettlement by a factor of 10. The resettlement of 1.6 million people would have to be considered. Society must balance all the risks and gains of such an action.
It had become a matter of economics: the USSR could not afford to resettle so many people. The truth about the health of the population had to be concealed from the population itself.
Japan may soon have a similar problem. If they stick to pre-accident guidelines. If significant radiation reaches Tokyo it is going to cost a LOT to move that city.

I'm also beginning to think that the stupid idea of the German Greens to shut down all German nuclear power plants may not be so stupid after all.

There is more of the report from Alla Yaroshinskaya but I have gone on at length and I'm getting depressed. So if you care to, go and read the whole depressing thing. And in case you care she explains that the death tolls and mortality rates from official sources are not being reported. Let me add that the report was published in 2006. Long before any news of the Fukushima disaster was available.

In other nuclear disaster news, private groups in Japan are beginning to supply aid to pregnant women and children. The Japanese people are starting to act. Very sluggishly. The government? Not so much.
Women who have just delivered babies are included in the evacuation since the hospital released them early to make way for the people injured in the disaster.

The group made a deal with the city of Yuzawa in Nigata prefecture to provide rooms for the women, children and infants in a nationally famous ski and snowboarding resort. Nestled in the Japanese Alps, it is about 77 minutes by bullet train from Tokyo. The town is closed to tourists until further notice because of a lack of electricity and gas but Waseda Shotenkai’s evacuees will be allowed in.

Other nongovernment groups are working with Waseda Shotenkai and the government has also set up a special division to assist these groups.

Yasui says that besides the radiation levels, the situation in the refugee shelters in the Fukushima, Miyaki and Ibaraki prefectures is severe and getting worse every day, especially for pregnant women and children. More than 161,000 are in shelters, according to the National Police Agency.

There is not enough milk, hot water, diapers and other much-needed daily necessities. Some people are suffering from dehydration, malnutrition and infectious diseases, which are now beginning to spread. There is also stress and fatigue, particularly among mothers.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said on Friday that the government does not plan to extend the evacuation zone beyond 12.5 miles. He said the government would monitor prolonged unsafe levels of radiation that would pose a health risk.
So they are monitoring the radiation. Well that is a comfort. I wonder if they will be making announcements of what they are monitoring? My guess? Not if they can help it.

Update: 7 April 2011 1703z

Here is a more definitive link to the fight going on inside the EPA about raising allowable radiation exposure limits: Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Welcome Instapundit readers. May I also suggest Well This Is Odd.


Charlie Martin said...

Actually, is reporting on a daily basis, and MEXT (the Ministry of science and technology) in Japan releases new radiation dose-rate measurements from the whole country 4 times a day here.

Unknown said...

Comparisons between Chernobyl and Fukushima are irresponsible. The difference between these two accidents is orders of magnitude. Alarmist rhetoric that discusses things like the need to move Tokyo is intellectually dishonest.

ryanshaunkelly said...

The leading horse is white
The second horse is red
The third one is a black
The last one is a green

The Four Horsemen
Aphrodite's Child


M. Simon said...


The difference between Fukushima and Chernobyl is this:

1. No burning carbon to loft the radiation at Fukushima
2. Much larger inventories of radioactives available at Fukushima - 3 reactors 4 spent fuel pools.

In any case site clean up will be on the same order of problem. Maybe worse at Fukushima.

Steve Poling said...

I think Chernobyl and Fukushima are not commensurate, because their failures were so different as you have described. Fukushima's big surprise appears to be the spent fuel ponds.

Given the failure to open a long-term storage facility like Yucca Mountain, and given Carter's prohibition against spent-fuel reprocessing, we've got a lot of spent fuel laying around a lot of reactors.

If spent fuel storage turns out to be the Big Problem from Fukushima, we may want to rethink the policies cited in the last paragraph.

M. Simon said...

Charlie - I have linked to the IAEA Fukushima page in previous posts.

The MEXT data is new to me.