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Reuters Chernobyl article

Ukraine Tallies Sharp Rise In Illnesses Near Chernobyl


KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainians have suffered almost four times more
radiation-related diseases since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986,
the Health Ministry said Wednesday.

The ministry said children were the greatest sufferers, with illnesses from
radiation five times the level recorded before the explosion.

 "Chernobyl will be with us forever," the Health Minister, Andriy Serdyuk,
said at a news conference in Kiev. "Our children will continue to be
polluted by radiation."

A Soviet-designed reactor exploded on April 26, 1986, spreading a poisonous
radioactive cloud north of Kiev.

The disaster was first hushed up. But a few days later, in the first major
test for Mikhail S. Gorbachev's policy of glasnost, or openness, in the
Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine and Belarus were
moved from land contaminated by the disaster.

 Twelve years later, radiation continues to poison the land.

 One official at Chernobyl said this month in an interview with the British
newspaper The Independent that  radioactive water inside the reactor -- now
entombed in steel and concrete -- threatened to leak into the underground
water table.

In January officials at Chernobyl said the foundations of the reactor
casing -- which holds tons of lethal radioactive dust -- are crumbling.

According to the Health Ministry, the death rate in 1997 among those who
remained in contaminated zones was 18.27 percent higher than the national

 Radiation has also increased the incidence of diseases affecting the
respiratory, nervous and digestive systems,  with thyroid cancers among
children 10 times the 1986 level.

  "From 1981 to 1985, there were about five cases of thyroid cancer among
children each year," said Valery Tereshenko, a doctor and an official
spokesman for Chernobyl issues. "Now we have 50 each year."

 The Health Ministry estimates the number of deaths attributed to the
disaster at 3,576, including 797 emergency workers sent to clean up the

On Wednesday the Deputy Minister for Emergency Response, Vladimir Kholosha,
said the disaster had cost  Ukraine $120 billion in economic damage, from
lost crops to lost power. He said he had only $7.5 million for medical care
in the affected area.

Chernobyl is supposed to close in 2000. But earlier this month, President
Leonid Kuchma threatened to keep it running if Western nations fail to
deliver $1.6 billion in loans needed to complete two nuclear power plants
in  the west of the country. Ukraine says it needs the plants, both 85
percent complete, to replace Chernobyl's  generating capacity.
Gary L. Schroeder
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Environmental Protection Office