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Greek anti-nuclear activists want the closure of Kozloduy NPP and the ‘freezing’ of Belene

18 March 2011 / 22:03:05  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The discussion about the future of nuclear energy worldwide is expected to burst soon after the realization of the more optimistic or pessimistic scenario for the nuclear power reactors in Fukushima NPP in Japan.

The world anti-nuclear movement is gaining strength and it believes that the time has come for humanity to realize that nuclear energy is not so safe and to focus on alternative energy sources. Since its establishment in 1980, the association International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War has the sole purpose of "creating a more peaceful and safer world, free from the threat of nuclear destruction." The federation, which has affiliates in 63 countries, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. The Greek Medical Association for the Protection of the Environment and Against Nuclear and Biochemical Threat is the Greek branch of the world federation. GRReporter interviewed its President Dr. Maria Arvaniti - Sotiropoulou.

Ms. Sotiropoulou, what are the consequences of radiation on the human body?

Effects of exposure to radiation depend on the amount of the radioactivity absorbed and the radiological elements that affect the human body. Let me first describe the sharp exposure to radioactivity the victims of which were the fire fighters who approached the reactor in Chernobyl. After their exposure to this type of radiation people first suffer from dizziness, vomiting, diarrhoea, hair loss, haemorrhage (bleeding), other infections caused by the sharp weakening of the immune system, up to coma and death. In this case, their condition can not be improved, especially if the amount of ingested radioactivity was significant. This could happen to someone unaware that he is carrying a radiological material in his pocket, as has happened with some intelligence agents. Fortunately, this affects only a small number of people, i.e., those directly involved in the process that follows the accident at the plant.

As for the environment, things depend on the distance from the point of radiation and on the elements which are different in each reactor. In addition, each reactor has its own, let's say, "dumpster", and all waste products leak from it. In the case of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, and according to the information we have, there are four elements there. This is the radioactive iodine, which we know from the Chernobyl disaster, when it caused cancer of the thyroid gland, particularly in young children. So, iodine pills have already been given to the residents of the area in Japan. But they should not be taken by all people because there is danger of poisoning in case of overdose.

Strontium and caesium follow. These radioactive isotopes have the same behaviour as calcium and phosphorus, which exist in the human body. So, strontium is concentrated in the bones and caesium in the blood, thus infecting organs such as the liver and the pancreas. As these isotopes are excreted with the urine, they can relatively easily cause cancer of the urinary tract. Strontium is associated with the occurrence of leukemia.

The most dangerous element, however, is plutonium, which has a very long half-decay period. Areas where there is a leak of plutonium get infected for millions of years. Moreover, plutonium is very toxic and causes lung cancer in case of inhalation.

We should note that the radiation affects all rapidly regenerating cells. Therefore, a specific amount of radiation affects a child and an adult in various degrees. It is more dangerous for children and for the first three months of pregnancy, because this is the period of the creation of the organs and teratogenesis is induced in the case of defeat in the DNA structure, i.e., children are born with various deformities.

We see that they measure the level of radiation in humans in Japan. However, the one that we take inside the body is much higher and it can not be separated so easily. It continues to radiate inside the human body and the total amount, which the person absorbs, is much larger and more damaging. The other way of infection is through the food chain. It is important that products be washed very well, although the animals, the meat of which we consume, can also be infected from contaminated grass. This quantity deposits in the human body, which is infected with radiation due to atmospheric pollution. Therefore, we say that things are serious and we are worried.

How could we protect ourselves?

If someone is in the area where there is a leak of radiation, there is no way of protection. The only way is to leave the region which is in danger. The problem is that this particular area is not known. The talks about a radius of 30 kilometers in Japan are very theoretical. We can never know which way the wind blows. For example, after the Chernobyl disaster the quantity of radiation that reached Greece was higher than that in countries like Austria, which is closer. Everything depends on the climatic conditions, where the radiation cloud will be brought and the presence of rain, because harmful elements are carried directly into the soil in this way.

How long does it take for the harmful effects of radiation to disappear entirely?

As for soil, many years have to pass. Anyway, at least 60-100 years are needed for a nuclear power plant which remains to make sure that the area around it is clean. But each element has a different term of half-decay. It is relatively small for radiation iodine - we can be sure it will not be in our bodies after 60 years. For plutonium, however, it takes hundreds of years, i.e., the person will have died anyway. In the case of depleted uranium, we are talking about a period of half-decay lasting millions of years.

Tags: SocietyAnti-nuclear movementKozloduy NPPBeleneRenewable energy sources
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