The former Soviet Union was rocked by one of the world's worst environmental disasters on April 26, 1986, when Unit 4 at the Chernobyl reactor site exploded, sending a radioactive plume across the world. The former Soviet Union is still also the site of some of the world's worst radioactive contamination from its nuclear weapons program.



"Czech agency: Russian spies are focusing on nuclear sector"

As reported by AP:

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Republic's counter-intelligence agency says the number of Russian spies remains high and they are particularly interested in the country's nuclear program.

The agency, also known as BIS, says in its annual report published Friday: "Russia does not consider a fight over the Czech nuclear energy sector a lost battle."

BIS says the Russian spies focus on a recently approved government plan to build at least one more reactor at the Temelin nuclear plant and another at the Dukovany plant. They also target anyone whose task is to make this plan reality, it says.

[The] Kremlin is also trying to take control over the Russian community's organizations here, BIS charges, and is building a spy network in Europe, similar to what the Soviet Union did before World War II.


Chernobyl ablaze. Again.

A firework plane extinguishes a forest fire in the Chernobyl area, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 28, 2015.In what might have been a case of arson, 1.5 square miles of land was set ablaze around the ruined Chernobyl reactor, which exploded and released massive amounts of radionuclides in 1986. It was the worst fire in the area in 20 years and marks the 29th anniversary of the disaster almost to the day it began (April 26).

Fires can release and redistribute man-made radioactivity in the environment, contaminating areas that were not contaminated before, or making areas of low contamination higher. Since deposition of radioactive contamination around Chernobyl was spotty initially, Ukrainian officials cannot be sure this fire hit heavily contaminated areas although they claim no change in background levels was detected. This claim is difficult to believe because radioactivity levels after past fires have been six to 12 times higher than before the fires began.

This most recent fire in the Chernobyl exclusion zone has highlighted some uncomfortable truths: climate change could cause declining precipitation which could, in turn, cause more wildfires in the already fire prone Chernobyl landscape. Not only could fire remobilized nuclides like cesium, strontium and plutonium be from around the Chernobyl reactor itself, but fires throughout Europe and Eurasia could also release radiation that had been deposited hundreds of miles from the ruined reactor.

Dr. Mousseau and colleagues have created a computer model that demonstrates “wildfires that broke out in the exclusion zone in 2002, 2008 and 2010 have cumulatively redistributed an estimated 8 percent of the original amount of cesium-137 released in the 1986 disaster.”

In fact, forest fires have been a concern (see Stalked by Forest Fires section) for radioactively contaminated ecosystems for a long time and will also be a concern for the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster. Adding to the likelihood of recontamination by fire, is the lack of plant decay processes in contaminated areas around Chernobyl, which leaves drying plant matter as tinder for any spark. Proof yet again, that nuclear disasters are never-ending.


Act now to support Russian environmental group!

We express our strong solidarity with EcoDefence activists based in Russia, whose anti-nuclear NGO has been declared a “foreign agent” by the Russian Ministry of Justice. The Russian government must immediately stop this repression of environmentalists. We as individuals concerned with human rights of activists need to demand that EcoDefense be allowed to work freely. SIGN HERE!


HBO's VICE: "Genetic Passport," about Soviet nuclear weapons testing in Kazakhstan

HBO's investigative report series VICE traveled to Kazakhstan to report on the serious consequences to human health and the human gene pool from nuclear weapons testing by the USSR upwind of inhabited areas. See the reporter's debrief here.


Chernobyl no "Eden" after 28 years

A newly published study has uncovered alarming indications of biological loss and ecological collapse in the area around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor that exploded in Ukraine on April 26, 1986. 

Nuclear boosters have long claimed that the superficial appearance of teeming wildlife in the approximately 1,000 square mile Chernobyl exclusion zone indicates an Eden-like outcome. But the study observed a frightening halt to organic decay and the disappearance of important microbes that indicate the steady advance of a potential “silent spring.” 

“The illusion that the absence of humanity can only benefit wildlife is trumped when humanity has inflicted man-made poisons on a fragile ecosystem whose inhabitants are now biologically compromised by radiation exposures that will continue indefinitely,” observed Linda Gunter, international specialist at Beyond Nuclear, of the study’s findings.


Highly reduced mass loss rates and increased litter layer in radioactively contaminated areas, published in Oecologia, March 4, 2014, by Mousseau (Dr. Tim Mousseau pictured), Milinevsky, Kenney‑Hunt and Møller, found that the natural cycle of decay of organic materials around Chernobyl is largely dependent on microbial communities which have been significantly reduced in these radioactively contaminated zones. 

“We already know about plant and insect mutations and the shortened lifespans of birds in the zone, but this news is even more alarming,” said Paul Gunter, Director of Reactor Oversight at Beyond Nuclear. “The long-term consequences of the loss of this essential microbial community could be unprecedented ecologically, while the most immediate consequence is the build-up of undecayed leaf matter. This creates an increased risk of forest fires which could spread radioactivity to uncontaminated areas,” Gunter said.

Read the full press release