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article imageChernobyl — The world is still in denial over radiation damages

By Karen Graham     Apr 25, 2016 in Environment
For people living in Belarus, a country that ended up with 23 percent of its land contaminated with radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl disaster on April 26, 1986, the incident has turned into a fairy tale, and they are living in a fantasy world.
Tuesday will mark the 30th anniversary of the day of the Chernobyl explosion and fire, and the day the world came face-to-face with the worst nuclear disaster we have ever witnessed.
The radioactive cloud from Chernobyl, pushed by a southerly wind, engulfed Belarus, covering 70 percent of the country and contaminating 23 percent of the soil. Russia had 0.5 percent of its territory contaminated and Ukraine had 4.8 percent of its land contaminated. Yes, exclusion zones were put in place and hundreds of thousands of people were relocated, according to New Europe.
Chernobyl radiation map from CIA handbook.
Chernobyl radiation map from CIA handbook.
CIA Factbook,
In Belarus, 138,000 people living closest to Chernobyl had to be evacuated, while another 200,000 living nearby left the area voluntarily. In the 30 years since the nuclear disaster, the world has been repeatedly assured that Chernobyl is now much safer. We read about the return of wildlife and the reemergence of forests and woodlands.
The fairy tale that was the Chernobyl disaster has been repeated enough in Belarus that people now believe everything is OK, and they are now safe from harm. But this fantasy has been created by an authoritarian government in the agriculture-dependent nation.
Making the fantasy real by using the tainted land
CBS News reports the government is determined to reclaim the radiation-tainted land that has sat idle for three decades for agricultural use and in a country where expressing your opinion is frowned upon and dissent is quashed, there is little that can be done.
For the last 10 years, President Alexander Lukashenko has conducted a campaign to tone down the effects of radiation in Belarus. There are no medical records showing any disease due to the Chernobyl explosion, and no state help is forthcoming for the population.
Belarus does have a site that is supposedly off-limits called the Polesky State Radioecological Reserve. Also known as Zapovednik, it borders the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine. It is one of the biggest nature reserves in Europe, covering 2,162 square kilometers. It was supposed created for the study of a contaminated habitat.
Since rising to power in 1994  President Alexander Lukashenko is one of Europe s longest ruling head...
Since rising to power in 1994, President Alexander Lukashenko is one of Europe's longest ruling heads of state.
Instead, the government has figured out a way to make the reserve pay for itself while adding money to government coffers and feeding a nation. Besides using timber for woodworking and logging, crops are grown for fodder for animals and human consumption.
The Belarusian president changed the reserve to an Environmental Research Station by a decree put into place on January 21, 2013. But the amended decree did not change the wording that refers to the high level of contamination at the reserve.
Pig, cattle, and dairy farming, as well as purebred horse breeding, is conducted at the site. Other activities include beekeeping and growing fruit trees. The purpose behind all this agricultural activity is to raise animals and food products that will endure the high levels of radioactivity in the soil at the site.
Animals in the Chernobyl exclusion zone have not been wiped out by the nuclear fallout contaminating...
Animals in the Chernobyl exclusion zone have not been wiped out by the nuclear fallout contaminating the land, but are actually thriving in the absence of humans, according to a new ecological study.
The Associated Press checks out a sample of milk
Associated Press reporters, while visiting a dairy farm next to the exclusion zone in Belarus, were offered a sample bottle of the dairy's milk to taste. While politely declining to drink the milk, they did pass it along to a laboratory for testing.
It isn't really surprising that the results of the test showed that after 30 years, Chernobyl radiation continues to taint Belarus. According to, the state-run Minsk Center of Hygiene and Epidemiology reported it found "strontium-90, a radioactive isotope linked to cancers and cardiovascular disease, in quantities 10 times higher than Belarusian food safety regulations allow."
The Belarusian Agriculture Ministry sets the upper limits of strontium-90 in food and drink at 3.7 becquerels per kilogram. The sample of milk contained 37.5 becquerels. Strontium-90, along with caesium-137, is produced during nuclear fission and scientists say the strontium-90 acts like calcium, settling in the bones of humans.
The milk sample was part of the milk products being sold by the Milkavita supply chain for making Polesskiye brand cheese. About 90 percent of the cheese is sold in Russia and the rest is sold domestically. Milkavita's chief engineer Maia Fedonchuk rejected the findings.
“It’s impossible. We do our own testing. There must have been a mix-up,” she said. Fedonchuk said samples from every batch of milk they receive from Chubenok are tested, and an “in-depth” analysis is done every six months. She said that the plant's testing shows the "overall milk supply" contains 2.85 becquerels per kilogram, below the allowed level for strontium-90.
Children born in the region are said to have a higher rate of birth defects and retardation because ...
Children born in the region are said to have a higher rate of birth defects and retardation because of Chernobyl, a belief supported by many, but not all in the scientific community.
© Gerd Ludwig/INSTITUTE
The deputy director of Belarus’ Institute of Radiobiology, Natalya Timokhina, says Belarus permits food producers to conduct their own testing. And that sort of answers any questions about the levels of any radioactive residues. “One-time ingestion of contaminated food is not very dangerous,” Timokhina said. “What’s dangerous is the accumulation of radionuclides in the body.”
What do the farmers have to say about the dangers of radiation and the levels of strontium-90 and caesium-137 in the soil? Mikhail Kirpichenko, the director of the farm inside the Radioecological Reserve told reporters he is allowed to pursue commercial ventures.
“We’re not afraid of radiation. We’ve already gotten used to it,” said Kirpichenko. “This Chernobyl syndrome passed long ago.”
More about Chernobyl, Belarus, radiation levels, ap testing, limited funds
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