April 18, 2006

Chernobyl death toll underestimated: Greenpeace

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - The death toll from the Chernobyl
nuclear disaster 20 years ago could be far higher than official
estimates, with up to 93,000 extra cancer deaths worldwide,
environmental group Greenpeace said on Tuesday.

Based on research by the National Academy of Sciences of
Belarus, the report said that of the 2 billion people globally
affected by the Chernobyl fallout, 270,000 will develop cancers
as a result, of which 93,000 will prove fatal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimates
4,000 people died as a result of the explosion in reactor
number four at the power plant in the Ukrainian town of
Chernobyl on April 26, 1986.

The explosion sent a plume of radioactive dust across
northern and western Europe and as far as the eastern United

"It is appalling that the IAEA is whitewashing the impacts
of the most serious nuclear accident in human history," said
Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner Ivan Blokov.

The IAEA was not immediately available for comment.

The Greenpeace report further extrapolates that in total
some 200,000 people in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus could have
already died as a result of medical conditions -- such as
cardiovascular diseases -- attributable to the disaster.

"Our problem is that there is no accepted methodology to
calculate the numbers of people who might have died from such
diseases," Greenpeace campaigner Jan van de Putte told Reuters.

"The only methodology that is accepted is for calculating
fatal cancers," he said.

The report said the incidence of cancer in Belarus jumped
40 percent between 1990 and 2000, with children not even born
at the time now showing an 88.5-fold increase in thyroid

Leukemia is also reported to be on the increase in the
region, as are cases of intestinal, rectal, breast, bladder,
kidney and lung cancers.

The relocation of hundreds of thousands of people as a
result of the explosion has put further strains on the
population, the report said.

"The Chernobyl accident disrupted whole societies in
Belarus, Ukraine and Russia," Greenpeace concluded.

"A complex interaction between factors such as poor health,
increased costs of health systems, relocation of people, loss
of agricultural territories and contamination of foodstuffs,
economic crisis, the costs of remediation to the states,
political problems, a weakened workforce ... creates a general