Letter from the Editor: Learning from a Tragedy
As a former nuclear plant supervisor, I was appalled by reports of plant bosses who ordered operators into highly contaminated areas without ensuring that they used protective clothing or breathing devices.
Last April, Atomic Energy Insights published its first issue. In the past year, AEI has attempted to provide a view of atomic topics that is different from what is readily available in other sources.
On the occasion of our first anniversary, we will tackle one of the most controversial nuclear topics, that of the Chernobyl accident. It happens that our first anniversary is concurrent with the 10th anniversary of the accident.
Though some of the articles in this issue will directly contradict other statements that you might have heard or read, please understand that we are not attempting a whitewash. The accident turned into a major catastrophe, millions of people experienced detrimental effects on their lives and livelihoods.
In doing research for this issue I found that responsible decision makers seemingly had no comprehension of simple measures that could dramatically reduce radiation exposure. They also seemed unaware that reactionary measures could cause far more harm than good.
As a former nuclear plant supervisor, I was appalled by reports of plant bosses who ordered operators into highly contaminated areas without ensuring that they used protective clothing or breathing devices. It was distressing to read about heroic actions taken for no reason other than to provide politicians with the sense that they were “doing something” to solve the problem.
I want to help to ensure that a similar tragedy does not happen again. Since much of the damage was caused by a lack of understanding of radiation health effects, this issue provides some specific recommendations for individuals confronted with making decisions during an accident, even if their span of control is limited to family members.
In as non-technical way as possible, one article discusses the specific actions that led to the explosion. Readers, especially those of you who are involved in nuclear plant operations, please take the time to honestly assess what you would have done if confronted by the same situation. Please do not take the easy route of simply dismissing the accident as something that could never happen here.
We hope that our modest effort will encourage some of you to use the facts presented here to counter outright falsehoods that will be portrayed in the mass media during the next month. The stories will make the papers; experienced anti-nuclear groups are already planning public relations actions that will emphasize the accident in an attempt to gain continued attention to their goal of shutting down the nuclear industry.
When your local paper claims that 125,000 people were killed as a result of the accident, please take the time to write a letter to the editor. The 125,000 number has been widely repeated, but it is a lie. It represents the total deaths in the affected areas since the accident. It includes deaths caused by old age, automobile accidents, liver disease, heart failure, lung cancer, and even suicides.
Please help us to ensure that the end result of Chernobyl is a stronger, safer nuclear industry that can help to meet the growing energy needs of our densely populated world.