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Physicians Cite Flawed Evacuation Zones, Nuclear’s Health Risks on Chernobyl Anniversary

April 26, 2011

PSR physician experts gathered at the National Press Club  on April 26—the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident—to draw comparisons between Chernobyl and  the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis, and to issue a warning about  the inadequacies of emergency preparedness, in the event of such an accident in the United States. 

On April 26, 1986, the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, contaminating approximately 77,000 square miles of land and spreading dangerous radioactive isotopes around the world. The public health effects of this disaster continue to be felt a quarter-century after the accident took place.  The ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan shows that the world remains vulnerable to nuclear accidents.  We cannot afford another Chernobyl or Fukushima.

Dr. Jeff Patterson relayed his experiences at Moscow Hospital No. 6, where victims of Chernobyl were treated, saying “The long-term effects of this spread of radiation are much more destructive than the one-time x-ray and gamma dose that people received at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We will not see the final outcome of this experiment for hundreds of years.” 

The Institute for Policy Studies’ Bob Alvarez spoke about how the Fukushima nuclear crisis underscores the vulnerability of spent fuel storage in pools to accidents or attack, especially the 31 reactors in the US with a similar design as the Fukushima reactors. 

Dr. Andrew Kanter outlined the potential catastrophic effects of a Chernobyl- or Fukushima-scale accident in the United States and demonstrated PSR’s new online Evacuation Zone Map , which shows where a person lives in relation to a nuclear reactor and an evacuation zone.  He discussed the difficult logistics of an evacuation and demands on medical personnel.  

Dr. Ira Helfand wrapped up the event with a discussion of the harm to human health from radiation exposure, concluding “the risks to public health, the economy and our environment from nuclear power far outweigh the benefits.”

Read the full press release here

Watch the press conference here:

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