Greenpeace report says Chernobyl death toll has been underestimated

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A map showing radioactive contamination by Caesium-137 around Chernobyl

A report published by Greenpeace questions an estimate made by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that 4000 deaths have resulted from the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Greenpeace claims that this estimate is 'a gross simplification of the breadth of human suffering' and that over the last 15 years, 60,000 have died in Russia because of the accident, and estimates that the total death toll for Ukraine and Belarus could be another 140,000.

The figure of 4,000 deaths given by the IAEA report referred to cancer fatalities within a group of 600,000 people, comprising of those who were sent in to clean up after the accident and those relocated after the accident. The Greenpeace report calls this figure 'misleading', saying that the report 'hid the true scale of human impact of Chernobyl'.

Ivan Blokov of Greenpeace said "it is appalling that the IAEA is whitewashing the impacts of the most serious nuclear accident in human history".

The IAEA have not yet responded to the report.

The World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Gregory Hartl stated that "The Greenpeace report is looking at all of Europe, whereas our report looks at only the most affected areas of the three most affected countries." Furthermore, "The WHO felt it had recourse to the best national and international scientific evidence and studies when it came up with its estimates of [up to] 9,000 excess deaths for the most affected areas. We feel they're very sound."

The report has been released at a time when the UK government is considering whether new nuclear power stations should be built in the country.