Day Three - April 24, 2006
This morning the day started with a presentation by Dr. Ian Fairlie,
from the United Kingdom who worked on The Other Report on Chernobyl
(TORCH), an independent report funded by the Greens in the European
Parliament. This report was commissioned after the World Health
Organisation (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
released a report which completely downplayed the impact of the
accident and puts the death toll estimate at 4,000 people.
One of the reasons why this report is biased is that a 1959 agreement
between WHO and IAEA stipulates: “Whenever either organization
proposes to initiate a program or activity on a subject in which
the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the
first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the
matter by mutual agreement.” Given the fact that the IAEA’s
role is to ‘Promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies’,
a report describing the full impact of Chernobyl could very well
have gotten in the way of the IAEA’s ability to promote nuclear
During his presentation, Dr. Fairlie raised some very significant
points and criticisms of the WHO report.
First of all, the WHO report only looked at Chernobyl’s impact
in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Given the fact that two thirds of
Chernobyl’s fallout was in areas outside of these three countries,
the death toll in the rest of Europe is expected to be higher. Belarus,
Russia and Ukraine received the most concentrated doses of radiation
which is why the impacts are so severe there.
The TORCH report estimates that the death toll for Chernobyl will
reach between 30,000 and 60,000 people world wide and states that
40% of Europe was contaminated. Caesium-137 contamination was documented
in all European countries except those that forbade planes from
flying over them to survey contamination levels. These countries
include Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania and most states in the Balkans.
Austria received very heavy doses of radiation. Ironically, it
is one of the few countries to have stipulated in their constitution
that they would not have nuclear power. The government, unlike other
western governments with vested interests in nuclear power, adequately
warned its populace and continues to warn against eating wild mushrooms
Later in the day I met with Andre Lariviere, a French Canadian
who has been living in Europe for the past twenty years and who
coordinates the “Sortir du Nucleaire” coalition in France.
"Sortir du Nucleaire" is a very large network representing
over 700 organisations. I was particularly interested to meet with
him as I am coordinating the Canadian equivalent of “Sortir
du Nucleaire”: Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout. I also imagine
it must be difficult to work on these types of issues in a country
where 80% of the electricity is produced by nuclear power.
Despite such a strong nuclear industry, and despite years of pro-nuclear
propaganda disseminated in schools, the French continue to support
phasing out nuclear power. According to the electric utility, between
50 and 60% support phasing out nuclear power, although a recent
poll taken by the European Union put support for Nuclear phaseout
in Europe at 88%, and 92% in France.
On thing is for sure, the Europeans are much more aware of the
repercussions of nuclear power than Canadians, and Americans, and
are much more active in protesting it. And perhaps increasingly
so as the full impacts of Chernobyl are revealed.
For the time being, very few governments in Europe could get away
with ordering a nuclear reactor. They would be confronted by very
serious protests. Canada is further away from Chernobyl, but just
as vulnerable to a nuclear accident.
Emilie Moorhouse is Sierra Club of Canada's Atmosphere and