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Almost 30 years ago I was a member of the PSR delegation that toured what was then the USSR. Our trip coincided with the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster that occurred about six weeks earlier. We spent a day at Hospital 6 in Moscow, where the few remaining survivors from among the radiation-exposed engineers and firefighters were receiving care. One of the two men in isolation tents is shown in the accompanying photograph. They were heroes to the Soviet Union, and justifiably so.
Even though there had been generous offers of aid for the ailing victims from all over the world, conditions in the hospital were still quite rudimentary by U.S. standards. Critical blood and platelet counts were done by hand. The men seemed cheerful, in spite of the fact that they were suffering from radiation sickness. Some had visible burns. Subsequently we learned that all the victims we saw and spoke to died.
This highly personal and sobering memory is buttressed by the accompanying report, "30 Years of Living with Chernobyl, 5 Years Living with Fukushima: Health Effects of the Nuclear Disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima." The report, co-released by PSR and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, our European counterpart, provides detailed and sobering updates of these two sentinel events.
Although there are myriad financial, economic, and energy efficiency considerations that make nuclear power an unattractive option, the fact remains that the only nuclear power station that cannot pose a health threat is one that does not exist.