Recalculating the Cost of Chernobyl
EUROPE, not the Soviet Union, islikely to be most affected by the medical consequences of Chernobyl's fallout, according to a new study sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE). Twenty-one thousand Europeans may die of cancer in the next 50 years because they were exposed to radiation from the accident. That is nearly twice the number of victims projected in the U.S.S.R.
The estimated cancer deaths for Europeare five times greater than the number given in a U.S. interagency report released in February and considerably higher than the figure used by European governments. There is no significant change in the expected impact on the United States, which remains virtually nil.
The new numbers, reported on 29 Aprilat a meeting of the American Occupational Medical Association in Philadelphia, have already been criticized as too high. Oddly, the criticism comes from an agency that is often accused of inflating risks itself: the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In this case, the roles are reversed. The safety enforcer is playing down the hazards, and DOE, the friend of nuclear power, is playing them up.
The sponsor of this report, DOE's officeof health and environment research, has set no date for its release. But the chief author, Marvin Goldman of the University of California at Davis, gave a preview to nuclear industry physicians in April. His coauthors are Lynn Anspaugh of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Robert Catlin of the Electric Power Research Institute.
Goldman says that all earlier reports havea key weakness: they rely heavily on radiation data provided last summer by the Soviets. The information was good, he says, but limited. The Soviets halted their analysis at the border and apparently did not report on debris that went high into the atmosphere. It was obvious, however, that fallout went aloft, crossed the border, and spread around the Northern Hemisphere. The question is, how much? To get a full picture of the radioactive cloud and its...
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