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Belarus: the silent victim of Chernobyl?

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By Andrea Neri
Belarus: the silent victim of Chernobyl?

<p>Focus on the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, whose 30-year anniversary is being marked this week, naturally falls upon the host country, Ukraine.</p> <p>Yet the catastrophe had a major impact upon neighbouring Belarus, heard a recent conference on Chernobyl, held at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilisations in Paris.</p> <p>On April 26, 1986, and in the days after the reactor’s explosion, a southerly wind pushed around 70 percent of the radioactive cloud spread over Belarus, particularly the south and south-east. As a consequence, 23 percent of Belarus’ territory was contaminated, compared to 4.8 percent in Ukraine and 0.5 percent in Russia.</p> <a data-flickr-embed="true" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/euronews/albums/72157667322431911" title="Belarus: the silent victim of Chernobyl?"><img src="https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1493/25973328634_65454c0c6a_z.jpg" width="606" height="408" alt="Belarus: the silent victim of Chernobyl?"></a><script async src="//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <br /> <p>The most-affected region is Polesia, close to the Ukrainian border, and the districts of Mazyr and Gomel, which suffered the same level of radiation as the Ukrainian side. </p> <p>In addition the districts of Moguilev, in the east, and Vitebsk in the north-east, have similar amounts of Caesium-137 contamination. </p> <p>Belarus is affected at different levels but being a “soft” dictatorship it is very complicated to manage the contamination.</p> <p>Over the last decade President Alexander Lukashenko has been conducing a massive campaign to minimise the effects of radiation. There is no medical records of disease and no state help for the population. Nevertheless, the Belorussian side have created the so-called Polesky State Radioecological Reserve. In principle, it is an off limits area devoted to the study of a contaminated habitat. As a term of comparison, the contamination by Plutonium 239 (very high in the city of Prip’jat’) has a half-life of 24,100 years: it means that radiation levels will be halved in 24,100 years </p> <p><strong>Photos credit</strong> © Andrea S. Neri, 2010</p>