The catastrophic ramifications of Chernobyl’s nuclear disaster are still felt twenty-five years later. In light of the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan, science correspondent Miles O’Brien of PBS NewsHour returns to the site of Chernobyl’s meltdown to explore what life is like now.
Upon entry, O’Brien finds the “infamous ghost town” to be surprisingly busy. In the exclusion zone office, phone calls flood in; a newfound curiosity has been sparked by the Fukushima crisis.
Physicist Gennadi Milinevsky offers O’Brien a tour of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. They stop at a monument for the firefighters who worked for 10 days to end the nuclear inferno. Milinevsky attests that these firefighters were heroes, remarking, “Many of them received a dose not connected with -- with life.” The men were sent to a Moscow clinic for treatment, but died within one month.
Vasyl Kavatsiuk, a Chernobyl liquidator, spent 37 days working at the destroyed reactor. He says, “If you think about that, you are getting more sick, more than you're supposed to be. You are just thinking, ‘I have to do this. This is my job. I have to finish this. I have to do this.' Anybody -- anyhow, somebody must do that.”
Kavatsiuk later collapsed and had to be medevaced to Moscow. Both of his daughters contracted leukemia, which he has “no doubt” is connected to Chernobyl.
The effects of Chernobyl’s nuclear disaster continue to linger.
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