Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Profile Of One Of The Top 10 Most Polluted Places In The World

The World's Top 10 Most Polluted Places

CHORNOBYL, UKRAINE (Part of the Soviet Union in 1986)

"Potentially affected people: Initially 5.5 million [largely in the post-Soviet Union nations of Ukraine, Belarus, and the Russian Federation], now disputed levels of effect.

Type of pollutants: Uranium, Plutonium, Radioactive Iodine, Cesium-137, Strontium, and other metals

Site description: The world's worst nuclear disaster took place on April 26, 1986, when testing in the Chernobyl power plant, 62 miles north of Kiev [now Kyiv], triggered a fiery melt-down of the reactor's core. Thirty people were killed in the accident, 135,000 evacuated, and one hundred times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki was released. To this day, the 19-mile exclusion zone around the plant remains uninhabitable.

Within seven months, the reactor was buried in a concrete casing designed to absorb radiation and contain the remaining fuel. However, the sarcophagus was only meant to be a temporary solution and designed to last 20 or 30 years. A program to re-contain the site is underway.

One major reason for the concern is that though an enormous amount of radiation was released during the disaster, most of the radioactivity remained trapped within the plant itself. Some estimate that more than 100 tons of uranium and other radioactive products, such as plutonium, remain to be released if there is another accident. Chernobyl is also thought to contain some 2,000 tons of combustible materials. Leaks in the structure lead experts to fear that rainwater and fuel dust have formed a toxic liquid that may be contaminating the groundwater.

Thyroid cancer in children surrounding this area is a main health problem. Over 4000 thyroid cases had been diagnosed since 2002. Most of these cases have been attributed to elevated concentrations of radioiodine found in milk. It is hard to project lethal cancer rates and other health risks associated with this fallout. What is known is more than five million people currently inhabit the affected areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, which have all been classified as `contaminated' with radionuclides due to the Chernobyl accident (above 37 kBq m-2 of 137Cs)." ...



Chernobyl Children's Project International The international communications platform on the longterm consequences of the Chernobyl disaster

Satellite photograph of Chornobyl, Ukraine. From the Landsat 4 TM Image Coverage of Ukraine, June - August 1988.

Photo credit: With thanks.


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