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John Furie Zacharias

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Remembering Chernobyl

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 on Dark Skies 
 about Death

"I was a schoolgirl back in 1986 and as soon as radiation level began to rise in Kiev, dad put all of us on the train to grandma's house. Granny lives 800 kms from here and dad wasn't sure if it was far enough away to keep us out of reach of the big bad wolf of a nuclear meltdown."

-- Elena Filatova, aka Kid of Speed / Gamma Girl

As for myself, I was a young man living in Karlsruhe, Germany at the time of the Chernobyl disaster.  Even though I lived as far away from Chernobyl as Elena's granny, many of my friends and I were nonetheless extremely cautious about buying things like fresh produce or imported canned food because the contamination zone of radioactive fallout spread over a vast area of agriculture.

April 26th, 2006 marks the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.  Many people in the United States mark September 11th as an infamous day their world changed in significant and fundamental ways.  April 26th has been a dark day for millions and millions of people in the Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia that marks the world's worst nuclear disaster.

Chernobyl leaves the world the legacy of a million personal tragedies.  At the time, though, many people in the west heard little about it.  Unlike the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent collapse of the World Trade Center buildings that was broadcast live on television, news from the former Soviet Union only trickled out.  Rumors of the true magnitude of the disaster were rampant as radioactive winds blew over the iron curtain.  It would be several years until the Berlin Wall came down.

If you are too young to know about Chernobyl or so old that you have forgotten that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster released more than 100 times the nuclear fallout than Hiroshima and Nagasaki on this day twenty years ago, take five minutes and watch this short flash presentation, "The Long Shadow of Chernobyl," from this month's National Geographic magazine online.

With over 400 nuclear power plants in the world, taking five minutes to learn from history may be worth your attention.  Currently, there are 104 U.S. nuclear reactors in 31 states.  According to Nuclear Engineering International, "nuclear power was a big winner," when Bush signed the $14.5B Energy Policy Act of 2005 as it paved the way for additional plants to be built.

If you have more than five minutes, take the time to visit the Ghost Town photo journalism site of Elena Filatova (aka Kid of Speed).  And honestly, if you are currently making a comfortable living, consider donating a few bucks to buy gas for her motorcycle and some batteries for her camera.

Chernobyl has been characterized by some as a "tragedy in slow motion."  One of the reasons for this characterization is that we are now witnessing the children of Chernobyl.  Women of child-bearing age, 20 years hence, are now giving birth to infants with genetic health problems and thousands of children have cancer specific to Chernobyl fallout in Belarus.

Radioactive nuclear fallout is not stopped by geo-political border definitions.  It is simply the Reaper riding the wind.  Take a deep breath.

[Full Screen] :: Chernobyl Disaster Video - BBC World News
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 illnesses, agriculture, motorcycles
nuclear, chernobyl, cancer

Posted at 07:58 pm by John Furie Zacharias

April 28, 2006   10:57 AM PDT
Great entry, John. I can't wait until I have a few minutes to check this stuff out, because I'll admit that I know very little about Chernobyl or its true magnitude, and I look forward to educating myself a bit.
J f Z
April 28, 2006   05:01 PM PDT
I guess one general lesson from Chernobyl might be that everything can be fine for years and years, then one mistake can happen at any time and lead to a massive catastrophe.

Here's a news article about a close call near Detroit that just happened in March 2006:

It also speaks briefly about the Fermi I accident that inspired the book "We Almost Lost Detroit" as background.


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