The 25th anniversary of Chernobyl’s nuclear accident comes at a time when the world is again focused on the dangers this type of energy poses. Some are describing the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima plant as the Chernobyl of the 21st century. Although they are both major accidents, experts say Chernobyl remains the worst disaster in the history of civil nuclear energy. According to Dr Michel Chouha from Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety organisation (IRSN), there are also are differences between the two accidents: “In the case of the Chernobyl accident the underlying cause was human error, which was aggravated by technology and reactor design. Fukushima was caused by a natural disaster. Most of the consequences of Fukushima can’t be compared with the consequences of Chernobyl.”
A conference in Kiev this April raised 550 million euros to build a new concrete casing and storage unit for the nuclear waste. That money is 75 per cent of the total amount needed for construction, which will begin in 2015.
However, for some people, like Yuri Andriev who represents people affected by the accident at Chernobyl, the project doesn’t go far enough:
“The new shelters proposed will be constructed in material that is too light and fragile. It won’t solve the main problem of what to do with the fuel and highly radioactive material. It’s also a very difficult project to achieve technically.”
Nevertheless, Ukrainian authorities are optimistic about the future of nuclear energy. Four plants with 15 reactors produce nearly half the country’s electricity. Controversially, the plan is to build a dozen more in the next 20 years. Dr Chouha thinks when it comes to nuclear energy, it is a case of proceeding with caution: “Nuclear energy can be of great service to humanity, but it will always be potentially dangerous. We have to be able to anticipate that problems may occur – especially serious accidents. Not thinking of the risks will lead to failure in the future.”