|22 May 2013, 08:39 AM|
In 1986, Recommendation No. 26 of the ICRP of 1977 still applied, which states, how many additional cancer and leukaemia victims were expected at that time, if one million persons were contaminated with one rem. For this case, the ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection) indicated a risk factor of 125. Thus a total number of additional cancer and leukaemia cases of 240.6 x 125 = 30 075 were expected according to the ruling doctrine. This is only a rough calculation - nevertheless Rosen in the 1986 IAEA bulletin speaks of approximately the same numbers. At that time, UNSCEAR expected additional 18 800 genetic diseases per generation. Non-fatal cancer illnesses were not yet taken into account, neither was the whole range of so-called non-cancer illnesses. The pressure caused by new findings from Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the following years made the ICRP increase their risk factor to 500 per million man rem (i.e. 500 per 10 000 person Sievert or 5 %/Sv in recently adopted units) in their recommendation No. 60 of 1990. A combination of the new risk factor with the Russian data of 1986 results in 240.6 x 500 = 120 300 additional cancer and leukaemia deaths.
The new risk factor, like the old one, is the result of a compromise between business interests of the atomic industry and the pressure generated by the RERF analysis of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki data. In 2000, UNSCEAR calculated a risk factor of 11 %/Sievert - which, combined with the Russian data, would lead to 264 660 additional cancer deaths. We did nothing but link the Russian data with those of the committees (ICRP, UNSCEAR), which claim to express latest scientific standards.
It is clear that these numbers do not throw a very positive light on the use of nuclear energy. In order to save its image, the International Chernobyl Project was established - headed by the IAEA, which submitted the results in Vienna in spring 1991. 200 western and 500 Russian scientists came to the desired conclusions: they alleged, that there was no health trouble, which could be directly attributed to the radiation dose, and - the children, who were examined, were “generally healthy.” It is hard to imagine a more cynical slap in the face of the people afflicted or of the physicians, who under wretched conditions are confronted daily with the declining state of health of the population. The Academies of Sciences in Belarus and Ukraine protested sharply against that miserable piece of work. In an equally biased way the UNSCEAR reported in 2000: that except for thyroid cancer among children (“treatable, not fatal”) there was no scientific proof of a rise of cancer incidence (new illnesses per year) or cancer mortality (cancer deaths per year) or the non-cancer illnesses, which could be linked to a radiation dose. The IAEA triumphantly reported that in a press statement.
Preparations for the 20th anniversary of the disaster
Hardly noticed by the public, in 2003 the Chernobyl Forum of the United Nations was founded in a strong-man act. This body unites organizations with illustrious names: IAEA, WHO, FAO, UNDP, UNEP, UN-OCHA, UNSCEAR, World Bank, the governments of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. On September 6 and 7, 2005, the results of its working groups were presented at a conference organised by the IAEA in Vienna. The purpose of this complex co-operation over several years was to formulate official versions with regard to the 20th anniversary of the disaster on the highest possible level, namely that of UN organizations and governments, to conclude all research projects about Chernobyl and to propagate the thesis that the main problem of the region was poverty - and not the Chernobyl disaster. As Dr M. Repacholi, director of the WHO Radiation Program, drily notes: “The main message of the Chernobyl Forum is: no cause for alarm.”
Admission to the conference was for delegates of government agencies only (my thanks go to the Federal Ministry for Environment). Personal admission cards with photographs were provided, the conference rooms were accessible only through a metal detector, and the bags x-rayed. The drafts of three volumes of working material with altogether about 600 pages were handed out:
Among the participants were high-ranking specialists: e.g. Professor Leonid A. Ilyin, Institute of Biophysics with the Ministry of Health in Moscow. Ilyin is an important man: over decades all (secret) reports about radiation incidents on Soviet Union territory ended up on his desk. He is a representative of many years of the Soviet Union , later Russia, on the UNSCEAR committee and with the ICRP. The Belarus physicians do not like him, because it is his personal responsibility that physicians were forbidden to implement saturation iodine prophylaxis immediately after the Chernobyl disaster. He had obviously hoped to keep yet another disaster secret to the public, and time for the prophylaxis ran out. Thousands of children and adults developed thyroid cancer due to the wrong decision of Ilyin. Likewise present in Vienna was Professor Yu. A. Izrael from the Institute for World Climate and Ecology in Moscow. Izrael was responsible for the fall-out measurements. As early as 1990 he was quoted in the German magazine “Atomwirtschaft” (Nuclear Economy): “No radiation-based illnesses could be determined among the population.”
A first glance on the WHO report on the effects of the disaster on the health
The report submitted is but a study of arbitrarily selected literature. The authors met four times to discuss the report. The report shows serious deficiencies. For some aspects, it relies on studies, which are 10 years old. A re-check of the statements is nearly or downright impossible. Data about dosimetry and the populations affected have been collected unsystematically or not at all - instead only rough estimates can be used, to which however no ranges of error can be indicated. To make do, average numbers are formed on large groups and vast territories, without knowing the specific figures. Assumptions are made and mentioned only in subordinate clauses, if at all, but they affect the estimates substantially and are more than doubtful.
Even the existing data are not freely accessible to external scientists for a more detailed view on the WHO-report. So you either believe what the UN-scientists present - or you don't. That has little to do with science. A well-founded scientific discussion process will be impossible, as long as the source data are available only to one side.
Until 1996, the registers in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia listed 200,000 liquidators, whereas the present WHO-report indicates that approximately 400 000 liquidators are registered. At the same time, it is conceded that altogether 600 000 to 800 000 liquidators had been sent in. It seems reasonable to assume that approximately half of the liquidators - predominantly young soldiers - were decomissioned without being registered, and went home without knowing their radiation dose and for the most part without access to physicians specialized in diagnosing radiation damage.
The data are very incomplete even of registered liquidators. There are no records of the work done by them from which certain inferences on the dose could be gained. For the Russian liquidators there are dose data in 63% of the cases, for the Ukrainian in 56% and for the Belarus liquidators only in 9% of the cases. Nevertheless, the WHO-report gives mean values, median values and 75% and 95%-percentils for external radiation doses. But what is the value of such data?
The report does not mention decree No.U-2617 C of June 27,1986 by the III Head Office of the Ministry of Health about a step-up of secrecy measures for liquidation work at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (signed by Schulschenko): “Secrecy is imposed upon any data concerning the accident. Secrecy is imposed upon the results of treatments for sicknesses. Secrecy is imposed upon the data about the extent of radioactive contamination of personnel, who took part in the liquidation of the accident at the Chernobyl atomic power plant.” The WHO report does not evaluate yet another order by the same agency (Government order no. 52617, order no. 205 of July 8, 1987): “The acute and chronic illnesses of persons, who participated in the liquidation of the consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl atomic power plant and who were exposed to a dose of less than 50 Rem (500 mSv) may not be connected with the effects of ionizing particles.” If these instructions were applied to the Hiroshima/Nagasaki data, it would be nearly futile to discover any radiation victims there. Now, even the most sophisticated reconstructions do not allow to restore what in the first years after the disaster was inaccurately recorded or not recorded at all under pressure from the government and the KGB. The longer these data are rehashed, the more obscure and improbable the result becomes.
The WHO report only takes into account 200 000 liquidators, who worked in the bad years of 1986 and 1987. The IAEA, as of August 2005, speaks of 350 000 liquidators on duty during those two years- if one considers these data, the number of expected additional cancer and leukaemia deaths among the liquidators only would rise by 1 650.
Since the basic data are kept secret, independent calculations are possible only in exceptional cases. One could try, however, to check the WHO report against the indicated references. Reading for example the study of E. Cardis et al., quoted in the report, strange details will emerge:
In her original work, Cardis (International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon) gives estimates for the cancer and leukaemia deaths, which can be expected over a period of 95 years for part of the liquidators, and for those evacuated from the 30 km zone, as well as for people living in the zone of strict control and for people living in other contaminated areas. She provides us among other things with the number of persons, the average dose received and the forecast number of additional cancer deaths. At various points in her original work, Cardis indicates uncertainty ranges - e.g. 6 - 20 mSv for the dose, which population in other contaminated areas received. In one table, she indicates the collective dose for people, who live in contaminated areas, with a deviation too: e.g. 35 000 - 100 000. These data have an index (a), easily overlooked, and the corresponding footnote says that only the doses from 1986 to 1995 were examined but that considering the longer period of 1996 to 2056, which would correspond to an observation period of 70 years, the collective dose would rise by 50%. In table 2 we list the data of the original study by Cardis on the left, taking into account this footnote by adapting the numbers for the collective dose and for additional deaths respectively according to the original work, whereas the data transferred from her work into the WHO report are to be found on the very right:
Table 2: Comparison of data from the original study by Cardis et al
and the quotes in the WHO report (2005)
From the table it is evident that E. Cardis did not transfer the uncertainties into the WHO report. In her original study, she calculates from 10 593 to 26 598 additional cancer and leukaemia deaths within 95 years, in the WHO report however, which refers explicitly and exclusively to this study by E. Cardis, only 8 930 can be found.
The press statement of the Chernobyl Forum on the occasion of the conference in Vienna does not refer even to those 8 930 dead; consequently, they are not mentioned in any newspaper report on the conference. The press statement mentioned and the media reported just 4 000 expected additional cancer deaths. The largest item in table 2, the deaths among people in “other contaminated areas” was simply omitted.
The figure of 8 930 did however play a certain role in discussions at the conference. Not that there was any criticism of its sizeable diminution compared to the original study, no, someone demanded to omit the entire table because it might be misunderstood. Laymen would not consider, that these dead would not be distinguishable among the much more numerous 'natural' cancer deaths. In reality, these were not actual deaths but calculation quantities, which should be “laid aside” entirely. Klaus Becker, vice president of "Radiation, Science & Health" from Germany, argued in this vein. Could someone please explain to Mr. Becker, what the concept of “stochastic radiation damage” means?
The Chernobyl Forum has followed the line of argumentation reiterated by the international committees and national authorities up to now: there was a clear increase of thyroid cancer with children and young people, but nowadays there are good therapies for this unfortunate illness. It is ignored that children, whose thyroid gland had to be removed, must be supplied with medicine as long as they live. That may be a negligible problem in Western Europe, but it under the living conditions in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine it is certainly not. These children must regularly call at a specialized medical institution, in order to find new knots or metastasis in other organs in time. Many parents do simply not have the money for the necessary journeys to these hospitals. Besides, the forum ignores that the thyroid cancer rate also rose dramatically with adults. E. Lengfelder wrote in the Münchner Medizinischen Wochenschrift that in the area of Gomel in Belarus the thyroid cancer rate rose to 58 times the original number with 0 to 18 year-olds in the 13 years after the disaster compared to the 13 years before it. In the group of 19 to 64 years of age the thyroid cancer rate after the disaster was 5 to 6 times higher than before, and the absolute number of adults affected is much higher than that of the children. The WHO report does not consider this worth mentioning, apparently.
End of debate?
The IAEA left little opportunity in Vienna to discuss these facts. However, several observers from the three mainly concerned states strongly opposed insinuations made by speakers, that everything worth knowing was known and the Book of Chernobyl could thus be shut. Rightly, they pointed out that the data of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had had to be studied for a much longer period and that several types of cancer were latent for decades. It was also criticized that the archives of underlying data are not available for independent research.
If media reactions are any indication, the conference certainly had some effect - the media obediently echoed the assertions, that health damages were much smaller than originally feared, or that they could not be distinguished among the natural causes of death anyway, or that so far only 50 deaths could really be attributed to the Chernobyl disaster, and that the essential problem was poverty.
In the meantime there are first reactions from the three countries concerned: “If we talk about radiation effects, then I think that the number of 4 000 represents the maximum”, says the Information Director of the Ministry for Atomic Energy in Moscow, which does not have any interest in exaggerating radiation risks and aspersing Russian reactor engineering.
The Ukraine deputy minister for Disaster Control, Tatjana Amosova, commented differently. She could not agree with these data, she said. The Ukraine paid compensations to relatives of more than 17 000 people, who were involved in the clearing up work and had died in the past 19 years.
Vladimir Tsalko from Belarus, the chairman of the Government Committee for the Consequences of the Chernobyl Disaster, said they could not accept the report and had many arguments on their side.They could not agree with many of data either.
Official representatives from Belarus and the Ukraine have announced a critical assessment of the report and demands for changes in the final text version.
WHO: Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programmes, Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum, Expert Group "Health" (GH), Working Draft, July 26, 2005.
Cardis, E., Anspough, L., Ivanov, V.K., Likhtariev, I.A., Mabuchi, K., Okeanov, A.E., Prisyazhniuk, A.E.: Estimated long term health effects of the Chernobyl accident; in: One Decade After Chernobyl. Summing up the Consequences of the Accident. Proceedings of an International Conference, Vienna, 1996. STI/PUB/1001, IAEA, Vienna, 1996, p.241-279.
Lengfelder, E., Demidschik, E., Demidtschik, J., Rabes, H., Sidorow, J., Knesewitsch, P., Frenzel, Ch.: 14 Jahre nach Tschernobyl: Schilddrüsenkrebs nimmt zu, Dramatische Fehleinschätzung Internationaler Experten, Münchner Medizinische Wochenschrift - Fortschritte der Medizin 142(2000)16,353-354.
Lengfelder, E., Gärtner, R., Stephan, R., Demidtschik, E.: Aus der Tschernobyl-Katastrophe lernen, Münchner Medizinische Wochenschrift - Fortschritte der Medizin 142(2000)355-357.
USSR State Committee on the Utilization of Atomic Energy: The Accident at the Chernobyl' Nuclear Power Plant and its Consequences, Information compiled for the IAEA Experts' Meeting 25-29 August 1986, Vienna, Part II. Annexes 2,7, Draft, August 1986.
Article published on 06-11-2005|
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