Opinion By Judit Trunkos
On March 28, Sustainable Carolina, Friends of the Earth, and the Sierra Club proudly sponsored presentations by two Russian nuclear activistsâ€™ called â€œ25 Years After Chernobyl: What Can We Learn?â€
When the anniversary trip was organized for the nuclear safety activists to visit the United States, the Fukushima disaster in Japan had not yet happened. By the time they arrived to Columbia, there was a Chernobyl-like situation at the Fukushima plant. Dr. Natalia Miranova and Natalia Manzurovaâ€™s visit served as a great warning about the dangers of nuclear power and about plans for building Nuclear Power Plants in South Carolina. With the William States Lee III Nuclear Station currently under construction near Gaffney by Duke Power and The Savannah River Site operating on the inactive New Madrid Fault line, many S.C. residents and students attended with questions and concerns about the safety of nuclear power.
Dr. Mironova is the founder of the movement for Nuclear Safety, former legislator, engineer and author of several books. She has written extensively on the role of non-governmental organizations in abolishing weapons of mass destruction. â€œToday, I use Fukushima as my main example of my presentation about nuclear safety. When we look at the price of political errors we can compare how during WWI 21 million people died, but Chernobyl still has long-term effects on an estimated 600 million. Keep in mind that Chernobyl only had one reactor, Fukushima has six.â€
Dr. Miranova hopes to make the government accountable for nuclear mistakes. She says it should start with acknowledging the dangers of nuclear power and we must stop nuclear waste by decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants.
â€œWe must help politicians all around the world steer away from Nuclear Power towards a new way. They face a lot of pressure from Energy Companies and other companies,â€ said Dr. Miranova.
The other anti-nuclear power presenter, Natalia Manzurova, is one of the few survivors involved directly in the clean up process after the Chernobyl accident. She now serves as international activist for the protection of the rights of victims of radiation exposure.
Manzurova discussed the environmental issues that occur followed by a nuclear explosion pointing out that the nuclear particles circle around the globe in the atmosphere, it cannot be contained to one country only.
â€œNuclear radiation is an invisible enemy that can kill you for many years. In Fukushima currently the evacuation zone is only 20 km. The Japanese evacuation zone is not large enough. In the area, food is already contaminated. They should keep the crops and animals inside and bring food in from outside.â€
Manzurova went on to describe the Chernobyl accident, â€œIn affected areas the government had to remove entire forests because they were too contaminated. They used remote controlled machines because it was too dangerous for humans to be in the area. Effected people were taken to Moscow into a special hospital where most of them died. Doctors had to be careful and not directly touch the patients as they were sources of radiation.â€
The Russian activists came a long way to warn about the long-term environmental and humanitarian effects of nuclear radiation. Even though the Fukushima reactors were built using an older reactor design, the bottom line is that Japanese issues are raising the question of safety of nuclear plants and their designs. Many who attended the event may now be more cautious about supporting future power plants in South Carolina.