NH #408: Chernobyl 33 Anniversary SPECIAL #1 – Yablakov, Mousseau, Survivor Kouneva, More!

Chernobyl at 33:  The melted, still highly radioactive nuclear fuel at the bottom of Chernobyl,
nicknamed the “elephant’s foot.”

Listen Here:


The Chernobyl nuclear disaster marks its 33rd anniversary on April 26, and Nuclear Hotseat marks it with two SPECIAL reports on the accident and its aftermath.  This week’s episode features interviews with a Chernobyl survivor; the man behind the keystone book on the disaster and the doctor who edited it; the world’s premiere on-the-ground evolutionary biologist investigating mutations, and a photojournalist who makes the Chernobyl/Fukushima connection.  It bring Ukraine’s devastating 1986 nuclear accident — and its ongoing consequences — into sharp, terrifying, and very personal focus.

This Week’s Special Interviews:

  • Bonnie Kouneva was a 16-year-old living in Bulgaria when the Chernobyl accident started on April 26, 1986.  She was outdoors in the rain all day at a rally and got hit with the radiation plume.  Bonnie talks about Chernobyl’s impact on her life and the health of her children.  This former mountaineer and Bulgarian Greenpeace member currently lives in the United States.
  • Dr. Timothy Mousseau is an evolutionary biologist and faculty member of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina. Since 1999, Professor Mousseau 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.
  • Dr. Janette Sherman is well known for her work with epidemiologist Joseph Mangano on analyses of data after Fukushima.  Their work indicates that the Japanese nuclear disaster led to a spike in US infant mortality and hypothyroidism.  Dr. Sherman edited the English translation of Alexei Yablokov’s groundbreaking book, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment.
  • Dr. Alexei Yablokov was environmental advisor to Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Gorbachev administration, as well as a co-founder of Greenpeace, Russia.  His book, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, compiled and translated into English more than 5,000 separate scientific reports on Chernobyl that completely contradict the World Health Organization’s report, which denied, undermined and tried to obscure the serious health risks in the wake of the accident.  Dr. Yablakov died in January, 2017.
  • Ryuichi Hirokawa was the first non-Soviet photojournalist to document the Chernobyl disaster. The website on his humanitarian aid work with the children of Fukushima, based upon his experiences at Chernobyl, is at: kuminosato.net.

Helicopter view of Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, shortly after the
disaster began.  It was still leaking high levels of radiation when this picture
was taken, which accounts for the grainy quality of the image.