The direct environmental implications of last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan will not be known for some time, if at all. Those potentially exposed to the small amounts of radiation that escaped during the long struggle to contain the melting nuclear cores have only a few points of reference to draw from. On the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, many are looking toward the people of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine as they continue to monitor the health and well-being of their loved ones with increasing concern.
In the 26 years since the explosion that spewed radioactive particles over millions of acres of former Soviet soil, only a few hundred deaths have been directly connected to the Chernobyl disaster. According to the World Nuclear Association, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) states that “there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident.” Still, many studies have shown a wide range of health implications that could be attributed to the slight increase in radiation exposure, including the spike in thyroid cancers among children near Chernobyl’s 19-mile radius exclusion zone.
A recent article from The Mainichi reports that the Japanese and Ukranian governments reached an agreement to exchange research and findings from the two nuclear disasters. With the hope that Japan can learn from Chernobyl’s past and present relief efforts, we take a look back at those affected by the twenty-six year old nuclear disaster and the ensuing years of fear and uncertainty.