“Chernobyl makes it harder for people to believe in a safe nuclear future”
Worldwide perceptions of nuclear safety would never be the same again. A deadly radioactive cloud drifted across Europe, and many countries had to deal with contamination for decades.
Areas within 20 miles of the reactor remain deserted. The immediate impact was devastating, with rates of thyroid cancer in children increasing in heavily contaminated areas. Regarding longer term effects, many studies claim the number of people affected stretches into the thousands. Animals and plant-life were harmed, causing complications relating to the human food chain. The clean-up is COMMENT / Jonathan Hogg ongoing, which is extremely expensive for countries involved. A sarcophagus built around the reactor to contain contamination has failed; a new protective building should be completed in 2018.
Historically, all governments that use nuclear technology for power generation put a positive spin on it: after all, its citizens will receive cheap, clean energy. Chernobyl undermined such confident nuclear rhetoric, making it harder for people to believe in the promise of a safe nuclear future. While the events leading up to the accident can be blamed on the crumbling Soviet regime, the disaster should still serve as a reminder of the risk, uncertainty and danger inherent in humanity’s use of nuclear technology.
is the British Nuclear Culture: Official and Unofficial Narratives in the Long 20th Century (Bloomsbury, 2016), and senior lecturer in 20th-century history at the University of Liverpool
Jonathan Hogg author of