Sci­en­tists say Ch­er­nobyl vodka safe, free of ra­di­a­tion

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FROM PAGE ONE - By Jennifer Has­san

What can be done with the de­serted land in Ukraine af­ter Ch­er­nobyl’s cat­a­strophic nu­clear dis­as­ter? Three decades on, re­searchers have an idea.

In­tro­duc­ing “Atomik” vodka: a new spirit pro­duced from crops grown in Ch­er­nobyl’s ex­clu­sion zone.

A team of Bri­tish sci­en­tists worked along­side col­leagues in Ukraine to pro­duce the vodka, made with grain and wa­ter from the aban­doned re­gion, on a farm near the site of the 1986 ac­ci­dent.

But for those in­ter­ested in drink­ing the booze, one ques­tion lingers: Is it safe?

Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Jim Smith of the Univer­sity of Portsmouth, the prod­uct has been put through ag­gres­sive test­ing and is free of ra­dioac­tiv­ity: “This is no more ra­dioac­tive than any other vodka. We’ve checked it,” re­as­sured Smith.

Cur­rently, only one bot­tle of the vodka ex­ists, but that is likely to change.

The team be­hind the new bev­er­age hopes to use prof­its from fu­ture sales to help wildlife con­ser­va­tion and com­mu­ni­ties still af­fected by the dis­as­ter. Smith says there are plans to cre­ate “the Ch­er­nobyl Spirit Com­pany,” which will pro­duce and be­gin sell­ing the spirit once all out­stand­ing le­gal in­quiries are com­pleted.

“This might just be the most im­por­tant bot­tle of vodka in the world. Not for what it is but for what it rep­re­sents,” Smith said in a video. “Hope­fully we can give back 75% of the prof­its from the en­ter­prise to the lo­cal com­mu­nity to sup­port their eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

“Many thou­sands of peo­ple are still liv­ing in the Zone of Oblig­a­tory Re­set­tle­ment where new in­vest­ment and use of agri­cul­tural land is still for­bid­den,” he con­tin­ued.

Ex­plain­ing how “Atomik” vodka is made, Smith said: “We took rye that was slightly con­tam­i­nated and wa­ter from the Ch­er­nobyl aquifer and we dis­tilled it.”

While the univer­sity says “some ra­dioac­tiv” was found in the grain, the process of dis­til­la­tion re­duces im­pu­ri­ties, mean­ing that when re­searches tested the vodka, they de­tected nat­u­ral Car­bon-14 ra­dioac­tiv­ity at the same level as other spir­its.

Smith thinks that the team’s re­search sup­ports the idea that 33 years af­ter the dis­as­ter, many ar­eas that were once de­serted could now be used to grow crops that are safe for con­sump­tion.

UNIVER­SITY OF PORTSMOUTH

Bri­tish and Ukrainian sci­en­tists used grain and wa­ter from Ch­er­nobyl’s ex­clu­sion zone in “Atomik” vodka.

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