Potential health risks of the Japanese nuclear accident : what happened in Chernobyl

The Scientific Facts on the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident were reported in a leading scientific consensus report produced in 2006 by the UN Chernobyl Forum: “Chernobyl’s legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts

The Digest  produced by GreenFacts is a faithful summary of this report written in an accessible language:


In brief,  confusion about the impact of the accident has given rise to highly exaggerated claims that tens or even hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of the accident. In fact, says the report, a much smaller death toll can be directly attributable to Chernobyl radiation. Twenty-eight emergency workers died from acute radiation syndrome, 15 patients died from thyroid cancer, and it is roughly estimated that the total number of deaths from cancers caused by Chernobyl may reach 4000 among the 600 000 people having received the greastest exposures.

According to the report, in the general population of the contaminated regions, there is so far no convincing evidence that Chernobyl has increased the number of cases of leukaemia or solid cancers, except for childhood thyroid cancer.

Thousands of those who were children and adolescents at the time of the accident have developed thyroid cancer as a result of exposure to radioactive iodine. The majority of those cancers have been treated successfully. Among workers who were exposed to higher doses of radiation this exposure has contributed to an increase in the number of cases of certain types of leukaemia and solid cancers, and possibly of cardiovascular diseases and cataracts. Future analytical studies should be able to clarify this.


About 25 years ago, the most serious accident in nuclear history produced massive amounts of radioactive materials release into the environment, resulting in a radioactive cloud that spread over much of Europe. The greatest contamination occurred around the reactor in areas that are now part of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine.

On 26 April 1986, one of the reactors of the nuclear power plant exploded and the consequent fires that lasted for 10 days, led to huge amounts of radioactive materials being released into the environment and a radioactive cloud spreading over much of Europe. The greatest contamination occurred around the reactor in areas that are now part of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine.

Since the accident, some 600 000 people have been involved in emergency, containment, cleaning, and recovery operations, although only few of them have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Those who received the highest doses of radiation were the emergency workers and personnel that were on-site during the first days of the accident (approximately 1000 people).

At present, more than five million people live in areas that are considered to be ‘contaminated’ with radioactive materials from the Chernobyl accident 1. The area closest to the reactor site was most heavily contaminated and the 116 000 people who lived there were evacuated soon after the accident.

See more details in the GreenFacts Digest :


note : the content of the short reports prepared for the Blog of GreenFcats are not verified by its Scientific Board

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