[FoRK] Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power

Damien Morton dmorton at bitfurnace.com
Wed Mar 23 14:40:11 PDT 2011

On Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 4:02 PM, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:

> The main worst case scenario is scaring a lot of people.  In a modern,
> practical nuclear plant, it doesn't seem possible under any scenario to
> cause more overall damage and cost to people than our currently dominant
> energy sources already do every year.

Natalia Manzurova, one of the few survivors among those directly involved in
the long cleanup of Chernobyl, was a 35-year-old engineer at a nuclear plant
in Ozersk, Russia, in April 1986 when she and 13 other scientists were told
to report to the wrecked, burning plant in the northern Ukraine.

It was just four days after the world's biggest nuclear disaster spewed
enormous amounts of radiation into the atmosphere and forced the evacuation
of 100,000 people.

Manzurova and her colleagues were among the roughly 800,000 "cleaners" or
"liquidators" in charge of the removal and burial of all the contamination
in what's still called the dead zone.

She spent 4 1/2 years helping clean the abandoned town of Pripyat, which was
less than two miles from the Chernobyl reactors. The plant workers lived
there before they were abruptly evacuated.

Manzurova, now 59 and an advocate for radiation victims worldwide, has the
"Chernobyl necklace" -- a scar on her throat from the removal of her thyroid
-- and myriad health problems. But unlike the rest of her team members, who
she said have all died from the results of radiation poisoning, and many
other liquidators, she's alive.

AOL News spoke with Manzurova about the nuclear disaster in Japan with the
help of a translator on the telephone Monday from Vermont. Manzurova, who
still lives in Ozersk, was beginning a one-week informational
the U.S. organized by the Beyond Nuclear
<http://www.beyondnuclear.org/> watchdog

*AOL News: What was your first reaction when you heard about Fukushima?*
*Manzurova:* It felt like déjà vu. I felt so worried for the people of Japan
and the children especially. I know the experience that awaits them.

*But experts say Fukushima is not as bad as Chernobyl.*
Every nuclear accident is different, and the impact cannot be truly measured
for years. The government does not always tell the truth. Many will never
return to their homes. Their lives will be divided into two parts: before
and after Fukushima. They'll worry about their health and their children's
health. The government will probably say there was not that much radiation
and that it didn't harm them. And the government will probably not
compensate them for all that they've lost. What they lost can't be

*What message do you have for Japan?*
Run away as quickly as possible. Don't wait. Save yourself and don't rely on
the government because the government lies. They don't want you to know the
truth because the nuclear industry is so powerful.

*When you were called to go to Chernobyl, did you know how bad it was there?
I had no idea and never knew the true scope until much later. It was all
covered in secrecy. I went there as a professional because I was told to --
but if I was asked to liquidate such an accident today, I'd never agree. The
sacrifices the Fukushima workers are making are too high because the nuclear
industry was developed in such a way that the executives don't hold
themselves accountable to the human beings who have to clean up a disaster.
It's like nuclear slavery.

*What was your first impression of Chernobyl?*
It was like a war zone where a neutron bomb had gone off. I always felt I
was in the middle of a war where the enemy was invisible. All the houses and
buildings were intact with all the furniture, but there wasn't a single
person left. Just deep silence everywhere. Sometimes I felt I was the only
person alive on a strange planet. There are really no words to describe it.

*What did your work as a liquidator entail?*
First, we measured radiation levels and got vegetation samples to see how
high the contamination was. Then bulldozers dug holes in the ground and we
buried everything -- houses, animals, everything. There were some wild
animals that were still alive, and we had to kill them and put them in the

*Were any pets left in the houses?*
The people had only a few hours to leave, and they weren't allowed to take
their dogs or cats with them. The radiation stays in animals' fur and they
can't be cleaned, so they had to be abandoned. That's why people were crying
when they left. All the animals left behind in the houses were like
dried-out mummies. But we found one dog that was still alive.

*Where did you find the dog and how did he survive?*
We moved into a former kindergarten to use as a laboratory and we found her
lying in one of the children's cots there. Her legs were all burned from the
radiation and she was half blind. Her eyes were all clouded from the
radiation. She was slowly dying.

*Were you able to rescue her?*
No. Right after we moved in, she disappeared. And this is the amazing part.
A month later we found her in the children's ward of the (abandoned)
hospital. She was dead. She was lying in a child's bed, the same size bed we
found her in the kindergarten. Later we found out that she loved children
very much and was always around them.

*How did working in the dead zone begin to affect your health?*
I started to feel as if I had the flu. I would get a high temperature and
start to shiver. What happens during first contact with radiation is that
your good flora is depleted and the bad flora starts to flourish. I suddenly
wanted to sleep all the time and eat a lot. It was the organism getting all
the energy out.

*How much radiation were you subjected to?*
We were never told. We wore dosimeters which measured radiation and we
submitted them to the bosses, but they never gave us the results.

*But didn't you realize the danger and want to leave?*
Yes, I knew the danger. All sorts of things happened. One colleague stepped
into a rainwater pool and the soles of his feet burned off inside his boots.
But I felt it was my duty to stay. I was like a firefighter. Imagine if your
house was burning and the firemen came and then left because they thought it
was too dangerous.

*When did you discover the thyroid tumor?*
They found it during a routine medical inspection after I had worked there
several years. It turned out to be benign. I don't know when it started to
develop. I had an operation to remove half the thyroid gland. The tumor grew
back, and last year I had the other half removed. I live on (thyroid)
hormones now.

*Why did you go back to Chernobyl after getting a thyroid tumor?*
Right around the time of my operation, the government passed a law saying
the liquidators had to work for exactly 4 1/2 years to get our pension and
retire. If you left even one day early, you would not get any benefits.

*Really? That seems beyond cruel.*
It's why the nuclear industry is dangerous. They want to deny the dangers.
They kept changing the law about what benefits we'd get because if they
admitted how much we were affected, it would look bad for the industry. Now
we hardly get any benefits.

*Did your health worsen after you finally finished work at Chernobyl?*
I was basically disabled at 43. I was having fits similar to epileptic fits.
My blood pressure was sky high. It was hard to work for more than six months
a year. The doctors didn't know what to do with me. They wanted to put me in
a psychiatric ward and call me crazy. Finally they admitted it was because
of the radiation.

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