This Week’s Featured Interviews:
Chernobyl Anniversary 35 deserves more than a single program examining its consequences. Check last week’s Nuclear Hotseat #513 for further interviews. This week:
- Bonnie Kouneva was a 15-year-old living in Communist Bulgaria when the Chernobyl disaster began, but no one knew about it because the Soviet Union said nothing to its people. On May 1, May Day, only five days after it began, Bulgarian citizens were “encouraged” by the Soviet hierarchy to attend all-day celebrations of the communist state – outdoors, in the rain – at the exact time the worst of Chernobyl’s radiation was directly overhead. Here, she paints the picture of the impact of that radiation rainout and lets us know the result of this devastating experience.
- The late Dr. Janette Sherman edited the the English translation of the groundbreaking work, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment by Alexei Yablokov, Vassily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Nesterenko. Dr. Sherman was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Nuclear Hotseat, and we spoke about this book and how it came about for NH #97 on April 23, 2013. She passed away on November 20, 2019.LINK: CLICK HERE for a free PDF of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment
- False Alarm investigates the diverse reactions to the 2018 Hawai’i false missile alert, forcing families, soldiers, tourists, and every person in Hawai’i to confront an unthinkable reality—an incoming nuclear missile. Award-winning director Nick Lyell explains how the film came about and the upcoming screening for Beyond the Bomb. He has directed, produced, and edited several award-winning fiction and non-fiction short films.FREE WORLD-PREMIERE SCREENING FOR BEYOND THE BOMB:
Friday, May 7, 8 PM Eastern, 5 PM Pacific time – CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS. Donation requested.
Numnutz of the Week (for Outstanding Nuclear Boneheadedness):
Another TEPCO/Japanese government/Dentsu PR fail: You can’t convince the world that dumping 1.25 million tons of Fukushima’s radioactively contaminated water (more than 1,000 tanks worth) into the Pacific Ocean is really A-OK by throwing a cartoon mascot at them!
- Esteemed activist/journalist Harvey Wasserman’s article: 80 Ways Nuke Power Is a Catastrophic Failure
- Is the US nuclear community prepared for the extreme weather climate change is bringing? – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
April 26th, we’ll mark the 35th anniversary of the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine. The public will undoubtedly be inundated with so-called experts trying to convince you that nuclear is really safe. Chernobyl was a one-off from Russia, and there have been no lingering negative effects from the accident, but then you hear a genuine expert. One who did her research on the ground at 27 Eastern European medical archives, and has the footnotes to prove everything she says. And she tells you
They found catastrophic results, which was a major epidemic of children with thyroid cancer, very rare cancer among kids, one in a million normally get it suddenly in a small area of Northern Ukrainian had 20 kids and the Soviet doctors handed the foreign experts, 20 biopsies. They didn’t believe that this could possibly be thyroid cancer among so many kids. They brought them home to have examined and sure enough, they found that these were cancers, but then in their report, they said, we heard some rumors about thyroid cancer among children. And we found those rumors to be anecdotal in nature. But what they were sitting on was hard evidence and they had other evidence of 30 more kids and bale roofs. And that indeed turned out to be the tip of the iceberg of what became a big epidemic and thyroid cancer among kids.
Well, when you hear bestselling author, Kate brown say something like that, and so much more, you get a pretty clear picture of the Chernobyl nuclear coverup and how the nuclear industry wants us to not know to what extent we are all sitting in that terrible seat that we all share
Clear hot seat. What are those people thinking? Nuclear hot seat. What have those boys been breaking their hot seat? The car Ms. Sinking, our time to act is shrinking, but have the visceral linking nuclear Hotsy it’s the bomb.
Welcome to nuclear hot seat. The weekly international news magazine, keeping you up to date on all things nuclear from a different perspective. My name is Leebee Halevi. I am the producer and host as well as a survivor of the nuclear accident at three mile island from just one mile away. So I know what can happen when those nuclear so-called experts get it wrong this week for the chin and noble anniversary, a blockbuster interview with Kate brown author of manual for survival, a Chernobyl guide to the future. We’ll also hear from evolutionary biologists, Timothy muso, whose groundbreaking work on the ground in Chernobyl has been tracing the radiation inflicted changes in insects, birds, and now mammals, if you think radioactivity, isn’t doing much to our ability to sustain and generate life, what moves so has to say, we’ll make you think again. Then of the Western bands of the Shoshone nation of Indians reveals a us nuclear accident that took place at the same time as Chernobyl and released even more radiation than Chernobyl into the atmosphere, but has been covered up today is Tuesday, April 20th, 2021.
And here is this week’s Chernobyl anniversary, special from a different perspective. Nuclear disasters seem to come in clusters. And we’re just about to conclude this year’s anniversary alley of what are to date the nuclear industry’s biggest. Most well-known hits Fukushima on March 11, three mile island on March 28 and next Monday Chernobyl on April 26. We have two interviews this week that focus on Chernobyl’s deadly legacy. The first is with Kate brown. She is the award winning author of manual for survival, a Trenoble guide to the future. Kate is an historian of environmental and nuclear history at MIT and the author of Pluto plutonium, which won seven major awards. I spoke with Kate brown on Monday, April 15th, 2019. Kate, I am so thrilled to have you here today on nuclear hot seat.
That’s great to be here. Let me thanks for inviting me.
The truth about Chernobyl was an enormous complex mind-boggling project. What drew you to this area of research in the first place and how did you get started?
Originally? I was interested in the nuclear security state. And so I started, I wrote a book called utopia about the first two cities in the world to produce plutonium. And while I was working at story, these I wasn’t interested in, in health or environment, but these farmers who lived down when and down river from these stupid Joanie and plants, Soviet and American one were telling about their health problems and they thought very similar, strange health problems and similar across this huge divide between the Siberian Soviet site and the Eastern Washington American site. And so I started working to try to figure out what that meant if they were right, what scientists thought. And I got a little bit into that story when I, in that book, Pluto, Pia, but I felt like I didn’t really get the story. So this is almost a CQL and I thought, well, Chernobyl was a civilian site.
It wasn’t a military side. So it was more open. It, it exposed far more people and it was later, it was in the 1980s rather than the, you know, the forties and fifties and sixties. So I went into the archives and found a sort of Klondike of health records in many points. I was going to check out these records. It was pretty amazing. They went, you know, right after the accident, they went in and they, and they took measurements. They measured air and water and soils, but they also measured people’s bodies and food. And we don’t really have many records like that, even though we know in the 20th century has, we’ve had a lot of nuclear episodes and a lot of nuclear spills and intentional emissions, but we haven’t had too many people curious about what happens next, when all this radioactivity goes into the environment. So the Soviets did that and they kept pretty good records, you know, in the five years after the accident, those records, you know, I argue in my book manual for survival are pretty unique.
They are because it seems like that five-year period of time is what gets ignored. Primarily. It happened after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It took five years before that longevity study was put into place and no attempt was made after three mile island as well. And of course there’s been no real long-term study after Fukushima though, that’s just getting started from your perspective, why was this data not used to put forth the truth about what was happening as a result of Chernobyl, meaning the health impact of the radiation on
At first it was a censored topic. So the Soviets set up these rules, they said, you know, we don’t want anyone talking about levels of radioactivity health problems. You know, they had a whole list of sort of no-go areas for Soviet employees and people in hospitals and who were dealing with cleanup of the accident. And then that story broke into the restaurant in 19 89, 19 90, and the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine, which had the most, most impacted by the accident came forward and said, you know, we can’t handle this problem anymore. We need help. And they appealed to the UN for help internationally. And that got the leaders in Moscow really nervous. They had been saying all along, this isn’t really a problem. The doses aren’t that high, everybody can just, you know, stay the course. And increasingly I see in the, in the classified records that the leaders, especially the people in the public health field and Ukraine and Belarus were getting increasingly nervous and more and more researchers are coming forward saying, you know, we see here a big problem.
I mean, but 1990, a, a KGB general, who was at medical doctor who ran a clinic in Kiev. And he had 2000 patients who had been exposed to Chernobyl and he writes, and he says, you know, nobody’s got a study like mine. I have the best equipped hospital. I have doctors who can actually know how much exposure their patients got. And after our, you know, four years of study, we have found that perfectly healthy people when exposed chronically to low doses of radiation have a whole host of health problems, any lists. And he recommended, this is a KGB general. He recommended that the zone of alienation that the area that should be depopulated be extended from 30 kilometers to 120. And that would have gone right up to the beautiful ancient city of Kiev, where he lived. That’s how alarmed he was. So why did this story coming into the public?
The Soviet union fell apart. It was starting to fall apart at 90. It collapsed completely in 1991. And the Soviet leader is to try to stave off this problem, asked first the world health organization to come in and do an independent assessment with foreign experts. World health sent in three guys. They traveled around for about 10 days. They came out and they said, you know, we don’t see any problems. We think you could double or triple the permissible dose, and everybody would be fine. No one believed that study. You know, what can three guys do? And in 10 days, so then the Soviet leaders asked the international atomic energy agency to come in and they brought in more scientists between 102 hundred scientists. They worked for about 18 months. They looked at levels of radioactivity. They had a medical section that looked at about 1200 people, very small study.
When you consider that 4.5 million were exposed and they came away and said, you know, we did this study. We see a lot of illness in this area, but nothing from exposure to Chernobyl contaminants. And we don’t expect to see any detectable health problems in the future. Other than a few cases of childhood thyroid cancer, what they weren’t saying is that they designed a study for the study to find only catastrophic results. And when they found catastrophic results, which was a major epidemic of children with thyroid cancer, very rare cancer among kids, one in a million normally get it suddenly in a small area of Northern Ukraine, they had 20 kids and the Soviet doctors handed the foreign experts, 20 biopsies. They didn’t believe that this could possibly be thyroid cancer among so many kids. They brought him home to have examined and sure enough, they found that these were cancers, but then in their report, they said, we heard some rumors about that road cancer among children.
And we found those rumors to be anecdotal in nature. But what they were sitting on was hard evidence and they had other evidence of 30 more kids and bail ruse. And that indeed turned out to be the tip of the iceberg of what became a big epidemic and thyroid cancer among kids. Now what that report did that report that said no effects. We don’t expect to find any effects in the future. Right? At that time, the UN was trying to raise a billion dollars in today’s fund to do two things, carry out a longterm medical study, akin to the study of Japanese bomb survivors, but of Chernobyl survivors. And this is a very different kind of nuclear event. These are Hiroshima was counted as one big x-ray that lasted less than a second. Chernobyl exposures were long-term chronic exposures of low doses. And those exposures are actually far more common. And then going forward in the future, humans are far more likely to have a Chernobyl set of exposures and a Hiroshima bomb set of exposures. So all kinds of scientists said, we need to do a long-term study. And then the second thing this money was going to be for was to move 200,000 people who were sitting in highly contaminated land. But after that UN report came out, that said, we don’t see any general health effects. And we don’t expect to in the future that pledge drive went nowhere. They raised less than $6 million.
Why do you think the IAEA and before that the scientists who came in were all minimizing the impact of Chernobyl?
Well, all I could think of is that at the same time, the 1990s, the big nuclear powers us, UK, France, and Russia were facing lawsuits from their own exposure, their own testing and production of nuclear weapons during the cold war, you know, the French had blown up nuclear weapons in Algeria and in the south Pacific, the British had blown up weapons in the south Pacific and Australia, the Americans in the Marshall Islands and in the American Heartland in Nevada and the Soviets in Kazakhstan and in the Arctic. So all kinds of people who had, whether they were atomic veterans of in battlefield conditions or whether they were people who had been injected with radioactive isotopes for, you know, experiments or people who had lived downwind of, or downriver of nuclear production facilities, or if they lived anywhere where the fallout landed were starting to Sue their governments about their exposures and what they felt were the resulting health problems. So if you could say, Chernobyl was the worst nuclear disaster in human history, and only 33 to 54 people died, then you could make these lawsuits go away. And that’s indeed what happened in the course of the 1990s and the early two thousands as these lawsuits got no traction in part because of this Chernobyl narrative.
I think it was a conscious decision on the part of the world health organization, the IAEA when skier and the various governments involved to minimize this for that reason, or was it a consequence of them going on another train of thought?
You know, like a lot of people are reporting that my book talks about a big conspiracy theory and I don’t use that word. And I don’t think that’s what was happening. I think that these scientists who had been working kind of in a bubble for a long time with the Hiroshima data, felt that they knew exactly, you know, what they call the Hiroshima studies, the gold standard. They felt like they had a real handle on what radiation medicine was and what the thresholds were for exposure. And when the Chernobyl, when people started talking about this public health epidemic and the Chernobyl territories, and we’re not just talking about cancers, what the records show is that people started to feel pretty unwell almost right after the accident. The officials tally is at 300, mostly firemen and nuclear plant operators were hospitalized. The conflict that comes out of the archives is 40,000 people were hospitalized in the summer after the accident, many of whom were children and they didn’t feel well, you know, sort of like respiratory infections, chronic sore throats, large thyroids, thyroid problems, problems with their endocrine system, immune system disorders, pregnant women had all kinds of complications at childbirth, increasing frequencies of birth defects and a spontaneous miscarriages.
And then after about 18 months, cancers kick in leukemias, and then later thyroid cancers among children and other kinds of cancers start to climb. And so when this story came out, I think the international community of scientists, it didn’t make sense to them. They had a great deal of faith in their established science and these results that were coming in, confounded them. They said, sure, there might be thyroid cancer among kids, but only after maybe 10 years, not after three or four years. And they just couldn’t believe the evidence as it was presented to them. And if they were to believe it, they would have had to radically alter many of the regulations for operating nuclear power plants and running nuclear bomb factories. And we would have had to rethink, I think, pretty drastically or whole nuclear enterprise.
And of course that was something that they wish to avoid. Now, scientists from Ukraine and Belarus, noisily rejected, the dose estimates and the results of it. And they charge that the IAEA investigators overlooked hotspots of radiation, the resuspension plutonium particles, hicked up by those and the ingestion of radioactive particles. And they said that people’s doses were much higher than the IAEA estimated. What did all of these protestations by scientists from the Ukraine and Belarus lead to?
Unfortunately it didn’t go very far. You know, this is at a time and this is where history really plays an important role when the Soviet union was falling apart and, and everything that was Soviet, whether it was politics or economics or science and medicine was considered bad, retrograde, corrupt, somehow majorly flawed. And so when these doctors came forward and said, this had been living with this situation for five years, they had been working closely on the ground with patients. You know, what we find in the journal territories is that one of the charges as well, when, when you look for disease, you’re sure to find it. And there are other, all these extra medical examinations of these people. But in fact, hospitals are running at 50, 60% because the doctors were the first to leave these territories. They saw what was going on and they, they wanted to get out of there with their families intact.
But the people who did stay were quite committed and they presented their evidence, they had case control studies. They had observational studies. They had all kinds of data that they including biopsies, you know, actual physical material to, to hand to the Western researchers. And it was just very, very easy to discredit them to say, well, you know, these Soviets, they don’t have standardized Western protocols. They have very poor equipment. They have really sketchy knowledge. And you know, these guys mostly only spoke Ukrainian or Russian. They didn’t speak English. They weren’t very facile. When they went to international conferences, they had trouble communicating and they had trouble presenting their works. So it was really easy to let the triumphalist democracy and capitalism have one rhetoric when out and lots of people thought that it was a quite sensible dance to take.
Much of your research was done looking at reports from small clinics and doctors who were on the ground in the area around Chernobyl and reporting, honestly. And they were aided and abetted by what can be called citizens, scientists, meaning people on the ground who said, wait a minute, something’s wrong here. I’ve got to do something about it. What were some of the more remarkable steps taken by the people who were living in that zone to try and bring their information to the awareness of scientists in higher places, say from the west who could possibly make a difference in the next
One thing I was on the lookout as I worked my way through 27 archives were everyday heroes. People who, you know, their bosses told them to shut up or not to say anything or to, you know, sort of massage the numbers. And there were people who just refuse to do that. And so there was one woman who she was a physicist working at university in Kiev, and her husband was a civil defense Skye. And so they had a Geiger counter and they went around and, you know, they heard about the accident and they went around and just in the courtyard of their building and Kiev. And they found these really radioactive spots in different parts of the lot. And they, they went and they found these little tiny grains of sand that were fiercely radioactive. And these were the hot particles everybody’s talking about. And this woman, Natalia, was this guy gathered these hot particles, measured the counts of radioactivity coming from them.
And as she ran her calculations, then she’d get, and then she’d come back and measure the, you know, the amount of decay. And then, so she’d figure out what isotope it was by how quickly it was decane. And she gathered, you know, all these different radioactive isotopes and figured out what the whole cocktail was coming from the plant. And very early on, she figured out that this was not as we were told a chemical and a steam explosion, but in fact, a nuclear explosion at the plant that nuclear power plants actually do blow up like nuclear bombs. And she wrote this whole report and sent it to her government to say, you know, by the way, I want you to know that I’ve run these calculations and this is what I’ve found out. And, you know, mind you, she doesn’t have a big Institute. She doesn’t have a lot of complicated machinery.
She doesn’t have a whole staff. She’s just doing this, you know, in our little tiny two bedroom apartment in Kia with a Geiger counter. And in 2016, the Institute in Sweden did, in fact affirm what she’d been saying for 20 years, that this was a nuclear explosion. And Liz, this guy tried to get word out to the west, that there were real problems and that there was much higher counts of radioactivity and that the Soviets were letting on. And so in 1988, there was an international conference in Kiev. And so she disguised herself as a cleaning lady, got a bucket and a mop and went into the conference and got into the close conference that way by pretending she was just there to clean. And then she went up to an, a Western researcher, Robert Gale, and tried to give him a stack of her research that she had gathered.
And Gail probably never knew this was happening because four KGB agents swept her up, grabbed her by every, by each elbow and let her out the back alley. But there are all kinds of people like that. Another guy he could not get his leaders in Kiev to understand that even though his region had pretty low counts of radioactivity, the milk was off the charts over permissible levels. And three quarters of the milk was over permissible levels of radioactivity for the time it went and he knocked on doors and he talked to people, he showed them all his records. He finally got 70 liters of milk and sent it to Kiev in a truck and said, you check this milk and tell me what you think. And then once he had done that, actually having the physical nutritious milk, you know, in front of them, that was indeed above permissible levels of radioactivity.
They finally determined that this area should have special shipments of clean food. So there’s people like that throughout the story. It’s really pretty wonderful. It doesn’t take many people to quietly resist or be committed to doing their job, that guy with the milk Alexander comb off. And he just wrote me the other day. He says, I’m no hero. I was just doing my job. And I think those are wonderful stories. And these people should be recognized as heroes alongside the fireman and the miners and the nuclear plant operators that risked their lives to contain this accident. You mentioned Dr. Robert Gale, who was an American, what larger role did he play in the Chernobyl disaster and other nuclear disasters that followed? Well, he went there, you know, very altruistically to try to help out. And because he had connections with Armand hammer, the Soviets were saying, no, no, no, to all the capitalist countries, but Arm-in-Hammer was a very influential person.
And he appealed directly to Gorbachev and Gorbachev said, yes, Gail can come in. And Gail had a, a new sort of what he thought would help the fireman overcome radiation sickness. And he wanted to try it out on them. And so he brought that along and the Soviets were both nervous about this new untested drug had been tested on monkeys, but not humans and also excited. Maybe it would work. And so Gail and a Soviet doctor about have tried it on themselves first. And then they tried it out the fireman, and unfortunately it did not help the fireman. But then after that, Gail took to the podium and he was the first person speaking from within the Soviet union about the medical disaster as he witnessed it. And he really became the sort of spokesman or the, or the, the face of not just this nuclear disaster Chernobyl disaster, but he went on to a year later in Brazil, there was a smaller nuclear accident in Guyana, Brazil. He, he showed up there and he started to testify for different lawsuits about nuclear power plants and things like that. So he became a real spokesman. Having it started out as a cancer doctor, somebody who specialized in Wikimedia,
There’s an enormous disparity in reports on the number of people who die as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. The, what I call the unholy trio of the IAEA, the world health organization, when the skier have an echo chamber that repeats often that there were only, and the number varies depending on the source, but approximately 54 immediate deaths in the effected area. And maybe between 4,006,000 cases, depending on the source of thyroid cancers. As a result. On the other hand, we have the book Chernobyl consequences of the catastrophe for people and the environment by Yabloko calmness Durango. And Nesterenko, that concludes that as a 15 years ago, when it was published in 2004, there were just under a million premature deaths as a result of the radioactivity released why this disparity and which in your opinion, is closer to the
Well, the disparity is because you can see taste feel, or touch radio activity, unless you get a big dose and acute dose, the effects medical effects show up, you know, much later, whether it’s months or years or decades. So it’s very difficult to pin radioactive contaminants to a particular illness, especially when the illness is more subtle and not acute. And most of radiation medicine is focused on acute effects, that amount of cancer and death. So everybody wants a death count and the uncertainties and the deaths are huge. And the way they come to those numbers are through a series of estimations and extrapolations. So the first thing to be estimated is the dose. How much do we think people got? And they do that by reconstructing the jet streams, you know, the weather, how much rain came down, taking live measurements on the ground, and then estimating it, you know, what people were eating, where they were standing, how much time they spent outside.
All of this is, you know, relatively, you know, there’s a lot of uncertainty in these calculations and then they extrapolate, this is what the, you know, the unsecure scientists would do is, is extrapolate that dose against what the Hiroshima survivors got. And with that, you know, extrapolation, they’d say so, therefore we expect to see 4,000 cancers in the future or something that the problem with extrapolating from Hiroshima is Hiroshima was a very different nuclear event. You know, Hiroshima, Nagasaki two bombs went off. They count the less than a second flash of radioactivity that came from the bombs dropping. They do not calculate in that equation of the Japanese bomb survivors. The fallout from radioactivity that was called at the time in the forties, residual radiation, the Americans, you know, with general Leslie Grove, as the head of the Manhattan project, he was really nervous that the Americans had spent millions of dollars building nuclear weapons, and they were worried that the nuclear weapons were going to go the way of chemical weapons, that they’re going to be determined to be an illegal form of warfare, because it didn’t just blow up, you know, and kill somebody right away.
But it continued to kill people later on and may even harm people. And that was considered, you know, just like chemical weapons, unfair. So they emphasize, you know, these people died. These people who died from the Hiroshima, Nagasaki bombs died from burns, just regular thermal burns that anybody could die of in conventional warfare. And they tried to emphasize this as a kit, like a conventional explosion. So they wanted to renounce that there were long standing, you know, that, that there was residual radiation that radioactivity remained in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Japanese were reporting this strange atomic poison that kills people who were not there in those cities when the bomb went off, but still came in later and got sick. And some of them died. And like, how did that happen? There must be something lingering, but none of that residual radiation or what we’re going to have to call it, fallout was considered in the dose.
The other problem with the Russian studies is that they began five years after the explosions. And so they asked people where were you standing? No, in 1945, when the bomb went off and people recall to the best of their knowledge. And as we know from oral history, that human memories are pretty dodgy, especially in traumatic situations. So they did a dose reconstruction that Japanese scientists at the time actually took measurements, a historian, Susan Lindsay, who talks about this. They took their own measurements. They recorded pretty high levels of radioactivity, the Americans when they came in and occupied Japan after the war confiscated those records. And we don’t know where they are to this day. So the Hiroshima records, our dose reconstructions, their estimates, their guesses about how much of a dose people got. And then the third problem with the Hiroshima studies or their Japanese lifespan studies as a formerly called, is that the Americans controlled these studies until the 1970s. And as I said, the Americans had a political interest in minimizing the impact of nuclear warfare of atomic warfare
Influence, if any, did this uncertainty and the minimization of health impact information from Chernobyl. And also what you’re saying about Hiroshima and Nagasaki have on our understanding of the medical impact at three mile island, which happened before Chernobyl and Fukushima, which happened after Chernobyl
It both the three mile island case and the Fukushima case as with the Chernobyl cases, you know, because scientists working, you know, from the Japanese land spend data are saying, you know, these doses are too low. We estimate there’s going to be no problems. We really don’t have studies. You know, we don’t have serious studies, you know, that we haven’t put in the time and money and commitment to do a long-term epidemiological study and low doses, chronic low doses of radioactivity. And, you know, that is the scenario that going forward in the future, we’re most likely to experience. We’re probably going to have more nuclear accidents, more nuclear spills. We encounter man-made radioactivity in the environment almost every day. And so we should know that and we should demand that our scientific establishment and that our governments do those studies finally. And that’s the, where, where I end, you know, I mean, we see some troubling data coming out of places where people have been exposed to manmade radioactivity, but those are just correlations. What we need is to determine causation and to do that, we finally need to do some real studies.
Do you think it’s intentional that these studies have not been done?
I cannot impugn what other people’s motives or intentions are, but I think it’s troubling that we haven’t done them. I can say that for sure.
Do you think that the experts who deny or minimize any health harm from Chernobyl’s radiation? Not necessarily the bureaucrats or the politicians, but the scientists actually believe their own denials of radiations health impact?
Oh, I’m sure they, yes. They believe in their science and their, and they really hold to the science. But I think what’s amazing about radiation medicine is that really, since the end of the cold war, there have been amazing developments and discoveries in the field of biology and medicine. We’ve learned about microbiome. We’ve learned about how sensitive neurological systems are. We’ve learned about inner cell communication and how sensitive they are and epigenetic effects that can be passed down. You know, basically, you know, almost acquired traits or patterns of cell communication that can be passed down from parent to offspring. And very few of those insights have translated into radiation medicine. You know, we sorta need an update of that field
Since the publication of your book. What has been the response in the media? And have you faced any significant pushback from world health organization, international atomic energy agency when skier or any of the governments or individuals that you reference in the book? No,
I have not had pushback from those agencies. I’ve had some critical reviews and that’s fair enough. And sometimes there’s been reviewers who are, you know, industry scientists or somehow make their money from, you know, sort of promoting nuclear energy. And, and I don’t think that’s entirely fair of publications to ask, you know, sort of pro nuclear spokespeople and scientists to review my book, because I don’t think you can do a, give an impartial review for that, but most of the reviews have been very good when they’re an impartial reviewer.
Do you think that the radiological impact of Chernobyl on the health of people in Ukraine, Belarus, and really around the world will ever be determined beyond the shadow of scientific doubt?
Oh, I hope so. I hope one day we, we will have certain knowledge just like for a long time, we didn’t know, you know, it was debated and fiercely fought over arsenic lead tobacco DDT x-raying fetuses, NVivo. Like all of these things were debated, fiercely, debated re you know, that when scientists first discovered these problems fiercely resisted usually by the people who stood to make money from selling products that were damaging to human health. Now we know for sure that cigarettes cause cancer, we know for sure that lead causes all kinds of developmental problems among children, especially we know that arsenic is poison. And so I think one day we’ll, we’ll have more certain understanding of what low doses of radioactivity does to human health.
If you were to sum up the message of your book and all the research that went into it and present that message to the world, what would you want to say?
I guess I’d want to say that Genova is most often described as an accident. And I think that’s, that’s wrong that an accident implies that there’s a beginning, a middle and an end, and people definitely want closure when there’s been a bad accident or any kind of trauma. But I think that’s doing this event a disservice. What I found as I research is that that area in Northern Ukraine was contaminated with radioactive fallout from nuclear testing before they even built the charitable plant, the people who live near that swamp farmers had 10 to 30 times more radioactive cesium in their bodies and people who lived in Minsk and Kiev. And I find that after the accident, the big Chernobyl accident in 1986, there are other smaller nuclear accidents. Another pretty big one, a pretty big explosion in 1991 at that same Chernobyl plant, I was visiting following biologists who work in the zone in 2017.
And my Geiger counter was screeching. And I asked them what’s going on? And they said, oh, we had a fire here about eight months ago. And, and that burned the leaf litter and limbs and trees. And volatize the radioactivity that was stored there. That was another nuclear event. It was probably something that would have been rated a level five on the IAA ratings chart, but nobody paid attention to it. And so, you know, I think what we need to do is think of Chernobyl as an acceleration on a timeline of radioactive emissions that have occurred since 1945, and that have sort of peppered and saturated, especially the Northern hemisphere of our globe. And if we look at other statistics, those that record rates of cancer rates of birth defects, male sperm counts, which have dropped in half the Northern hemisphere since 1945 cancer rates that have, you know, steadily climbed, especially thyroid cancer has not stopped climbing childhood cancers used to be a medical rarity. They no longer are. I think that, again, that’s a, that’s a correlation, but I think we should get a lot more curious and ask our leaders and ask the scientific establishment to figure out what’s going on. Why is there, why is there a cancer epidemic? Why are males workouts dropped in half since 45? And that’s, I think what I’d like readers to leave with at the end of my book,
One final thought, what, if any steps are in place to allow you to address the United nations with this information and what might we do to help speed that along?
Well, I think we should ask for another pledge drive and we should ask for, you know, countries that are especially countries that are nuclear powers and have nuclear reactors. And certainly as lots of countries gear up for a new nuclear Renaissance, we should ask to have that study done and paid for by, you know, every country that’s building nuclear power plants to contribute for that study so that we can finally know if this is a safe enterprise that we’re pointing towards in the future.
Kate brown, your book is a fabulous read. It’s like a detective story or a murder mystery on a global level. It is I think, necessary reading for anyone who really wants to understand what the issue of nuclear is all about. And I want to thank you for taking the time to be my guest this week on nuclear hot seat.
Thanks Philip Levy for having me here
That was Kate brown author of manual for survival, a Trenoble guide to the future. We’ll have a link up to purchase the book on our website, nuclear hot seat.com under this episode. Number five 13, if you want to understand the impact of nuclear radiation, as well as how nuke boosters did and still do their best to cover up the actual impact of Chernobyl. This is one book you want to not only read, but keep on your bookshelf as an ultimate reference tool. It’s the logical companion to the Jabra called Nesterenko Dr. Janet Sherman’s classic book, Chernobyl consequences for people and the environment we’ll have the second of this week’s Chernobyl anniversary, special featured interviews in just a moment, but first Chernobyl takes the show’s lead this week and while industry government and the media try to cast this disaster as part of the past in truth, none of our shared nuclear nightmares ever goes away and is always part of our future Chernobyl Fukushima, three mile island, church, rock Hanford, Los Alamos, nuclear weapons, uranium mining, endless forever radioactive waste.
Nuclear is a mess. And because the radioactivity that results from it is invisible and not generally understood by the public. It’s easy for the world to go nuclear. I have other problems to worry about and turn away, which is a big mistake because ignorance will not eliminate the problem and deadly dangers of radioactivity. And that is why you need nuclear. Hotseat. We look at the nuclear aspect of our world every week with more reach range and nuanced specificity than mainstream media ever provides. This program is the one place you can count on to continue to report the ongoing, evolving truth about nuclear dangers in all of its varied forms, and to keep the show going, we need your help. So please help us keep getting the word out by providing a donation, just go to nuclear seat.com and click on the big red donate button to help us with a donation of any size and to send us a monthly $5, same as a cup of coffee at a nice tip here in the United States.
You can click on that same red button and set it up. So by nuclear hot seat, a cup of coffee or two, I promise it will go to help building our social media reach and planning, not on a caffeine fix. So do what you can now and know that however much you can help, I am deeply grateful that you’re listening and that you care. Here’s this week’s second featured interview on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster at 35, professor Timothy muso is an evolutionary biologist who has been a faculty member of the department of biological sciences at the university of South Carolina since 1991, beginning in 1999, professor Musso and his collaborators have explored the ecological genetic and evolutionary consequences of low dose radiation in populations of plants, animals, and people inhabiting the Chernobyl region of Ukraine and Belarus. This is an excerpt from a much longer interview originally on nuclear hot seat, number 2 43 from February 16th, 2016. It is still just as pertinent. What were some of your early findings from Trinity?
The first visit in 2000, we went out and found all of the barns, the old dairy farms that we could find in and out of the zone. We snuck inside the zone at the time, at the time, the exclusions on wasn’t really as high security as it is now. And, and so it was easy to sort of zip in and zip out with it, nobody ever catching you. And so we, we found a number of the old dairy farms that still had barn swallows in them, inside the zone, outside the zone, as well as in areas, a fair distance away that were much cleaner, the less radioactive in and started catching all the birds we could catch. And the first discovery was quite striking. The many of the birds living inside the exclusion zone are right on the border of the exclusion zone, had patches of little white feathers on them.
You know, nothing, nothing really striking no three headed monsters or anything like that. But these birds were extremely unusual. They were pale to begin with, but they also had these patches and what we’ve been calling partial albinos. There are other names for this phenomenon, but everybody sort of understands partial albinism when you say it, and this was much higher in the areas of high radiation. There were, there were a few birds and the cleaner areas that show this, but very, very few relative to the hot areas. So that was sort of the first observation. We came back each year to the same farms to follow these same birds. And the beauty of barn swallows is that they will actually come back to the same barn, the same nest, as long as they’re alive, once they start breeding. And so we put a little bands on their legs, so we could actually track their survival from one year to the next.
We could see how many eggs they were laying and how well their babies were doing. And we could take a little blood from them so that we could look for genetic damage and antioxidant levels. And we figured out how to get a little sperm sample from the males. So we could look at how, how well their reproductive materials performed and all of this started to add up to an interesting story. After a couple of years, first, we noticed that males in the more radioactive areas were showing sperm that was either deformed or not, particularly active, not particularly good at doing its job. That was the first sort of clue that fertility might be an issue for these birds. Then we started to notice that many of the birds had other strange abnormalities, physical abnormalities tumors on their, their heads tumors on their feet and on their rear ends. And sometimes on their wings, just sort of abnormalities that you never see in a normal population. And so all of this kind of added up to the fact that these birds were not doing particularly well. They were living half as long as birds and clean areas. They were having fewer offspring, the male, as I said, the male fertility was lower. Recently. We were also shown that they have higher levels of cataracts in their eyes. It’s just a plethora of negative consequences of, of the exposure to radiation. That was the beginning of all of this.
And you go back to Chernobyl still every year to do the updates on the bird population. No
We’ve been tracking in the barn swallows every year. And you know, every year we try to add a little experiment to the pot, so that we learn a little bit more about what might be going on. The fact that we’ve been doing it for 15 years straight, this will be the 16th year for these populations. It gives us a lot of statistical power for the sorts of questions we’re interested in, in some, some years we’ve been putting little dosimeters on the, the legs, these, these birds for the last four years. And so now we have a really good idea of how big a dose they’re getting as they fly around. And that’s never been documented before we keep following these birds, but in 2004, 2003, 2004, we realized that Barnesville has been great, but people, you know, had broader interests than just barn swells. But what we realized actually was that there was this a growing interest in what was going on in the turnover zone.
And we weren’t just doing it to satisfy our own curiosity. At that point, we realized that other folks were interested in, and the questions that we were getting were that this is happening in the Bart’s walls. Is it happening to the other birds? What’s happening to the insects, what’s happening to the mammals. And so we started to branch out into a few other areas. We brought in other experts from other universities to collaborate with to help us in some of the systems we had less experience with. And so now we’ve been working on the entire bird community, I guess three, four years ago. We added a group from Finland who are a mammal specialist, small mammal specialist, and we’ve been trapping rodents and Trenoble as well as into Fukushima and learning an awful lot about other components of the ecosystem in the area. Any results that you can report is yet one of the great things about working with, you know, some of the best scientists, some of the most accomplished scientists from around the world on these projects is that, you know, we’re getting a lot done.
We’ve published about 80 papers in the last 10, 11 years on turnover and Fukushima and folks can go to my website and, and get them all. But the latest results we published a paper last week, actually it came out. It was one of our first papers on the small mammals, the rodents of Chernobyl, where we document an increase in the rate of cataracts in the eyes of the females. And we published a paper on the birds of Chernobyl two, three years ago, showing a game that the cataracts in the eyes were much higher levels in, in, in the more radioactive areas. Now we’re seeing this also in the rodents. And so this provides substantial support for the hypothesis that this is the radiation that’s causing. This folks tend to, you know, if they can, they will throw out some objections to some of these ideas.
They’ll suggest that it’s not due. The radiation is due to something else and they’ll have a long list, but clearly the more results we have that run in parallel among different systems in Ternopil, but also amongst the same systems in both Chernobyl and Fukushima, when we find the same kinds of results in both places, the only explanation that makes any sense is that it’s the result of the radiation exposure. And so, so that’s why we’ve invested so much into replicating. Most of our turnover work in as much as we can and put Kashima as well over the last five years now,
Dr. Timothy Musso, he is an evolutionary biologist and has been a faculty member of the department of biological sciences at the university of South Carolina. Since 1991, we look forward to sharing our full interview in a coming episode while headline making nuclear disasters like Chernobyl rivet, our attention, other nuclear accidents continue to occur just under our radar, but are just as deadly in reveals one of these accidents, which was only discovered because Chernobyl was happening at just about the same time. Ian is principal man of the Western bands of the Shishoni nation of Indians, secretary of the native community action council.org. And in 2018 was appointed to the NRC licensing support network advisory review panel. I spoke with Ian on Monday, April 19th, 2021. And in his typical fashion, he jumped right in explaining a nuclear accident that in 10 years of doing nuclear hot seat, I had never, before heard about
April 10th, 1986, there was a underground weapons effects test named mighty Oak here at the Nevada test site within Western Shoshone treaty defined territory. The test site is 65 miles outside of Las Vegas and every underground test Vince. So this is why the department of energy says it is not an accident because these things will vent or they will go into the, the rock, or they will go into the groundwater. And in this case, the department of energy timed, the venting release of these gases, which includes Krypton gases, which have a long half-life mixed thoroughly in our atmosphere, they contribute to the global warming problem. This gas went around the world and the department of energy didn’t tell anybody, we don’t know how many of these things happened. We want to know, because this hurts people. This hurts our planet. This gas went around the world and the planes that were flying off the coast of Washington waiting for the Chernobyl radiation fallout found this radiation mighty Oak fallout, which was up where two, five, and 10 times greater than that, which was expected for terminable.
Now, this leads me to another accident that I want to share with you because I’m only now becoming more aware of things that my chief has told me when he was looking at these things back in 1968, there was a test series at the central Nevada test site. And the department of energy or atomic energy commission had dug a shaft 2000 feet underground. And we’re pumping for weeks months to get the water out. They couldn’t do all of it, but they had an opportunity to drop a nuclear device down and detonate it. It became entangled. They couldn’t get it up. They couldn’t get it down. What they did was drilled another shaft and put another device next to it, to detonate both of them. Then they decided to do it again. So they sunk another shaft, 2000 feet down, put another device in and it got tangled. Again, it is still there. This is what can happen with deep borehole disposal. These are the kinds of things and problems that can’t be undone. And that is ID borehole. Disposal is a problem. And I just wanted to mention that because that’s part of the current discussion that we’re having. And I had an interview with the government accounting office a couple of months ago, and I didn’t have a good understanding, but as I thought about it, there are experiences that people aren’t aware of that are the failures.
What, if anything, is being done right now in terms of follow up on this and will it impact next week, series of five presentation?
There’s plenty of solutions. There’s plenty of opportunities. It comes down to the unwillingness of the United States government and the department of energy and the nuclear industry to do the right thing. They don’t want to look at ways to neutralize the waste. They’re spending a hundred to $1 on nuclear waste disposal and nuclear technologies and not neutralizing the waste. They’re doing the wrong things. The mighty Oak event that fall out, went around the world. There are hotspots in downwind community. Some of the highest fallout is in Southern Idaho, North Dakota, where the fallout went, it rained. The fallout went to the ground. The cattle ate the grass. They milked the cows and shipped that milk to the inner cities in the Midwest. Chicago, Kansas city also has high fallout and Kodak was aware of that. The government made Kodak aware, but did not make ordinary citizens. And the last thing that I really want to say is that, you know, this is important.
It’s just not me. It’s average citizens like yourself. People like me, average people that we ban the bomb. We ended the cold war. We stopped you off the mountain. That’s what normal people can do. So I appreciate your interest. And I appreciate all the people who are listening because that’s what it takes. And what I mean, we ban the bomb. In 1986 to 1990s, we had massive protests at the Nevada test site, 30,000 people coming out there. I issued thousands of permits to be on Shoshone treaty territory. That’s why the department of energy can’t prove ownership to anything out there. They’re there in secret trespassing. But what we did was brought thousands of people out to the test site. We pushed and pressured for a nuclear weapons test moratorium. We did that normal people. We also pressured the world health organization for an advisory on the illegality of nuclear weapons. We also pressured the UN general assembly for an advisory opinion on the illegality of nuclear weapons in 1995 and 1996, the world court held its trial and found that nuclear weapons are illegal and immoral. And the only acceptable case would be self-defense except that would be a crime to use these indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction that led further for peace loving nations to press for this treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. And that’s what we have that went into effect January 22nd, 2021.
This sounds like grounds for refiring up in a good way, the protests and the demonstrations and the pushback from those of us who are just common ordinary citizens. But we need to have a voice in this because this is our future. If people wish to join you and support the work that you are obviously in a leadership position on with others, I assume, where can they go? What can they do so that if they’re fired up now, there’ll be able to join with you and spread their energy to yours.
Next week, we’re having a native American forum on nuclear issues. It’ll be virtual. You can go to our website, native community action, council.org, that’s native community action council, one word that orgy and register. We’re going to have a week of events. And we’re going to talk about these issues. We’re going to talk about how normal people make these things happen. We need to continue to put pressure on our governments. And in the United States, I have a letter to president Biden. It speaks of how we should not be subjected to weapons of war in a civil society. These weapons, eight Ks AAR’s and nuclear weapons violate every Indian peace treaty. And we need enforcement, neat, regular normal Americans like you, and like me to stand up and find their responsibility under the United States constitution to follow the Supreme law of the land. Article two six, section six, which includes treaties and the treaty of Ruby valley, which is what we stand for Vermont
In principle, man of the Western bands of the Shoshone nation of Indians. And, and I kept talking after this interview and the information he was sharing is so compelling that we’re going to have him back next month for a full length interview. Meanwhile, in also wanted you to know about next week’s five nights of programming, the native American forum running April 26 through
We are hosting the 2021 native American forum on nuclear issues. We have a good lineup of speakers will be every day, next week, beginning on the 26th Chernobyl day, between five and seven every night, and ending with the live panel on Friday, the 30th with Winona, Lou duke, and several other good speakers. This is entirely indigenous event, indigenous organized indigenous run, and we’re focusing on indigenous issues.
We will have a link to sign up for the native American forum next week on our website, nuclear hot seat.com under this episode number 513 and in a separate item, there’s going to be a Navajo power energy round table on April 22nd and 23rd in the morning with a focus on expanding the renewable energy economy. We’ll link to that one as well. This has been nuclear hot seat for Tuesday, April 20th, 2021. If you’d like to get each week’s episode of nuclear hot seat delivered to your inbox, it’s easy. Just go to nuclear hot seat.com. Look for the yellow opt-in box and sign up for one equally email, which contains the link to the latest show and brief write up of what’s inside it. If you have a story lead, a hot tip or suggestion of someone to interview, send an email to [email protected] And if you appreciate weekly verifiable news updates about nuclear issues around the world, go to the website, click on the big red button and know that however much you can support us.
We’re deeply grateful. This episode of nuclear hot seat is copyright 2020 Leiby at hardest street communications, all rights reserved, but fair use allowed. As long as proper attribution is provided. This is Libby Halevi of heart history, communications, the heart of the art of communicating, reminding you that we can always come up with a date that a nuclear emergency begins, but as Chernobyl proves, we can never come up with a date that it’s over because once it starts, it is never over. That’s your nuclear wake-up call. Don’t go back to sleep because we are all in the nuclear hot seat,
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