by Wladimir Tchertkoff, author of “The Crime of Chernobyl: the Nuclear Gulag”
For a quarter of a century a systematic crime against humanity has been perpetrated by people in senior positions at the heart of Europe. The people living in Western Europe, so advanced technologically, remain indifferent and largely disinformed. In order to preserve the consensus around the military and civilian nuclear industry, the nuclear lobby and the official medical establishment have, for the past 26 years, knowingly condemned millions of human guinea pigs to an experiment on their bodies with new diseases in the vast laboratory provided by the territories contaminated by Chernobyl. Children are being treated like laboratory animals, under observation from French and German scientists, and French NGO’s like the CEPN, Mutadis Consultants, ETHOS and CORE, who must take their share of the responsibility. (Translator’s note: CEPN is the Centre d’étude sur l’Evaluation de la Protection dans le domaine Nucléaire ; Mutadis, ETHOS and CORE are all offshoots of the French nuclear industry, financed either through Electricité de France or the Autorité de Sureté Nucléaire.)
Photo 2005: Suffering from thyroid cancer, Oleg Shapiro, 54, and Dima Bogdanovich, 13, receive care at a thyroid hospital in Minsk, where surgery is performed on a daily basis. As a liquidator, Oleg was exposed to extreme levels of radiation. It was his third thyroid operation. Dima’s mother claims that Chernobyl’s nuclear fallout is responsible for her son’s cancer, but his doctors are more cautious: Belarusian officials are often instructed to downplay the severity of the radiation. Ref: National Geographic, March 2014.
The same fate awaits the Japanese people and their children living in areas contaminated by the Fukushima disaster because the same strategy is being put in place in Japan with the same players, the same pseudo-scientific justifications and under the aegis of the same authorities.
In this article I will detail the actions taken by representatives of the international scientific and political community at different levels of involvement that have harmed the children of Belarus around Chernobyl. First, we need to examine the management of the consequences of the disaster by the United Nations (UN) agencies responsible for nuclear power and health: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), promoter of nuclear power, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) whose goal is “to bring all people to the highest attainable level of health.” Both agencies undertake and endorse, from their position of authority within the scientific and medical domains, the criminal policy imposed by the five member states of the UN Security Council in the area of nuclear power in general and in the contaminated territories around Chernobyl and Fukushima in particular. This policy, while giving the appearance of being scientific, is based on a strategy of ignorance that is anything but scientific. The sleight of hand employed by the nuclear lobby is to use the experience of the bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to explain Chernobyl. The nuclear lobby compares the very high levels of radiation released in the initial flash when the bombs in Japan exploded with the very low levels of radiation around Chernobyl and claims a priori that these low levels cannot be the cause of the pathologies that have appeared since the Chernobyl accident. But the two events and the mechanisms by which they damage health are not the same. One does not explain the other. No atomic bomb exploded at Chernobyl. There were two explosions of an atomic nature (power excursions) and a fire that lasted 10 days. Today the ambient and surface background radiation around the power station is low. But huge amounts of artificial radioactive elements were ejected during the thermal explosions and while the fire raged for ten days, these elements were dispersed over great distances by the winds and rains. These long-lived elements contaminate the environment, plants, animals and humans. They have destroyed the health and the lives of hundreds of thousands of young liquidators who ingested and inhaled radioactive particles while working around the plant, and they will continue to contaminate future generations. Genetic and perigenetic damage will appear in the liquidators’ children and then be transmitted to subsequent generations, causing suffering that the first generation will not have known. (1).
WHO and IAEA recognise only the deaths of around fifty liquidators who worked at the plant in the first few days, and about 9000 additional cancers up to 2056, while in 2001, official data from the Ukraine and the Russian Federation claimed that 10% of the liquidators had already died and 30% of them were disabled (there were more than 800,000 from across the USSR). The 2 million farmers and more than 250,000 children from Belarus who live in radioactive areas, were, according to the IAEA and WHO, unharmed by the Chernobyl accident. The large number of illnesses, which are increasing and getting worse every year in Belarus, are attributed officially to stress, “radiophobia” or to parental alcoholism.
Abel Gonzales, Director of Radiation Transport and Waste Safety at the IAEA, Vice President of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), director of the Radioprotection Agency in Argentina, Argentina’s delegate to the IAEA and to UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation), and adviser to the WHO, told the Kiev conference, (4-8 June 2001) that was filmed by Swiss television, that it was impossible, given the low levels of radioactivity to prove a correlation between the radioactivity and illness – that it was “an insoluble epistemological problem.” He used these words: “there are no grounds for direct knowledge at this stage. We do not know! “.
And yet we do know that Professor Bandazhevsky ended up in prison and in exile precisely because he demolished this pretence that “we do not know” with his own rigorous scientific research that he undertook over a period of nine years. Unlike Gonzales (who is a physicist), Bandazhevsky is a pathologist and he mastered the “direct knowledge” that the IAEA representative said he lacked and that, he claimed, could not be known at this stage. Bandazhevsky discovered the correlation. He proved the cause and effect relationship between low level radiation and the destruction of vital organs.
During my investigations, I discovered that French scientists, members of non-governmental organisations, have played an active role in this harmful policy that condemns Belarusian children to suffer from a variety of unknown diseases, caused by the radiation. These children are not offered any radioprotection nor any qualified medical help. French organisations, financed by rich European countries collected data on the levels of contamination in people, gave them lessons on how to avoid excessive contamination, but did not offer medical treatment to the contaminated children they observed . Even worse, they refused to distribute the natural pectin-based additive to these highly contaminated children, a product which accelerates the elimination of radionuclides from the body and keeps the levels of contamination in children below the threshold at which damage to vital organs become irreversible.
Who are these people that have played such a role in a story that began 27 years ago? What are their goals? What exactly is going on?
Faced with the inaction and deceit of the Soviet Government about the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, the physicist, Professor Vassili Nesterenko academic, director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, contested government policy from the first few hours following the accident. He demanded the evacuation of residents within a 100 km radius of the plant fire. He was sacked from his post in July 1987, for alarmist behaviour and for sowing panic, and finally left the state run institute in 1990 to create the independent Institute of Radiation Safety “Belrad” to help children in the contaminated territories. Working in the most contaminated villages of Belarus, he organised 370 local radiological monitoring centres, where doctors, teachers and nurses were given training in radioprotection, and families were taught how to process food to reduce contamination. Funded initially by the government, during the brief period of “democratisation”, these centres are closed today after the nuclear lobby wrested control of the situation.
In 1996, Nesterenko successfully adopted a food additive made from apple pectin, recommended by the Ministries of Health in Russia and Ukraine, as an adsorbent of caesium 137. In the space of one month the amount of radionuclides in the body of the child can be reduced by 60-70% (2).
In 1994, Nesterenko met the rector of the Gomel Medical Institute, the pathologist and doctor Yuri Bandazhevsky, who, since 1991, had been researching the aetiology of the new diseases appearing among residents of the contaminated territories. With his wife Galina, a paediatrician and cardiologist, Bandazhevsky discovered that the frequency and severity of morphological and functional alterations of the heart increases in proportion to the amount of radioactive caesium incorporated into the body. He describes the heart disease found in young children, adolescents and adults with degenerative disease of the myocardium (heart muscle). as “caesium cardiomyopathy”, Sudden death occurs at any age, even in children. At levels above 50 becquerels per kilogram of body weight, irreversible lesions occur in vital organs.
From 1996, the “Belrad ‘Institute and the Institute of Gomel worked together. Nesterenko worked in the villages and concentrated on measuring the internal contamination of the body by caesium137 using human radiation spectrometers supplied by Western NGOs. Together, the two institutes showed that if the level of Cs 137 in the diet of children and laboratory animals is reduced, irreversible damage to vital organs can be prevented. This discovery opened up completely new directions for scientific research.
In April 1999, the two scientists were invited by the Belarusian parliament to take part in a commission to investigate the register of dose and the use of government funds by the Institute of Radiation Medicine at the Ministry of Health in its medical research on the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. Their findings displeased those committee members who were close to the Ministry.
Bandazhevsky and Nesterenko signed their own report and sent it to the Security Council of Belarus, which has overall responsibility for the health of the population. The Security Council insisted that the Ministry of Health withdraw its register and invited the latter to review the register “urgently on the basis of the conclusions” reached by Nesterenko and Bandazhevsky. Bandazhevsky sent a report to President Lukashenko, in which he severely criticized the work of the Institute of the Ministry and showed that 1998, out of a total of 17 billion roubles, only one billion had been spent effectively. On the night of 13th July 1999 he was arrested on the basis of a decree against terrorism introduced by Lukashenko. On 18th June 2001, he was sentenced by the military chamber of the Supreme Court of Belarus to 8 years in prison for corruption, in spite of the fact that there was no evidence against him.
ETHOS – Before this, in 1996, a group of French researchers, called ETHOS (a non-profit NGO as defined by No 1901 law), approached one of Professor Nesterenko’s centres for radiological control in the town of Olmany. ETHOS asked to be given the data it had collected and began to train its representatives in radioprotection in the contaminated territories around Chernobyl. ETHOS is an offshoot of CEPN, created in 1976 by EDF (Electricité de France) and the CEA (Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique). The French nuclear lobby is well and truly represented here!
One of ETHOS’ goals was to prepare a manual for the European Union on the management of nuclear accidents and of regions that have been contaminated with long-lived radionuclides, providing a programme of measures “for the sustainable management of radiological quality and social trust “(3). For three years, from 1996 to 1998, ETHOS exploited the data and measurements collected by personnel at the Olmany Centre, personnel that Nesterenko had trained and equipped, though ETHOS never compensated the technician for the extra work involved – a profitable and successful collaboration for the French at least. Then the Belarusian authorities, on advice from ETHOS, removed Nesterenko from the village of Olmany and from four other villages in the district of Stolin.
In effect, ETHOS had learned everything from Nesterenko and had collected his data in order to now supplant him. A real case of plagiarism but with one fundamental flaw: the ETHOS mission, as conceived by the French nuclear lobby had an insurmountable statutory limitation, that prevented it from taking any action in the area of health: ETHOS was not qualified to treat the population medically: (4) What was it doing, in that case, at Chernobyl?
I began to understand more when a friend, a sociologist, who had some involvement with ETHOS, told me that Jacques Lochard, leader of the ETHOS project, was employed by the CEA and had defined its task in this astonishing phrase. “We need to occupy the territory”.
Once it had completed its training with Nesterenko, ETHOS was able to present itself as the scientific reference point for radioprotection around Chernobyl and it then became the coordinator of the international Programme CORE (Cooperation and Rehabilitation Programme in the Belarusian territories contaminated by Chernobyl), whose founding members are the Chernobyl Committee of the Government of Belarus, the United Nations Development Programme, the French and German embassies, the European Commission, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation of Switzerland, UNESCO, the World Bank and four districts of Belarus.
On 18th June 2003, I gave a detailed review of this programme to European Deputies and to various political and institutional authorities, on behalf of the Association Enfants de Tchernobyl, Bélarus (Children of Chernobyl, Belarus). In the accompanying notes I wrote:
“This program ignores the health problems in a region where more than 80% of children are ill following the disaster at Chernobyl, while this figure was only 20% before 1986 (5). The Memorandum of the CORE Programme provides for an independent audit after five years of operation, to assess its effectiveness. Our criticisms need to be taken into account from the outset of this project, because the health catastrophe in the contaminated territories is increasing and deepening, like a major epidemic. The contaminated population that has already been abandoned for 17 years by the international community cannot wait an extra five years for a project that does not provide qualified medical intervention. ”
No response. The role of the ETHOS-CORE operation became clear in an article in Le Monde (20.02.08) that revealed “France is preparing for the consequences of a Chernobyl-type accident on its soil,” and that the ASN (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire) has launched a study on the feedback from the post-Chernobyl accident management, entrusted to the company Mutadis Consultants, the ETHOS coordinator.
The aim of the initiative was “to assess the relevance of this feedback in the social, economic and political context of France and the European Union; to learn lessons from the perspective of a preventive system of post-accident management.”
The final report published on 19th March 2007 was entitled “Feedback from the post-accident management in the Belarusian context” and was signed by Gilles Hériard-Dubreuil (Mutadis Consultants), Jacques Lochard (CEPN), Henri Ollagnon (Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon), all three initiators of the European CORE program.
Thus, supported politically and financially by the nuclear lobby and the nuclear states, ETHOS, which appeared to be helping to solve the problems caused by the Chernobyl disaster, was in fact blocking the recognition of the health catastrophe that independent scientists like Nesterenko and Bandajevsky were trying to expose in the face of a thousand obstacles. The importance for the lobby was to define radiological quality and to build social trust (sic) following a nuclear disaster. The scientific information provided to Western observers, by the contaminated children, the guinea pigs, would not be altered since the internal radiation load had not been reduced with the use of the adsorbent that CORE refused to fund. A puzzle, made up of apparently unconnected pieces, only comprehensible once it is understood that what is important is the collection of useful data in the management of a major nuclear accident in one of the richest countries in Europe. Yuri Chtcherbak, medical doctor and writer, leader of the Ukrainian Green Party in 1990 and elected to the first “democratic” Supreme Soviet of the USSR, recounted a conversation he had with a French professor. He had asked the man what he considered the most significant aspect of the accident at Chernobyl and the man replied that: “It’s very interesting! I would never have been able to set up this sort of experiment in my laboratory. I can now observe.” Chtcherbak commented “It’s hard to imagine the cynicism of these people, of their behaviour!”
I do not know if Chtcherbak could imagine at that time that the cynicism that so outraged him was only a foreshadowing of the systematic crime perpetrated at the level of European governments: to refuse to administer a naturally preventive product that is as well-tolerated as pectin to the children of Chernobyl so that they could undertake a study on how to manage the consequences of a disaster here. This is intolerable.
I wrote to Jacques Lochard, “Radioprotection in the territories contaminated by Chernobyl is impossible without scientific measurement of the body of each child and of the food the child eats. This is what the Ministry of Health of Belarus will NOT do because it wants to continue to publish its generalised and false statistics. This is the reason for its opposition to Professor Nesterenko’s use of human radiation spectrometers whose results reveal the true levels of contamination. These measures are essential for targeted prophylaxis of each child and to establish the correlation between the radioactive load in the body and the many illnesses studied by the pathologist Bandazhevsky. But they also reveal the true extent of the Chernobyl disaster, which has only just begun. To ignore the science, and concentrate only on education and social support, can become an alibi for the cover-up, and leaves people in a state of “ignorance and uncertainty” (6). You are right to hope that the Belarusian people take their destiny into their own hands. Belarusians like the scientist Nesterenko, for example. Either their expertise will be used to create genuine radioprotection policies or there will be no radioprotection at all. Without these scientists, the impoverished peasant farmers will remain trapped, with neither means nor knowledge and they will never have the strength to face their destiny. Nesterenko’s 370 centres must be restored to him. ”
1 – Goncharova R.I. & Ryabokon, 25-26th October 1994, Conference “Radiobiological Consequences of Nuclear Accidents”.
2 – Swiss Medical Weekly 2004;134:24–27 · www.smw.ch
3 – International publication called SAGE to which the academic Vassili Nesterenko contributed. Internationally renowned as a physicist, a liquidator from Chernobyl in the first hours of the accident, a specialist in radioprotection and unequalled in his expertise on the contaminated territories of Belarus, it was logical to turn to him for this information. Like the 4 other foreign writers at SAGE, Nesterenko provided written contributions to the report. He was assured by the CEPN that his text on radioprotection measures (anthropogammetric measures, pectin cures, information for children, parents and teachers) would be taken up in full, unedited in the SAGE project. In fact, the essential measures and his four main recommendations in the event of a major accident, in the conclusion to his text, were not included in the publication. The fact that they included his name in the list of authors at the front of the book after censoring his text is a morally reprehensible act on the part of those responsible for its publication.
4 – M. Henry Ollagnon, of l’Institut National d’Agronomie Paris-Grignon, member of the ETHOS team, advocated sustainable development in the contaminated territories as a way to ensure their rehabilitation. During a conference at Stoline in November 2001, he told Professor Michel Fernex : “The work we’re doing is really good, but the children are becoming more and more ill”.
5 – Statement from the President of the Academy of Sciences in Belarus, in December 1999, confirmed by the Vice–Minister of Health of Belarus at a parliamentary hearing about the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, in April 2000.
6 – In 1958, a year before the agreement was signed that subordinated the WHO to the IAEA in the area of radiation and health (28th May 1959 WHA 12/40), WHO published a report analysing the “ mental health issues arising from the peaceful uses of atomic energy” The report concluded with the words ” But in the long run the greatest hope of mental health in the future of the peaceful uses of atomic energy is the raising of a generation which has learnt to live on terms with ignorance and uncertainty and which, in the words of Joseph Addison, the 18th century English poet, “rides in the Whirlwind, and directs the Storm”. (World Health Organisation Technical Report Series no 151). Thus the strategy of ignorance and deceit was protected and made legitimate.
Article published in “Japanese Scientists”, December 2012.
Note from Susie Greaves, the translator of this article by Wladimir Tchertkoff, and of his book “Le crime de Tchernobyl: le goulag nucleaire”published by Actes Sud 2006
Unfortunately, ETHOS, with Jacques Lochard once more as director, has been visiting Japan for the last two years, advising the population on radioprotection. Lochard promotes ETHOS along with his counterpart Ms Ryoko Ando, the director of the NGO, ETHOS Fukushima. In November 2011 before ETHOS Fukushima started up, the Japanese government held a meeting at the Cabinet Office to which Lochard was invited.
At public meetings, Lochard speaks with pride of the radioprotection work done by ETHOS and CORE around Chernobyl. His message to the Japanese people is remarkably similar to the message given to the victims of Chernobyl. Psychological factors such as poor attitude, lack of determination, and fear are the real enemies. He says “[…] the fear of radiation is slowly vanishing outside the affected areas around Fukushima….there is really no objective reason for being scared taking into account the extremely low levels of exposure….a key issue will be to maintain strong links (social economic and cultural) between the affected areas and the rest of the country…the experience of Chernobyl has shown that over time the stigma of the territories and their inhabitants is a serious issue and it is important to take action against this risk[…] The decision about the 20 mSv is a good news. This will allow many people to return to their home soon. Of course the objective will be to implement all feasible protection actions to reduce and maintain exposure as low as reasonably achievable if possible below 1 mSv […].
It is worth noting that in Belarus, twenty or so years ago, it was Jacques Lochard who conducted cost benefit analysis on evacuation plans for the IAEA Chernobyl Project. While the former Soviet Union scholars demanded the residents’ relocation where levels were above 1mSv/year, and experts from ICRP and WHO, at levels above 5 mSv/yr, Lochard, considering the cost, insisted that it could be up to 100 mSv/yr. Possibly because Lochard proposed this ridiculous figure, a compromise was made and the mandatory evacuation level was set at 5 mSv/yr. One has to ask whether Lochard, an economist by profession, see the contradictory nature of these various pronouncements. Either it is damaging to health to live in areas contaminated at levels above 1 mSv/y or it is not. Of course, his reference to ALARA, the cynical principle used throughout the industry (as low as reasonably achievable), tells us all we need to know. Whether it is damaging to their health or not, people will not be evacuated if the government cannot or will not find the funds.