The first catastrophe of Chernobyl was the meltdown itself. The second catastrophe of Chernobyl was and still is the subsequent cover-up. Hans Blix, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, charged with the promotion of nuclear energy, stated after the Chernobyl meltdown became public that “the atomic industry can take catastrophes like Chernobyl every year”. This cynical slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of victims of the accident seems to remain the dogma of the IAEA until today. The effects of the accident are still being suppressed, played down and minimized. Even today, the IAEA claims there were only 56 deaths. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are still are being affected: in Ukraine, Belarus,Russia, Poland and other western and northern European countries. Many victims have been neglected and remain without any help at all. Even worse: the IAEA has just recently called for a stop of aid to the victims in order to prevent what it calls victim-mentality. In reality, the organization’s sole aim is to promote nuclear energy and the pictures of tens of thousands of irradiated children with leukaemia don’t really fit into the picture of clean energy.
The IAEA, an organization founded and funded in order to “promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies” claimed in its report in 1991 that the population of the areas surrounding Chernobyl were “generally” healthy and there was nothing to fear. Another IAEA report in 2000 again took this stand, stating that with only a few cases of treatable, non-lethal thyroid cancer amongst children, no scientific evidence could be found to support the belief of rising cancer incidence or mortality. Following a recent conference of the Chernobyl Forum, an expert panel staffed with government envoys of the three directly affected countries and some UN agencies including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the following excerpts could be read in the world press:
“No evidence or likelihood of decreased fertility among the affected population has been found, nor has there been any evidence of increases in congenital malformations that can be attributed to radiation exposure.”
“Poverty, lifestyle diseases now rampant in the former Soviet Union and mental health problems pose a far greater threat to local communities than does radiation exposure.”
Dr. Michael Repacholi, Manager of WHO’s Radiation Program was quoted as follows: “The sum total of the Chernobyl Forum is a reassuring message.” He explains that there have been 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children, but that except for nine deaths, all of them have recovered – a survival rate of almost 99%. Otherwise, the team of international experts found no evidence for any increases in the incidence of leukaemia and cancer among affected residents. (…) The health effects of the accident were potentially horrific, but when you add them up using validated conclusions from good science, the public health effects were not nearly as substantial as had at first been feared. (…) If we do not expect health or environmental effects, we should not waste resources and effort on low priority, low contamination areas,” he explains. “We need to focus our efforts and resources on real problems.”2
IPPNW and many other organizations, states and institutions like the Belarus National Cancer Registry or the Centre for Russian Environmental Policy of the Russian Academyof Sciences have strongly objected to this cynical way of treating the Chernobyl meltdown, including the government of Ukraine. In many cases, the IAEA report is based on studies of more than 10 years of age, without taking into account newer scientific research. Numbers for dosimetry counts of the population are not available and the report thus relies on approximations, without clearly stating this. Mean averages are being created over vast populations in huge territories without knowing any concrete numbers. Health effects outside of the three countries were not even considered and significant amounts of data still remain classified and cannot be reviewed by outside scientists. Therefore, the results of the IAEA studies cannot be formally disproved but have to either be believed or not.1 Even UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appearantly does not really take the IAEA report seriously:: “…the exact number of victims may never be known, but 3 million children require treatment and…many will die prematurely…Not until 2016, at the earliest, will be known the full number of those likely to develop serious medical conditions…because of delayed reactions to radiation exposure…many will die prematurely…
Despite frequently cited statistics about the rate of cancer screenings and other medical follow up, few official attempts were undertaken to truly assess the results of radiation and many NGOs in the area, as well as the institutes cited in this paper criticize the publication of IAEA statistics, which are not based on any real facts. Fact is that a vast majority of the population is not being screened for cancer, is not receiving regular check ups, ultrasound exams or other types of secondary preventive measures. What’s worse, the IAEA is going public these days with statements ridiculing the so called “radiophobia” of the population and calling for an end of aid programs, which, according to the IAEA report of 2005, only serve to instil a victim mentality in a totally healthy population – a claim not only cynical, but potentially dangerous for the health of the affected population.
Press Release by IPPNW Germany on its new study
Berlin, April 6 2006: A report published today by the physician’s organisation IPPNW in Germany and the German Society for Radiation Protection contradicts the claim by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that less than 50 people died as a result of the accident at Chernobyl (see IAEA press release of September 5th 2005).
The facts presented by Dr. Sebastian Pflugbeil, President of the German Society for Radiation Protection, show that the IAEA figures contain serious
inconsistencies. For instance, the IAEA claim that future fatalities due to cancer and leukaemia 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 fatalities. “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 leukaemia”, says Pflugbeil. These inconsistencies
are not surprising, given the mandate of the IAEA: to promote nuclear energy. This prevents the Agency from being independent.
According to Dr. Angelika Claussen, Chair of the German affiliate of IPPNW, the point is not to contrast the “correct” numbers with the obviously false
ones provided by the IAEA. These cannot be claimed to have been found due to methodical problems. Essential data on the Chernobyl catastrophe have been kept secret, both in the East and in the West. Large epidemiological studies are very expensive and only possible with state support. “It is, however, possible to provide an informative basis to show to what extent and what kinds of damage we are dealing with when we are talking about the effects of Chernobyl”, says Claussen.
The IAEA is attempting to account for an evident rise in fatalities and disease by providing absurd arguments. “It is cynical, to say the least,
when affected people in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are told by the IAEA that they have a victim mentality, should feed themselves better and live
more healthily”, says Claussen.
The IPPNW/GfS Report “Health Effects of Chernobyl – 20 Years After the Reactor Disaster” documents the catastrophic dimensions of the reactor
accident, using scientific studies, expert estimates and official data:
- 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 generations 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 numberof 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;
- By referring to UNSCEAR one arrives at between 12,000 and 83,000 children born with congenital deformations in the region of Chernobyl, and around 30,000 to 207,000 genetically damaged children worldwide. Only 10% of the overall expected damage can be seen in the first generation;
- In Belarus alone, over 10,000 people developed thyroid cancer since the catastrophe. According to a WHO prognosis, in the Belarussian region of Gomel alone, more than 50,000 children will develop thyroid cancer during their lives. If one adds together all age groups then about 100,000 cases of thyroid cancer have to be reckoned with, just in the Gomel region;
- Altogether, the number of Chernobyl related cases of thyroid cancer to be expected in Europe (outside the borders of the former Soviet Union) is between 10,000 and 20,000;
- In more contaminated areas of Southern Germany a significant cluster of very rare tumours has been found amongst children, so-called neuroblastomies;
- In Germany, Greece, Scotland and Romania, there has been a significant increase in cases of leukaemia;
- In a paper published by the Chernobyl Ministry in the Ukraine, a multiplication of the cases of disease was registered – of the endocrine system ( 25 times higher from 1987 to 1992), the nervous system (6 times higher), the circulation system (44 times higher), the digestive organs (60 times higher), the cutaneous and subcutaneous tissue (50 times higher), the muscolo-skeletal system and psychological dysfunctions (53 times higher). Among those evaluated, the number of healthy people sank from 1987 to 1996 from 59 % to 18%. Among inhabitants of the contaminated areas from 52% to 21% and among the children of affected parent from 81% to 30%. It has been reported for several years that type I diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus) has risen sharply amongst children and youth.