Chernobyl can provide lessons for Japan, Russian activist says

Kyodo

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster can provide valuable lessons for Japan as it addresses the turmoil triggered by the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant, according to a Russian activist supporting those affected by the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986 in Ukraine.

“The authorities have worked to bring a conclusion to what happened at Chernobyl, but they have not taken sufficient measures to enable people in the radiation-contaminated areas to drive their own restoration, such as job creation,” Pavel Vdovichenko said prior to the 25th anniversary of the disaster, which falls Monday.

“In that sense, Japan could learn lessons from the Chernobyl experiences, which show the need to promote self-sustainable recovery of the affected area,” Vdovichenko, 59, said. The agriculture, dairy and fishery industries around the Fukushima plant suffered serious damage from the radiation leak.

Vdovichenko arrived in Japan in late April to give lectures on the Chernobyl disaster nationwide until early May at the invitation of several civil groups, including the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center.

He founded a nongovernmental organization called Children of Chernobyl in 1987 in the contamination-affected Russian city of Novozybkov. The group mobilizes young people to support aged or handicapped people in the disaster-hit areas and provides health checkups for residents.

“We have been addressing issues that are beyond the reach of the central government in cooperation with teachers and doctors as well as international NGOs,” Vdovichenko said.

Based on his experiences of working in the contaminated areas, he urged the Japanese government to implement health checkups for people living around the Fukushima nuclear plant in the long term in order to examine the aftermaths of the accident, triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

“It is also necessary to examine the health conditions of coming babies,” he added.

His trip to Japan was arranged before the Fukushima crisis began.

“I initially intended to talk about the Chernobyl disaster, but things have changed since the Fukushima accident,” Vdovichenko said.

“I’m going to think with people in Japan about how to prevent a third serious nuclear disaster.”

He said advocates of nuclear power generation are reluctant to talk about its dangers.

“Nuclear plants always face dangers, such as terror attacks and unexpected tsunami, and their collapse will inevitably cause bad influences down to future generations.”

Looking ahead, he also said he wants to build a bridge between the disaster-hit people in the Chernobyl area and Fukushima.

“I hope I can provide an opportunity for mutual exchange among them so they can share their experiences.”

Even a quarter-century later, efforts to contain the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, in which the No. 4 reactor at the power plant exploded, have continued, with Ukraine planning to put a fresh steel cover over the reactor by 2015.