For longer than the pyramids

April 26, 1995

For longer than the pyramids

By Linda Marks

MELBOURNE — April 26 is the ninth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. With each passing year, the devastation caused by the explosion continues as the children exposed to the radiation, and the 600,000 men conscripted to "clean up" the mess become sick and die.

A few fortunate children have been brought to Australia for a holiday in a clean environment where they can eat clean food. Cuba has helped many more. But for the others, there are few drugs available to treat them and little clean food which would help to keep their bodies healthy. It is impossible to reclaim the millions of hectares of contaminated land, once the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, and yet much of the land is still used for farming.

The hastily built "sarcophagus" containing the remains of the reactor is crumbling and leaking. The scientists who work inside the sarcophagus struggle on with poor equipment, minimal financial support, inadequate facilities and a shortage of appropriate protective clothing, receiving what nuclear scientists in the West would consider suicidal levels of radiation. They know that someone has to solve the problem of how to contain the reactor for times "longer than the pyramids".

The Australian nuclear industry has been demonstrating its own mismanagement and poor decision making. As preparations are made for a second convoy of trucks taking low level radioactive waste 1700 kilometres across the country to an interim storage facility at Woomera, a Senate committee is investigating a spill during the first shipment in January.

The federal government is deciding where to situate Australia's first national permanent low level radioactive waste dump. The proposed method of disposal is shallow burial, which has been totally discredited in other places where it has been used.

The nuclear industry all over the world is plagued by accidents, mismanagement and problems to which there are no solutions. The likelihood of another accident on the scale of Chernobyl is terrifyingly real.
[Linda Marks is part of the uranium collective, Friends of the Earth. See Meetings ... Parties ... Anything (p. 30-31) for details of Chernobyl forum on April 26.]

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