.News Update 5/1/09

Chernobyl Day Commemorates 23rd Anniversary of Disaster

May 1, 2009

Last weekend marked the 23rd anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, one of the biggest nuclear disasters in history. Around the world, people took time to remember the accident and to call for an end to nuclear power.

On the morning of April 26, 1986 an explosion occurred during a routine shut-down of one of the Chernobyl reactors. The explosion released radiation into the atmosphere at levels 100 times more than were released by the atomic bombs dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Radioactive material was carried by the wind through the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and then farther on into Scandinavia and Europe.

Chernobyl Day is a chance to remember the disaster that affected more than seven million people and the extent of damage that nuclear technology can do when it goes awry. With proposals being made to build new nuclear reactors all over the world in response to changing energy needs, the anniversary is a time to remember Chernobyl and denounce nuclear power.

Sortir du Nucleaire, a French antinuclear coalition, has spearheaded the effort to publicly commemorate Chernobyl at their Chernobyl Day website. http://chernobyl-day.org/?lang=en Their main action involved demonstrating outside the World Health Organization (WHO) while wearing white masks featuring the radiation symbol. The action is described as: "After one year of a lasting presence in front of the WHO to denounce its links with [International Atomic Energy Agency] on radioactivity questions related to health, a major action [took] place in Geneva on the 26th of April: hundreds of persons [stood] in [a] circle around the WHO building with radioactive white masks to remember the forgotten victims of the Chernobyl disaster.

All over the world concerned people turned out to make a statement against nuclear power. In Suffolk, England, protesters surrounded the Sizewell power plants for two days in an effort to make their opposition to nuclear power clear. Mell Harrison, of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, "Everyone knows the risks involved with nuclear power but we are being told it is a necessary evil to bridge the energy gap - this is not true."

Natalia Mironova is the Director of the Movement for Nuclear Safety, based in Chelyabinsk, Russia, the location of the 1957 Kishtym nuclear catastrophe in the Ural Mountains. She said, "It is obvious that now we, as humankind, depend on avoiding mistakes of individual engineers, managers or politicians who regularly make very risky decisions about nuclear operations. Nuclear pollution from radioactive wastes has contaminated our environment for hundreds of thousands of years, longer than humankind has lived. The 'Nuclear Free World' is the political policy of President Obama, announced in Prague on April 5, which I hope creates a new future for our children. And we all, Americans, Russians, Brits, must do this policy, in memory of the victims of Chernobyl, Kishtym, Sellafield, Three Mile Island and many other nuclear accidents."

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