Aftereffects of Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Still Evident

Excerpts from the lecture of Dr. Dorte Siedentopf of the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity as published in the pamphlet the Kyodan’s International Conference of the East Japan Disaster held in March 2014

 

After the Chernobyl catastrophe on April 26, 1986, the German section of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), of which I am a member, agreed not only to fight for nuclear abolition but also to work towards a nuclear-free world. A world without nuclear weapons will only be possible if we also phase out nuclear energy.

 

As physicians, we are deeply concerned about the environmental and health implications of all aspects of the nuclear chain, from the public health impact of uranium mining and the creation of large radioactive tailing ponds to the inherent danger of processing and transporting highly radioactive fissionable material across the globe. Fissionable material can be used for both civilian and military use. Inherent is the proliferation risk, the global health impact of nuclear weapons testing, and of course, the unsolved problem of nuclear waste to be stored for millions of years and numerous generations to come.

 

I want to share some aspects of the Chernobyl accident in 1986 that affected the northern hemisphere, most of all Belarus, which has been an independent state since 1990. The Republic of Belarus was a part of the Soviet Union at the time of the accident at Chernorbyl. (From Chernorbyl to the border of Berarus is about 16km.) On 25 percent of its territory, 70 percent of the radioactive fallout was concentrated, and three million of its population of ten million people still live with its effects. The amount of radioactivity released equals about 17 Hiroshima bombs. In 1990, I went to Belarus for the first time. We visited a rehabilitation center for children who had been operated on for thyroid cancer. I will never forget their sad, hopeless, and questioning expressions.

 

Kasciukovicy is the name of the area where yellowish rain fell on its territory of 1,500 sq. km. in early May 1986. Cynical decision makers had not warned the people to stay inside their houses. Headache, nausea, vomiting, pain in the throat, various skin problems, and coughing were reported. Months later people learned that this rain had something to do with Chernobyl.

During the first days of the disaster, the winds blew from southeast to northwest. That is why the catastrophe was first detected in Sweden. When the winds changed direction, blowing from the west towards Moscow, clouds were artificially dissipated, which released rain by which 25 percent of the fertile land and nearly 30 villages were contaminated to various degrees through radioactive fallout. For ten years, we paid attention mainly to medical problems and provided their 100-year-old hospital with medicine and materials. Now the emphasis is on humanitarian and social help. Since 1991, we have invited children every summer to Germany for recuperation. Schoolteachers confirm that children who have spent several weeks in a stress-free atmosphere with good environmental conditions and clean food are less apt to become sick and are more attentive for at least one school year.

 

From my numerous visits to Belarus, I have learned how politicians whitewash the consequences of the catastrophe. Signs warning people not to enter contaminated woods to collect mushrooms or pick berries were removed, although even in Germany, game animals taken in hunting are still carefully monitored for radiation contamination. While the radioactive isotopes in fertile soil sink into the ground at the rate of about two cm. per year, in marshland and woodlands they remain on the surface and so are absorbed by plants and animals, thus entering the food chain.

 

Death statistics are falsified: in Kasciukovicy, people do not die from Chernobyl-related diseases but rather these are attributed to accidents, infections, alcoholism, tuberculosis contracted in Moscow while there as a guest worker, et cetera, and anyone over 60 is considered to be in old age. Childbirth statistics are difficult to obtain, but the number of premature births and developmentally delayed babies is increasing. If intrauterine malformations are detected through ultrasonic tests, abortions are performed to cut the number of genetic deformities. Practically no family is without a Chernobyl victim. People clearly state: “We do not live after Chernobyl, we live with Chernobyl.” As Christians, we are responsible to protect and preserve the living world and inanimate nature. Let us use our skills to work for a nuclear-free world.

 

—Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko

東 日本大震災国際会議(2014年3月11-14日)講演より

1986年4月26日のチェルノブイリ事故の後、私も所属する核戦争防止国際医師の会(IPPNW: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War)ド イツ支部は核兵器のみならず、原子力の廃絶運動も開始したのです。我々は医師として、原子力産業のもたらす、環境と健康への影響をと ても懸念しています。ウラン鉱石の採掘がもたらす問題や、鉱物の加工から出る大量な廃物、放射性物質運搬の安全なども取り上げてきま した。1986年北半球に大きく広がったチェルノブイリの放射能、その影響を受けたベラ ルーシという国についてお話します。(当時は同じソ連内にあり、チェルノブイリから現在の国境まで16㎞)ベラルーシ国内の70パーセントの放射能が、国土の25パーセントに集中しました。人口1000万人中300百万人が今もその影響下にあります。広島の17倍です。1990年に、私は初めてベラルーシを訪問しま した。私が訪ねたのは、甲状腺癌の手術を受けた子供のためのリハビリセンターです。そこで目にした子供たちの悲しげで、絶望した、そ して尋ねるようなまなざしを忘れはしません。コスチュコビッチという名の地域では1986年5月初旬、その1500平方キロメートルの区域に黄色がかった雨が降りま した。ひねくれた指導者達は自宅に避難するべきだと伝えませんでした。頭痛や、吐き気、嘔吐、咽頭痛、さまざまな皮膚の問題と咳の症 状が現れたことが報告されました。数ヵ月後に、人々は、この雨がチェルノブイリと関係があるということを知ったのです。初めは南東か ら北西へと風は流れました。スウェーデンで最初 にこの惨事が報告されました。さらに西へと風向きが変わり、モスクワへ向かったときに、雲は人工的に雨を降らさせて消され、その肥沃 な土地の25パーセントと30の村が、様々な度合いの放射能で汚染されました。我々は10年間、主に医療品関連の物質的援助を実施し てきましたが、今では、より人道的で社会的な支援に力を入れています。1991年以降、毎年夏に健康回復のために子供を(ドイツに)招待します。教師たち は子供が数週間、ストレスがなく、良い環境で、汚染されていない食物を食べると、病気になりにくく、年間を通じて学習意欲が増すこと を確認しました。何度もベラルーシへの訪問をかさねることで、政治家がどのように惨事を隠蔽しようとするのかを学びました。汚染され た地域の、キノコやベリーなどを収集する人々に立ち入り禁止を警告する看板は撤去されました。ドイツでさえ、今なお、狩りでとらえた 獲物の放射線量には規制があります。肥沃な土地では、放射性の同位元素は毎年2センチずつ土の中に沈みますが、湿地帯や森では表面に 残り続けるので植物や動物の食物連鎖に侵入するのです。コスチュコビッチでは、死因は事故や、 感染症、アルコール、働きに行ったモスクワで結核になった、さらには誰でも60歳以上は老衰ということにされます。未熟児出産と発育遅延乳児の数は増加しています。超音波で子宮内に先 天異常が見つかった場合、形態異常の遺伝を防ぐために中絶されます。家族に1人はチェルノブイリ犠牲者がいます。「我々はチェルノブ イリ後ではなく、チェルノブイリと共に生きています」と人々ははっきりと言うのです。キリスト教徒として私達には世界の生命 と自然とを保護する責任があるのです。腕を磨いて核無き世界を実現させましょう。文責:川上善子KNL編集委員長