AW: [ RadSafe ] Battle for Chernobyl

Franz Schönhofer franz.schoenhofer at
Tue Apr 3 08:25:50 CDT 2007


The Chernobyl accident happened 21 years ago. This is time enough to create
all kind of speculations, stories and especially numbers which all have one
thing in common: They cannot be verified, but most of them can be simply
categorized as not being correct. One exception is the number of 31 deaths
from acute radiation sickness and even more important from the so-called
beta burns. Even after 21 years new "facts" and numbers appear - like the 60
dead helicopter pilots, which I never heard of before. Given the vast number
of liquidators involved there would have far more than 2500 persons died in
an unaffected population during the time interval of 21 years! 

As it could be seen well in the documentations showing original material the
liquidators had practically no radiation protection equipment but their
exposure was "limited" by limiting the time they spent in the highly
radioactive zones. Of all I know, there was hardly any radiation measurement
equipment available, in any case not for the liquidators. Most numbers on
exposure seem therefore to be very rough estimates and I would not use them
to calculate any radiation damage or even deaths. The horror numbers of
Greenpeace and the like are merely fiction and politically motivated. Btw it
took all those anti's weeks if not months after the accident to start their

There is no doubt, that in the Sovjet Union record keeping was unreliable,
but in the case of the Chernobyl accident lack of records is fully
understandable. In such a catastrophic situation one has to fight the
consequences and not to keep detailled records. No ressources are available.
I have been heavily involved in fighting the consequences of the Chernobyl
accident in Austria. My country was very far away, with no immediate and
acute danger of radiation, though being the most affected one in Western
Europe, but there was a completely chaotic situation in Austria (ever since
criticized by me!) and all my efforts were in vain to calm down some
"decision makers" and to convince them to use their brains and not let
measure hundreds of thousands of samples of no worth on a 24h 7 days a week
basis for getting the situation under control. 

I think one has to be very cautious when dealing nowadays with Chernobyl
reports. The reports released by Western European Countries within about
half a year after the accident give very reliable information on the impact
in these countries. For the Austrian one I can claim this, because I wrote
it myself, but it is in German and hardly available any more. The IAEA
report of a big international conference on "10 years after Chernobyl" gave
an excellent summary, the IAEA conference on the occasion of the 20th
anniversary I did not attend, but I would believe that you might find
answers to your questions there. Both publications should be still available
and I recommend to look for them at the IAEA web site. 

Hope this helps a little.

Best regards,


Franz Schoenhofer, PhD
MinRat i.R.
Habicherg. 31/7
A-1160 Wien/Vienna

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: radsafe-bounces at [mailto:radsafe-bounces at] Im Auftrag
von Conklin, Al (DOH)
Gesendet: Montag, 02. April 2007 17:46
An: radsafe
Betreff: [ RadSafe ] Battle for Chernobyl

I was also taken in by the joke until I got through about twenty
e-mails. Glad its not true.

Anyway, last week on Public Television, there was a program that I
believe was titled Battle for Chernobyl. It was very interesting, and
has probably been on before, but I missed it. In it, they stated that 60
helicopter pilots died, and 2500 "liquidators" have died, all of effects
from the exposures they received, and that 40% of all liquidators are
now on disability, due to their exposures. They also stated that these
are undocumented, but reported doses to most in the hundreds of Rem.
Now, knowing the media as I do, these numbers are suspect, but do any of
you have a firmer number? I've always heard only 31 died originally of
acute radiation sickness (29 fire fighters and two operators, I think),
but if the reported doses are true, I would expect more, but not the
tens of thousands reported by Greenpeace and others. There is also the
reported problem of unreliability of record keeping by the old Soviet
I try to keep current for any questions that come up during my training,
so I would appreciate any help or references. Thanks.

Allen W. Conklin
Lead Trainer & Health Physicist
Radiological Preparedness Section
Office of Radiation Protection
Department of Health
Town Center 2, 111 Israel Rd.
P.O. Box 47827
Olympia WA  98504-7827
office (360) 236-3261
cell    (360) 239-1237
fax     (360) 236-2255
> Public Health -- Always working for a healthier and safer Washington.
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