Thursday, April 27, 2006

WHO are they kidding?

The World Health Organisation's estimate of the number of people dying as a result of the Chernobyl tragedy is laughable. But I'm not laughing.

WHO's report says a total of up to 4000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure. Official UN figures predict up to 9,000 Chernobyl-related cancer deaths.

Dr Michael Repacholi, Manager of WHO's Radiation Program has said there have been 4000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children, but that except for nine deaths, all of them have recovered. "Otherwise, the team of international experts found no evidence for any increases in the incidence of leukemia and cancer among affected residents."

Greenpeace responded on Tuesday quoting recent studies estimating the actual toll will be 93,000. Other illnesses could take the toll to 200,000.

Part of the problem is that a comprehensive plan to dispose of tons of high-level radioactive waste at and around the Chernobyl NPP site, in accordance with current safety standards, has yet to be defined - so who knows what terrors lie in the future? £1.2bn is the current estimated cost of a new sarcophagus to cover it.

But also it depends whether you take account of just direct, or indirect causes. Furthermore tens of thousands have suffered health problems which don't result in death but which are still significant.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell speaking in a parliament debate today on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, said that it was unlikely that the precise death toll would ever be finally known and dismissed claims made by pro-nuclear campaigners that the public health damage from Chernobyl had been overstated.

In April this year, in a report for the Green group in the European Parliament, independent radiation scientists from the UK said that the death toll from cancers caused by Chernobyl will lie somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000.

"Chernobyl serves as a reminder of our obligation and responsibility to future generations to deliver safe, clean, sustainable energy supplies for the future," he said.

"In a country with among the world's best renewable energy resources it is unbelievable that we should be taking such a gamble when we have completely safe alternatives."

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