This article was originally published on Counter Punch

Monday is the 24th anniversary of the
Chernobyl nuclear plant accident. It comes as the nuclear industry and
pro-nuclear government officials in the U.S. and other nations try to
“revive” nuclear power. It also follows the just-released publication of
a book, the most comprehensive study ever made, on the impacts of the
Chernobyl disaster.

Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment

has just been published by the New York Academy of Sciences. It is
authored by three noted scientists: Russian biologist Dr. Alexey
Yablokov, former environmental advisor to the Russian president; Dr.
Alexey Nesterenko, a biologist and ecologist in Belarus; and Dr.Vassili
Nesterenko, a physicist and at the time of the accident director of the
Institute of Nuclear Energy of the National Academy of Sciences of
Belarus. Its editor is Dr. Janette Sherman, a physician and toxicologist
long-involved in studying the health impacts of radioactivity.

The book is solidly based—on health data,
radiological surveys and scientific reports—some 5,000 in all.

It concludes that based on records now available,
some 985,000 people died of cancer caused by the Chernobyl accident.
That’s between when the accident occurred in 1986 and 2004.

More deaths, it projects, will follow.

The book explodes the claim of the International
Atomic Energy Agency—still on its website – that the expected death toll
from the Chernobyl accident will be 4,000. The IAEA, the new book
shows, is under-estimating, to the extreme, the casualties of Chernobyl.

Comments Alice Slater, representative in New York
of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation: “The tragic news uncovered by the
comprehensive new research that almost one million people died in the
toxic aftermath of Chernobyl should be a wake-up call to people all over
the world to petition their governments to put a halt to the current
industry-driven ‘nuclear renaissance.’ Aided by a corrupt IAEA, the
world has been subjected to a massive cover-up and deception about the
true damages caused by Chernobyl.”

Further worsening the situation, she said, has been
“the collusive agreement between the IAEA and the World Health
Organization in which the WHO is precluded from publishing any research
on radiation effects without consultation with the IAEA.” WHO, the
public health arm of the UN, has supported the IAEA’s claim that 4,000
will die as a result of the accident.

“How fortunate,” said Ms. Slater, “that independent
scientists have now revealed the horrific costs of the Chernobyl

The book also scores the position of the IAEA, set
up through the UN in 1957 “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of
atomic energy,” and its 1959 agreement with WHO.  There is a “need to
change,” it says, the IAEA-WHO pact. It has muzzled the WHO, providing
for the “hiding” from the “public of any information…unwanted” by the
nuclear industry.

“An important lesson from the Chernobyl experience
is that experts and organizations tied to the nuclear industry have
dismissed and ignored the consequences of the catastrophe,” it states.

The book details the spread of radioactive poisons
following the explosion of Unit 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant on
April 26, 1986. These major releases only ended when the fire at the
reactor was brought under control in mid-May. Emitted were “hundreds of
millions of curies, a quantity hundreds of times larger than the fallout
from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” The most
extensive fall-out occurred in regions closest to the plant—in the
Ukraine (the reactor was 60 miles from Kiev in Ukraine), Belarus and

However, there was fallout all over the world as
the winds kept changing direction “so the radioactive emissions…covered
an enormous territory.”

The radioactive poisons sent billowing from the
plant into the air included Cesium-137, Plutonium, Iodine-131 and

There is a breakdown by country, highlighted by
maps, of where the radionuclides fell out.  Beyond Ukraine, Belarus and
Russia, the countries included Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany,
Greece, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The radiological
measurements show that some 10% of Chernobyl poisons “fell on Asia…Huge
areas” of eastern Turkey and central China “were highly contaminated,”
reports the book. Northwestern Japan was impacted, too.

Northern Africa was hit with “more than 5% of all
Chernobyl releases.” The finding of  Cesium-137 and both Plutonium-239
and Plutonium-240 “in accumulated Nile River sediment is evidence of
significant Chernobyl contamination,” it says. “Areas of North America
were contaminated from the first, most powerful explosion, which lifted a
cloud of radionuclides to a height of more than 10 km. Some 1% of all
Chernobyl nuclides,” says the book, “fell on North America.”

The consequences on public health are extensively
analyzed. Medical records involving children—the young, their cells more
rapidly multiplying, are especially affected by radioactivity—are
considered. Before the accident, more than 80% of the children in the
territories of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia extensively contaminated by
Chernobyl “were healthy,” the book reports, based on health data.  But
“today fewer than 20% are well.”

There is an examination of genetic impacts with
records reflecting an increase in “chromosomal aberrations” wherever
there was fallout. This will continue through the “children of
irradiated parents for as many as seven generations.” So “the genetic
consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe will impact hundreds of
millions of people.”

As to fatal cancer, the list of countries and
consequences begins with Belarus. “For the period 1900-2000 cancer
mortality in Belarus increased 40%,” it states, again based on medical
data and illuminated by tables in the book. “The increase was a maximum
in the most highly contaminated Gomel Province and lower in the less
contaminated Brest and Mogilev provinces.” They include childhood
cancers, thyroid cancer, leukemia and other cancers.

Considering health data of people in all nations
impacted by the fallout, the “overall [cancer] mortality for the period
from April 1986 to the end of 2004 from the Chernobyl catastrophe was
estimated as 985,000 additional deaths.”

Further, “the concentrations” of some of the
poisons, because they have radioactive half-lives ranging from 20,000 to
200,000 years, “will remain practically the same virtually forever.”

The book also examines the impact on plants and
animals. ”Immediately after the catastrophe, the frequency of plant
mutations in the contaminated territories increased sharply.”

There are photographs of some of these plant
mutations. “Chernobyl irradiation has caused many structural anomalies
and tumorlike changes in many plant species and has led to genetic
disorders, sometimes continuing for many years,” it says. “Twenty-three
years after the catastrophe it is still too early to know if the whole
spectrum of plant radiogenic changes has been discerned. We are far from
knowing all of the consequences for flora resulting from the

As to animals, the book notes “serious increases in
morbidity and mortality that bear striking resemblance to changes in
the public health of humans—increasing tumor rates, immunodeficiencies,
decreasing life expectancy…”

In one study it is found that “survival rates of
barn swallows in the most contaminated sites near the Chernobyl nuclear
power plant are close to zero. In areas of moderate contamination,
annual survival is less than 25%.” Research is cited into ghastly
abnormalities in barn swallows that do hatch: “two heads, two tails.”

“In 1986,” the book states, “the level of
irradiation in plants and animals in Western Europe, North America, the
Arctic, and eastern Asia were sometimes hundreds and even thousands of
times above acceptable norms.”

In its final chapter, the book declares that the
explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear plant “was the worst technogenic
accident in history.” And it examines “obstacles” to the reporting of
the true consequences of Chernobyl with a special focus on
“organizations associated with the nuclear industry” that “protect the
industry first—not the public.” Here, the IAEA and WHO are charged.

The book ends by quoting U.S. President John F.
Kennedy’s call in 1963 for an end of atmospheric testing of nuclear
weapons.“The Chernobyl catastrophe,” it declares, “demonstrates that the
nuclear industry’s willingness to risk the health of humanity and our
environment with nuclear power plants will result, not only
theoretically, but practically, in the same level of hazard as nuclear

Dr. Sherman, speaking of the IAEA’s and WHO’s
dealing with the impacts of Chernobyl, commented: “It’s like Dracula
guarding the blood bank.” The 1959 agreement under which WHO “is not to
be independent of the IAEA” but must clear any information it obtains on
issues involving radioactivity with the IAEA has put “the two in bed

Of her reflections on 14 months editing the book,
she said: “Every single system that was studied—whether human or wolves
or livestock or fish or trees or mushrooms or bacteria—all were changed,
some of them irreversibly. The scope of the damage is stunning.”

In his foreword, Dr. Dimitro Grodzinsky, chairman
of the Ukranian National Commission on Radiation Protection, writes
about how “apologists of nuclear power” sought to hide the real impacts
of the Chernobyl disaster from the time when the accident occurred. The
book “provides the largest and most complete collection of data
concerning the negative consequences of Chernobyl on the health of
people and the environment…The main conclusion of the book is that it
is impossible and wrong ‘to forget Chernobyl.’”

In the record of Big Lies, the claim of the
IAEA-WHO that “only” 4,000 people will die as a result of the Chernobyl
catastrophe is among the biggest.

The Chernobyl accident is, as the new book
documents, an ongoing global catastrophe.

And it is a clear call for no new nuclear power
plants to be built and for the closing of the dangerous atomic machines
now running—and a switch to safe energy technologies, now available, led
by solar and wind energy, that will not leave nearly a million people
dead from one disaster.