April 26, 2016
This is the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown. Just look at all the photos on your browsers, of wild animals coming back to the site, of former residents returning, of a farmer selling irradiated milk. Only thirty people were killed. “Only.” The first responders, knowing they would be killed, went in anyway and sacrificed their lives.
Today, the Russian government is disputing the claims by outside scientists that the soil, plants, air, and all mammals in a one hundred square mile radius carry up to a hundred times, the doses of radiation considered safe.
I interviewed Dr. John Gofman (now deceased), former head of the Atomic Energy Commission, just after the Chernobyl accident. He was an oncologist and had a PhD. in physics. For the war effort, he made the first teaspoon of plutonium for use in experiments at Los Alamos. He had been fired for finding that radiation causes cancer,
Gofman told me that the thirty or so victims of Chernobyl were the tip of an iceberg. The radiation would remain toxic for hundreds of thousands of years. In 30-40 years, cancer rates would skyrocket, from Russia to Great Britain. And his prediction has begun to become true. Cancer, in Belarus, has become the plague. Thousands of people are sick.
The radioactive remnants of the disaster were carried on the winds west to Scotland. It follows that cancer rates along the path of the winds will grow exponentially. The iceberg is just now fully exposed.
Nuclear power works, in theory. What the science doesn’t account for is human error. There is no human endeavor on earth that isn’t prone to error.
We are the Neo Aztecs, Gofman told me. They sacrificed tens of people in the belief that the sun, a god to them, could only be appeased with blood offerings. (This same impulse may have been the driving force for the sacrifices at Cahokia Mounds.) The Neo Aztecs created and used nuclear materials without regard for the consequences, for sacrifices of humans, for the “greater good.”
And just as the Aztecs had their gods and superstitions, we have the curse of our nuclear mummies: waste dumps which will remain radioactive for as long as half a million years. In the event of a human catastrophe (it’s a good thing there is no global warming), the survivors, after a few hundred years, would find burial mounds. Archaeologists would excavate them and die, not knowing what was in the mounds.
Because, you can’t see radiation. It is our Aztec god. From World War II alone, the current radiation in the atmosphere, if it were a color, pink say, would drive us crazy with fear. The empty spaces of the entire planet would appear as a dense pink.
How many nuclear waste dumps, legal or illegal, are in the United States? Thousands, Gofman told me. Like the one outside of Princeton, Illinois which has been abandoned. Wildlife, deer and coyotes, and other species, roam freely. Local hunters have to have the livers of their kills checked for radiation. There have been huge fish die-offs in local streams. Plutonium waste had been illegally buried there. The dump’s owners had flown the coop.
Happy 30th Anniversary, Chernobyl. And hey, Great Britain, France, Spain, Brussels, Italy, et al, thanks for your sacrifices, and enjoy all that free health care.
You’re going to need it.