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.



TRT World's The Newsmakers: 30 Years Since Chernobyl

As featured on TRT World's "The Newsmakers": Thirty years since the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, The Newsmakers asks Kevin Kamps [of Beyond Nuclear in Washington, D.C., U.S.A.] and Jonathan Cobb [of the World Nuclear Association in London, U.K.] what lessons have been learnt from the world's worst civil nuclear disaster. [Watch the segment, from the beginning of the recording to the 14 minute 12 second mark.]

Kevin cited Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education's clever line, as reported at Forbes:

“We all know that the wind doesn’t blow consistently and the sun doesn’t shine every day,” he said, “but the nuclear industry would have you believe that humankind is smart enough to develop techniques to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time human kind is so dumb we can’t figure out a way to store solar electricity overnight. To me that doesn’t make sense.”

Trying to downplay nuclear power risks, as compared to other electricity generation risks, Cobb cited a hydro-dam break in China that killed a large number of people by drowning, and then disease.

But Cobb failed to mention the risks of a dam breach at the Oconee nuclear power plant in Seneca, SC. As reported by Tom Zeller, Jr., in the Huffington Post, two U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission whistleblowers have revealed, if the upstream dam fails, whether due to an earthquake, terrorist attack, etc., three reactors could be submerged under 16 feet of water, plunging Oconee into a Fukushima-like catastrophe.

Gundersen warned about such "inland tsunami" risks at Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant in Nebraska, during historic flooding on the Missouri River in 2011.


"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.