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Claims Japanese Nuclear Disaster To Have Chernobyl-Like Consequences – Analysis

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Responding to claims by a former Russian nuclear power minister that only the telephone is a safer technology than nuclear power plants, Aleksandr Nikitin of the Bellona Ecological Defense Center says that the Japanese nuclear disaster is certain to have Chernobyl-like consequences.

On the one hand, those with financial interests in the construction and operation of such plants will continue to deny the dangers they represent, the longtime environmental activist says. And on the other, the people living near such plants will in the case of accidents suffer in ways that will be hard to count.

Chernobyl Disaster: The nuclear reactor after the disaster. Reactor 4 (center). Turbine building (lower left). Reactor 3 (center right)
Chernobyl Disaster: The nuclear reactor after the disaster. Reactor 4 (center). Turbine building (lower left). Reactor 3 (center right)

Last week, Ekho Moskvy featured an interview with Yevgeny Adamov, former Russian nuclear power minister (www.echo.msk.ru/programs/klinch/757462-echo). His claims about the safety of this industry were so hyperbolic that the Bellona organization asked Aleksandr Nikitin to comment on them (www.bellona.ru/articles_ru/articles_2011/Nikitin-Adamov).

The former nuclear power minister asserted that “of all technical objects from the point of view of life of people and harm for health, the least harm comes from nuclear energy. Only the telephone is more secure,” a view that Nikitin dismissed as completely false both when accidents occur and especially long afterwards.

Harm from nuclear accidents, Nikitin said, involves “not only the number of dead and suffering at the time when incidents occur but also the influence these incidents will have on future generations of people and on the natural environment.” Chernobyl is still having a negative impact on both, and analysts have no way of measuring this in advance.

Nikitin also dismissed Adamov’s assertion that the incident in Japan shows that “atomic energy is the most secure” and that “not one individual” will lose his life now or in the future as a result of the accident. That is simply not the case, Nikitin countered, noting that the radiation will remain in the area for many decades harming people and the environment.

And Nikitin said that Adamov’s arguments about the increasing number of technical means to protect against nuclear accidents in fact undercut themselves. “With the growing number of technical means guaranteeing security,” the Bellona expert continues, “the reliability of the system as a whole falls” because it depends on each and every one of them.

Nikitin also dismisses Adamov’s arguments that nuclear power will be demanded by countries “because it is more secure than other technologies and more ecological than they.” That is not the case, and the former Soviet naval captain turned ecological investigator provides examples.

And the Bellona expert notes the recent decisions of Germany, China and “even Nicaragua” to use other forms of energy. More are likely to follow, he says, because the Japanese events will represent a shock to the atomic power industry equal to that which occurred after Chernobyl.

But however that may be, Moscow is continuing to promote the exploitation and building of atomic energy plants not only insider the Russian Federation but in Turkey and Belarus. As Bellona’s Andrey Ozharovsky notes, “the powers that be in Russia are ignoring the lessons of the catastrophe” in Japan because there is so much profit to be made.

Indeed, Orzharovsky says, it appears that the current Russian leaders will “recognize the danger of atomic energy” only if there is an accident within the Russian Federation, a tragedy that their own blind self-confidence in this form of power tragically makes more rather than less likely (www.bellona.ru/articles_ru/articles_2011/Putin-Medvedev-Lobby).

Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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