From Chernobyl to Fukushima: lessons not learnt

The talk by Susie Greaves at the September Transition meeting was clear and well researched. The content was disturbing, and gave rise to a discussion that was dynamic, personal and interesting. Both nuclear accidents appear to have caused far more fatalities and ill health than the official statistics. We do not seem to have learned lessons from Chernobyl which could have informed the response to Fukushima.  The WHO (World Health Organisation) has controversial links with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) )

Copied below are the notes Susie provided for the event.

Understand Chernobyl and you will understand why Fukushima represents the worst ecological accident in history.

Two million people including 500, 000 children were living in the areas contaminated by Chernobyl and for twenty-seven years they ate contaminated food morning, noon and night. This internal radiation (either through food or inhaling radioactive particles) has resulted in an entirely new set of illnesses and increased rates of mortality.

The nuclear industry uses an inappropriate model of radioprotection based on the experience of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. External radiation (gamma rays) from an acute radiation event such as the explosion of an atomic bomb, results in incineration of the body or acute radiation sickness, causing death within weeks. This is completely different from the effect of an alpha particle lodged in the lung or elsewhere that will emit a pulse of radioactivity approximately once a minute for the rest of one’s life. Chronic internal radiation at a cellular level damages every vital organ and system of the body.

Using this inappropriate Hiroshima dogma, the nuclear lobby is able to claim that there is no link between the illness and mortality in areas contaminated by Chernobyl and such comparatively low levels of radiation. They also deny that radiation is the cause of the increased childhood leukaemia around every nuclear power station in the world, and the appalling birth defects in towns like Fallujah, where depleted uranium was used.

And what about Fukushima?

According to Hiroaki Koide, Professor of Nuclear Engineering at KyotoUniversity, “As of today, about ten million people (in Japan) have been left in areas that should have been designated radiation controlled areas and they are exposed to continual radiation every day.”

The fire at Chernobyl was extinguished within ten days. Within two years the first concrete sarcophagus had been constructed. At Fukushima, levels of radioactivity at one or more of the three melted-down reactors are still so high that no human being can approach. No real solution has been proposed to deal with the molten mass (measuring a thousand degrees Centigrade at the centre) under each of the reactors. The fuel pool perched sixty metres high at Reactor 4, badly damaged by the 2011 earthquake, contains eighty-five times more caesium-137 than was released at Chernobyl. Should it fall, or should the cooling system break down, Tokyo (34 million people) would have to be evacuated. Many Japanese people rightly do not trust TEPCO or the Japanese government to deal with the situation. Tens of thousands of people are living in areas contaminated above 5 mSv/ year, the mandatory evacuation level used at Chernobyl. Government food monitoring is inadequate and many Japanese people are setting up their own monitoring stations. But if Chernobyl teaches us anything, it is that unless clean food is available freely, people will eat contaminated food, become ill and die prematurely.

Bibliography for ‘From Chernobyl to Fukushima: lessons not learnt’


Yablokov, Nesterenko, Nesterenko, “Chernobyl: Consequences of the catastrophe for people and the environment” New York Academy of Sciences, 2009 Available on line at

Svetlana Alexievich “Voices from Chernobyl” 2006

Rosalie Bertell, “No immediate danger” 2000

Wladimir Tchertkoff, “The Crime of Chernobyl: the nuclear gulag” (to be published this autumn)


Wladimir Tchertkoff and Emanuela Andreoli “ The Sacrifice” at

Wladimir Tchertkoff and Emanuela Andreoli “Nuclear Controversies” at

Helen Caldicott 2012 in Seattle

Thomas Johnson “The battle of Chernobyl” 2006

Useful websites

For information about Fukushima, go to Arnie and Maggie Gunderson’s site, and watch their many videos over the last two years, but in particular the one about cancer risk to children underestimated:

For information about the collective IndependentWHO go to:

New York Symposium Fukushima March 2013 organised by Helen Caldicott on her Nuclear Free Planet site at:

For information about the dangers of low level radiation, go to:

For information about the Japanese appeal for evacuation from Fukushima go to:

You can still hear Rob Broomby on File on 4 about Britain’s Plutonium Mountain at:

Above all, find out the truth for yourselves. (Once you start looking at websites, you will find useful information that does not emanate from the nuclear lobby) The nuclear industry relies on your belief that you cannot understand nuclear technology, and that the decisions about our future on this planet can only be made by nuclear “experts” Those nuclear experts have left us with Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Two, at least, of these accidents are not over and their effects will be with us for many decades, perhaps centuries. No-one as yet has come up with a solution for the radioactive emissions still being released from Fukushima, nor for the millions of tons of radioactive waste which has been produced world wide. Cumbria has just refused permission, quite rightly, for underground storage of nuclear waste from Sellafield. No insurance company will insure a nuclear power company for the costs of an accident. You are paying now to keep Chernobyl under control and you will pay to decommission all our current nuclear power stations. The cost of decommissioning the first nuclear power plant in France at Brennilis was estimated at 20 million euros. So far it has cost 480 million euros.[1]

[1] “ En finir avec le nucleaire:pourquoi et comment” Bernard Laponche, Benjamin Dessus 2011 Seuil.

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