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April 03, 2007

Chernobyl Estimates Again

Gaah, again, people are over estimating the deaths from Chernobyl.

Air pollution in major cities may be more damaging to health than the radiation exposure suffered by survivors of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, according to a report published today.

The study suggests high levels of urban air pollution cut short life expectancy more than the radiation exposure of emergency workers who were sent into the 19-mile exclusion zone around the site straight after the accident.

Two explosions at the Chernobyl reactor killed three people immediately and more than 30 died from acute radiation poisoning, but the radioactive plume released from the reactor spread over most of Europe and is estimated to have caused up to 16,000 deaths.

Estimates actually range from hundreds of thousands (various loonie green groups) to a few hundred (the IAEA, the international authority on such things). Of cancers still to come the IAEA estimates some 3,000 deaths total. If Chernobyl is going to be used as a comparator then wouldn't it be a good idea to actually use the correct numbers?

The latest study follows a report last month from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution which said air pollution was responsible for 24,000 premature deaths in Britain every year.

I don't doubt this at all. It's actually been one of the points that some people have been trying to get across for years: other forms of energy generation also pose health risks, quite possibly higher than those of nuclear.

The health risks associated with air pollution and passive smoking appear more severe. Pollution in central London increases mortality due to heart and lung disease by 2.8% compared with Inverness, Britain's least polluted city, while living with a smoker increases mortality by 1.7%, the study found.

That number will be used by the anti-smoking brigade, just you watch. Despite there being other studies (a huge on in California for example) which shows no such thing, we'll soon be hearing about the dangers of passive smoking as a justification for the ban in pubs. But this is about sharing a house with one, not about having a pint or two in a smoky atmosphere. But the statistic will move from describing one situation to the other, don't doubt it for a moment.

In the journal BMC Public Health, Dr Smith writes: "Populations still living unofficially in the abandoned lands around Chernobyl may actually have a lower health risk from radiation than they would have if they were exposed to air pollution in a large city, such as nearby Kiev."

Never been to Kiev but if it's anything like Moscow I can well believe it. Rather shows how safe nuclear is really, doesn't it?

Dr Smith said the aim of the report was to put health risks from radiation in context with more familiar threats. "We can all face such risks just going about our ordinary daily lives," he said.

Quite. Everything always involves trade offs. So, given climate change and the point made here that nuclear is actually less damaging than urban air pollution, let alone the emissions from things like coal fired power stations, why aren't we already building a new generation of nukes?

April 3, 2007 in Nuclear | Permalink


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I recall seeing a programme a couple of years ago showing how, since the explosion and the removal of people from the surrounding area, the natural habitat in the exclusion zone has flourished to fantastic levels. I think this shows how we can best preserve the natural world, set off dirty bombs in vulnerable places, and nobody will go there and damage them!

It also means that nuclear power is not an environmental issue and Greenpeace/FOE should keep their noses out, nuclear power, or rather any form of radiation leak, is a public health issue, and nothing more. We might all piss our pants about it, but mother nature doesn't seem too bothered at all.

Posted by: Magnusw | Apr 3, 2007 10:32:44 AM

Low significance epidemiology. How can anyone claim with a straight face that there is a 2.8% increase in deaths from heart disease in London compared to Inverness when there are so many differences between the populations of the two cities, and so many possible confounding factors that it is meaningless. For God's sake read and stop discussing bollocks like this.

Posted by: Ian Reid | Apr 3, 2007 11:11:53 AM

Invernessians are healthier because they down more drams. Obvious, innit?

Posted by: dearieme | Apr 3, 2007 11:22:29 AM

Using Chernobyl to argue against building new nuclear powerplants is about like using the Titanic to argue against building new ocean liners. The Chernobyl reactor was a carbon pile, obsolete since the 1950s, and the disaster was a direct consequence of that fact.

Posted by: triticale | Apr 3, 2007 2:58:26 PM

Aye, and it used metallic uranium - which burns if you expose it, hot, to an inrush of air - rather than uranium oxide, which doesn't.

Posted by: dearieme | Apr 3, 2007 6:48:42 PM

The drivel spouted out by nuke propagandists bridgade, about the exclusion zone being a wonderul atomic energy life giving force was ****.
Maybe we should all go to the exclusion zone duuuu radiation is good for you.

Posted by: Wake up to a nuke | Sep 14, 2007 12:33:37 AM

By the way if a nuclear energy station is attacked millions of people could die and 100's of km2 of the UK could be destroyed. It would reduce the UK's GDP by the 10's of %, cause the forced rehabiation of millions of people, to where who the **** knows. It would make the titanic look trivial. Exaclty how is that good for our national interest. To compare to the tianitc is a joke. Alot of people support nuclear because it makes them feel clever to be one the side of a nuclear scientist. So they fail to question the technology even when it causes the death of 200,000 people atleast. Unthinking, uncritical drones. Wow thoese terrible people who make up nasty lies about nuclear must have money making agenda. ehh?, because the pro nuke ones do.

Posted by: Only hippies lie, the government never does | Sep 14, 2007 12:43:04 AM