We didn’t live through Chernobyl, we are living through it

On the eve of today’s 23rd anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster, the BBC Ukrainian Service spoke with biologist Natalya Preobrazhenska, Head of the Board of the Charity “Saving Ukraine’s Children from the Chernobyl Disaster” and expert for the Verkhovna Rada National Commission on Radiation Safety
She says that doctors have found that the level of oncological disease has risen significantly in Ukraine since the Disaster. She is calling for a State programme “Healthy Nation” and accuses the authorities of a lack of attention to the issue of Chernobyl.

N. Preobrazhenska I don’t think that the truth about Chernobyl has yet surfaced. At present specialists argue about whether or not any nuclear fuel remains there. They say that only 3-4% was released, while many specialists say that all 192 tonnes were released. That is very important. If the mine really is empty, and there isn’t any nuclear fuel, that means that it all came out and travelled the World. Japanese authors have proven that on 19 May 1986 radionuclides from Chernobyl were found in a feeding mother’s milk in Japan. We need therefore to review the likely doses that those involved in the liquidation process received in that first year.

Over 23 years a lot has not been done and consciously not done because the people who hushed it up remain in their jobs. This issue needs serious specialist consideration. There are no new specialists. In Ukraine we cannot build more nuclear power stations.

You are the head of the Board of the Charity “Saving Ukraine’s Children from the Chernobyl Disaster”. Do you think that children in Ukraine still need to be saved from the consequences of the Chernobyl Disaster?

N. Preobrazhenska After the Chernobyl Disaster we are living on the same territory. I mean the 12 regions contaminated with radioactive particles, and therefore children living there are ill, and that’s already the children of those who were children at the time. For example, a lot of those evacuated from Prypyat, live in Kyiv. We checked 115 children born of those who in childhood received radiation. All 115 are ill, with 3-4 illnesses each. A whole range of illnesses like a 40-year-old might have.

Ms Preobrazhenska says there is no doubt that this is related to the Chernobyl Disaster. The strontium and caesium which penetrated people’s bones and muscles can be identified.

In its last report the UN said that the greatest harm for the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had been in the psychological consequences

N. Preobrazhenska The International Atomic Energy Agency should concern itself with the safety of nuclear power stations and not propagandize nuclear energy. My attitude on the biased nature of that report was published in America. There was no study at the time of the liquidators’ health. Ten days of irradiation of the environment covered the entire planet with its black wing. Radionuclides spread through all of Europe. They were in Scandinavia, in Turkey, Africa and Brazil.

How does radiation affect human cells?

N. Preobrazhenska It breaks down DNA. Then the genome is effectively destroyed and all the damage will be passed on at the third or fourth generation. …

Are we talking about cancer of the thyroid gland?

N. Preobrazhenska Yes, however the WHO has acknowledged that breast cancer is also linked with Chernobyl. Moreover urologists have show that cancer of the pancreas in men is also connected with the Chernobyl Disaster.

Can you explain this paradox? People who are living in the Chernobyl zone are 80, they feel fine, catch fish, grow vegetables. Why?

N. Preobrazhenska Correct, but children don’t live there. A child is growing and when the bones are growing, that’s calcium. Bones aren’t still growing in older people and the strontium doesn’t get into their bones. A child gets it from the water, from food.

Yury from Kyiv People need to have the consequences explained, learn about the current situation. There should be an educational programme. I worked for 13 years in the Exclusion Zone. From conversations with people I see that they talk about what they don’t understand.

N. Preobrazhenska We didn’t live through Chernobyl, we are living through it since the radioactive elements have a half-life of thousands of years. We must therefore provide children with knowledge. It would be very good if bureaucrats knew this, they are absolutely ignorant and they change. They don’t know the real state of affairs now. They must think about how to ensure that children have decent water. There isn’t clean water at all in Ukraine.

How can this problem be resolved?

There needs to be political will …. We are demanding a State approach to creating a programme on “The Health of the nation”.
She says that in parliament they don’t listen. That once a year they have three-hour-long hearings in parliament. Once a year they remember the Chernobyl Disaster.

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