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Chernobyl: lessons not learned

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A greyish brick building with a bust of Lenin in front of it. A school in Stariye Bobovichi in the Bryansk region of Russia…

Statue at a School in Bryansk Region in Russia. 2 March 2016

There could be something nostalgic about this picture, were it not for the feeling of danger it gives. When Greenpeace Russia took soil samples near the school and local club there was clear evidence of radioactive waste.

Activists from 50 towns and villages took the results to Russia’s Supreme court last June, but the court sided with the government. There was hope that the authorities would at least quarantine the area near the school where children walk and play. But they did nothing.

Measuring Radiation in Village Affected by Chernobyl Disaster. 8 April 2016

Stariye Bobovichi is one of thousands of communities in Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus officially declared contaminated by Chernobyl. Recently, however, the Russian government upgraded the status of this village, claiming it had improved. This claim deprived the residents of this village of the appropriate medical, social insurance and compensation they would get as victims of the disaster.

Council Member from Village Affected by Chernobyl Disaster. 8 April, 2016

Where responsibilities shrivel, irresponsibility grows. And the State that united its nuclear facilities into the mighty Rosatom corporation is further developing its risky business both at home and abroad.

In the centre of St. Petersburg, a floating nuclear power plant (NPP) is under construction. Its two reactors will be soon fuelled and activated. Any nuclear accident in this city would have tragic consequences for its five million inhabitants.

Floating NPP in St. Petersburg. 21 March, 2017

The country’s nuclear regulator, recently told Greenpeace that this is “beyond its responsibility”. This is frightening, given that, after Chernobyl, no nuclear power could be built closer than 100 km to a city with more than two million inhabitants. In 2014 this ban was lifted. Greenpeace has been working alongside the people responsible for dealing with the catastrophe, like the Chernobyl Union.

“We are absolutely against the floating NPP,” said Vasily Nayda, head of St. Petersburg’s branch of the Chernobyl Union. “The Leningrad NPP near the city, which has the same type of reactors as Chernobyl, is enough for us, we don’t want another one.”

The head of a local group of the St. Petersburg Chernobyl Union, Evgeny Frolov, points out that — unlike 1986, when, for 25 years after, the people responsible for dealing with the catastrophe were forbidden by the State to disclose their data — they now feel that they can no longer hide the truth.  

Floating NPP in St. Petersburg. 24 March, 2017

The floating nuclear power plant is only one of many dangerous schemes Rosatom is undertaking across the globe. They are speeding up their international projects in more countries, promising financial benefits, incentives, advanced technologies and ‘guaranteed safety’. But an in-depth analysis of the risks of Rosatom’s international projects paints a very different picture.

Rosatom’s profit-driven conceit ignores past disasters while not taking enough care to prevent future ones. They have forgotten about Chernobyl’s lessons. But, we have learned from Chernobyl and we will resist this dangerous irresponsibility and say no to the nuclear industry.

Please share this blog to expose and stop the new dangerous plans.

Rashid Alimov is a nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace Russia


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