Remembering the Chernobyl anniversary

THE Ukrainian community commemorated the 25th anniversary of the catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

They gathered at the Ukrainian Club, Queen’s Road, Halifax, to reflect on the worst nuclear accident in history.

Ivan Kuzio, of the Ukrainian Church, Halifax, said unlike Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident recently, Chernobyl’s ill-fated reactor had no containment shell to stop radioactive dust from blowing into the atmosphere and being carried by the wind.

The radioactive debris landed around the reactor, creating an apocalyptic scene in the surrounding area, and further into western Europe, he said.

“As a result, an area of more than 200,000 square kilometers was contaminated, 70 per cent of it in Ukraine.”

At the time Ukraine was still under control from Moscow which forced a silence on the Chornobyl disaster for three days, with the official news agency TASS only reporting an accident at Chornobyl on April 28 after the Forsmark nuclear plant in Sweden reported unusually high radiation.

“In Halifax and elsewhere Ukrainians remember Chernobyl not only for the disaster which will affect generations of its citizens for decades but as one of the nails pulled out of the coffin that was the Soviet Union,” said Mr Kuzio.

“This year is also important as the 20th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence.”

The Chernobyl explosion released about 400 times more radiation than the US atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima.

Hundreds of thousands were affected and once-pristine forests and farmland still remain contaminated.

Mr Kuzio said researchers generally agree that the incidence of thyroid cancer, particularly among children, increased thirty fold after 1986. The risk of leukemia in children in the contamination zones is three times higher than elsewhere.

Greenpeace has predicted that some 270,000 cancer cases may ultimately be attributable to the disaster, more than 90,000 of which could prove fatal.

Last week the Courier reported on the Chernobyl Children’s Life Line which will bring 11 children from Belarus, which suffered 70 per cent of the nuclear fallout, staying with host families in Calderdale this summer. Escaping to a “clean” environment for a few weeks brings health benefits, according to experts.