30 years on do we still have our head in the sand on nuclear fallout?

As Europe wakes up on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, thoughts will again go to the risks versus

As Europe wakes up on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, thoughts will again go to the risks versus the benefits of nuclear industries. In Australia and New Zealand we’re likely less literally, geographically and emotionally affected by the fallout (no pun intended).

We didn’t go to sleep every night of the Cold War wondering if ‘the other side’ would push the button before sunrise, we didn’t have government warnings playing on our televisions, showing what we should do in the event of nuclear attack or accident and we didn’t have medium range missiles pointed at a multitudes of important installations throughout our country.

Apart from the reactor in Lucas Heights in Sydney we haven’t even been used to nuclear powered industries.

In America they had the 1979 scare of the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station.  In the threat of a nuclear melt down on US soil, it made the threats impossible to ignore.

The 1983 movie The Day After was one of the first to detail the realities of the health and environmental impacts of nuclear power and fallout in the modern era. Over 100 million people in the USA tuned in to watch its first release on television. The brutal realities of radioactive contamination had a sobering effect on audiences.

When released in Australia it shocked audiences who were not, and maybe still are not, aware of the realities that other countries have had to consider more often, and more deeply because they live with it.

The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 brought forward Europe’s worst fears with the biggest totally man-made disaster of all times. The explosion from the melt down blew the 1,ooo tonne roof off the reactor and spewed radioactive materials into the surrounding areas and the higher environment. Contamination wafted as far as Ireland.

Two plant workers were killed on the day, and 28 mostly unprotected emergency workers trying to put out the fire died within a few weeks. Effects of the contamination led to increased death and illness from Chernobyl-related cancers.

The UK Daily Mail reports that those figures could be anything between 9,000 to 90,000

“The World Health Organization’s cancer research arm suggests 9,000 people will die due to Chernobyl-related cancer and leukemia if the deaths follow a similar pattern to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. The Greenpeace environmental group says the eventual Chernobyl death toll could be 90,000.”

So here we are 30 years later and still the total threat of the explosion are not known, nor the damage anywhere near being repaired.

The 2011 Fukushima Accident highlighted that meltdowns are still a real risk and threat even with the lessons learned from Chernobyl.

Given that Australia exports the majority of uranium that powers nuclear plants, is it strange that we haven’t really embraced nuclear powered industry?



  1. Mary Merrington  

    Fukushima is an even greater and ongoing disaster!
    Just check out Dr Helen Calicott’s website to find out more info……

  2. Perhaps we did not have the worries of Europe, however, oh ye of selective memory, we had the Allied Tests of the Pacific during the ’50’s, the Brits (and ourselves) detonating nuclear weapons in initially the Indian Ocean Islands in close proximity of the WA coast, followed by a series of tests taking place on the Australian mainland – South Aussie and Central Australia into the ’60’s
    This was then followed up by the French and the Muraroa Atolls, in close proximity to the then New Hebrides, the French saboteurs who bombed and sank the Rainbow Warrior at harbour against a wharf in New Zealand, killing the lone crewman aboard
    The 2 so termed “agents” were arrested, all kinds of (very warranted) claims were made against the entire “operation”, the French managed to get their people back under an agreement the man and woman would be tried in a French court
    Yes, the French carried out the trial
    The punishment awarded for murder against carried out in a sovereign country, the wrecking of the vessel and damages incurred was awarded by the French courts
    Therefore the 2 agents were banished to Nouméa for 12 months
    At that time the French had control of the Sahara Desert, which, I suggest, would have been a far more suitable country for the French to play silly buggers in rather than come screwing around in our part of the world
    No, you are correct, we did not have the nightmare of the baddies of the day dropping a nuke on us – however, we did have the concerns and stress of our so termed “friends” detonating nuclear weapons all around us – that actual took place
    Europe was only concerned that it MOIGHT take place

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