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Voices From Chornobyl

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A new look for Chernobyl Children International’s website

From our friends at Chernobyl Children International:

We have just launched a new look website for Chernobyl Children International!

www.chernobyl-international.com

The newly launched site times with an awareness campaign we are leading with international environmentalists, writers and film makers to mark the 30th anniversary in April of the deadly Chernobyl nuclear accident. The awareness raising campaign will be called “Chernobyl is Forever” and will include a series of projects which will recall and reassess the impact of the Chernobyl accident.

The first in the series is a time lapse video piece by videographer Michael Garrett called ‘Chernobyl: 30 years of Decay’

It can be viewed on our new Home Page at
Chernobyl: The Story

www.chernobyl-international.com/

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VFC Jr. Reviews Are In!

Voices From Chornobyl Jr.

“More kids would go to college if school was taught like this.”

-11 year-old audience member

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“Utilizing simple metaphors, song, and language that is always clear and never condescending, complex issues such as radiation poisoning and nuclear power are defined, replacing fear with knowledge and imparting a message that is as reaffirming as it is timely.”

-Kat Primeau, Actress & Producer

“Great structure, well-acted and good use of the audience to start it all off. My only complaint is I wanted more but that came in the form of a great Q&A afterwards as well.”

-Jeff Gardner, Actor & Sound Designer

Cindy Marie Jenkins’ deft writing bridges the gap between an educational presentation and an interactive children’s show that is as funny as it is serious…. I highly recommend this show for parents and children alike. It is equal parts entertaining and important.

Adam Emperor Southard, Writer & Parent

“Jenkins keeps the horror of the meltdown to a minimum, allowing the subdued fear and forced calm of Katya’s parents and slight allusions to post meltdown physical debilities to provide a great jumping off point for discussions post show.” -Thomas Hampton Reviews

Read all about the Hollywood Fringe Festival here in LA Stage Times, featuring our director Aaron Kozak!

Fact Finding about Fukushima

~ This post was written by team member Caroline Sharp

When Cindy first approached me about contributing to this project, I was pretty sure I knew about as much about Chornobyl as the next person, which is to say, next to nothing.  Okay, so maybe (as our recent foray to The Grove demonstrates) a little more than the next person, but still nothing to hang my hat on.  My journey in educating myself of the subject has been heartbreaking, rage-inducing, and really illuminating; not just about the situation at Chornobyl, but the human condition in general.

The recent events in Japan have put my Chornobyl education into very sharp focus: you know that place where you know just enough to be really frightened, but not quite enough to actually know what you’re frightened of? I’m a pretty resourceful person, and I want to know all the facts, so I thought I’d share some of the results of my research into what’s actually going on at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. In moments of international crisis like this – misinformation can spread as fast (or faster if it’s particularly sensational) than the real story, and for non-experts, such as myself, it can be frustratingly difficult to separate fact from fiction.

NPR has been interviewing experts of every stripe for days. They have accumulated all their stories, interviews and commentary into this primer.

Mother Jones, a political news periodical, has gotten a lot of attention lately for it’s investigative pieces that seek to explicate complicated current events (the protests and instability in Egypt and Libya, the demonstrations and political maneuvering in Wisconsin, the budget debate in Washington, etc.) for the layman. They have a really excellent piece that makes the very complicated subject of nuclear science easier to grasp, and they’re updating it regularly as news from Japan comes in.

One of my favorite daily reads is the tech blog Gizmodo. They have a pretty well-documented interest in Chornobyl and in nuclear power in general, and they have a comprehensive breakdown of events as well. This article also has a whole mess of links, to Boing-Boing, the BBC, Salon, Al Jazeera, The Atlantic and more! It’s a black-hole time-suck of really good science lessons.

A significant link on the Gizmodo page is to this Salon article, which thoroughly debunks a viral blog post that you may have seen by a Dr. Josef Oehmen at MIT. MIT is currently hosting this blog post, they have not taken it down, but I would say read it with a grain of salt (or at least read it with this Salon piece.)

On the subject of misinformation, this map has been going around (before you look at it, know that it’s a hoax – I’m only including it so you’ll know what it looks like in case someone sends it to you or you see it come up in your research):

It purports to be an estimated trajectory of nuclear fallout from the Fukushima plant released by Australian Radiation Services and has their logo, but they don’t claim it and the map isn’t hosted or displayed anywhere on their website. (Another key factor that reveals this to be less than savory, is in the legend. A real fallout map wouldn’t be measured in RADs. RAD is a medical term that stands for Radiation Absorbed Dose, meaning how much radiation is absorbed by an individual, not how much material is in the air or how radioactive it is. http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/radiation/health-effects/measuring-radiation.html) I would be very skeptical about any source of information that includes this map.

For me, knowledge is the best antidote to fear. These are uncertain times in general, and after the tragic events in Japan over the last few days it is even more important to make sure we have as much knowledge and awareness as possible.

Being Relevant is Hard – Japan

I have a lot of thoughts about what is currently happening in Japan. In the wake of a natural disaster, an even larger disaster is slowly beginning to form. As I’m writing the fire in the 4th reactor has been extinguished and there is so much more happening and to be done.

My news feed on facebook has been inundated by the news of the disaster. Comparing it to Chernobyl. The word has seemed to magically reappear in our consciousness as a people. Chernobyl. 25 years ago in just a little over a month now. This project which once felt so obscure has been forced into the limelight and pushed back into our social conscious. In a way I’m thankful for that. Not for the disaster and for the lingering impacts, but that people are talking about it.

People didn’t talk about Chernobyl in the immediate aftermath. There wasn’t a large international dialogue about what should be done or what the potential lasting impacts will be. While it is extremely unfortunate that most of the Japanese cannot watch the news due to power outages and other issues, it is incredible how much I am seeing about Japan and Chernobyl right now.

Someone asked me what my opinion was about Japan and the impending nuclear disaster. I wasn’t sure what they were really asking about. Was it my opinion on nuclear energy? I don’t talk about that. Was it my opinion on how it’s being handled? Maybe. The person clarified their question, asking me if I thought Japan was going to be the “next chernobyl”. What a loaded thought.

In some ways what is happening now will never be Chernobyl. Technology is more advanced  and we are in the USSR in 1986. Will the environmental and social impacts be as bad? Preliminary calculations have suggested it may be or it may not be.

For now, the world watches and waits.

For now, I read my facebook feed and am happy Chernobyl is being spoken about. I just wish it was under much better circumstances.

Japan: A Reaction

I was one and a half years old when Chernobyl happened. I learned about it later on but everything was always in the past tense; Chernobyl was a cautionary tale, not a living breathing disaster. Only after becoming involved with Voices From Chornobyl did I truly realize the ongoing implications of what happened that day in 1986.

Like many people I stayed up late last Thursday evening watching the heartbreaking footage of the aftermath of both the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. At the first mention of the state of Japan’s three nuclear reactors in the area my stomach dropped. Even as I write this there are new developments, the situation is constantly changing, and no one can be certain what will happen next. While authorities are assuring the public nothing like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island is possible the parallels are hard to ignore. For me it’s somewhat surreal, after learning so much about Chernobyl – the events leading up to it, the immediate aftermath and the ongoing effects – to have an event happening in the modern day, that in many ways brings these elements into my daily life, was not something I was prepared for. I have to admit even after all the awareness we have been doing for VFC I never expected to be confronted with these realities in this way.

I don’t want to be reactionary, I think the major news stations do a good enough job on their own, and I don’t even mean this as a criticism of nuclear power per se, but the events of the past few days have made the topic of nuclear plants and radiation very real for me. But despite the fear of what might happen I think it’s important to point out the differences we have seen in the reaction to these ongoing events. Most evident is the amount of information available, in the age of the 24/7 news cycles and social media the global community is much more aware of what is happening than in the days after Chernobyl. Transparency is key to dealing with disasters and can truly impact the outcome in many ways. The early evacuation of those that live near the endangered reactors is a positive example of the difference between what is happening now in Japan and how the Former Soviet Union dealt with the events at Chernobyl.

The best test of course is time, to see how this is handled going forward and what the true aftermath might be. As I have learned from Chernobyl the effects of radiation go on long after all the foreign journalists have left and even after the major clean up is done. To quote a line from the play “this is for thousands of years”; for my part I’m hoping this will never be said of the events unfolding in Japan.

– Jane

Retro Post: Duncan Stewart RETURN TO CHERNOBYL

This post appeared on the original blog in 2007.

Link to video

Tributes to heroism of Chernobyl firefighters

By Eoin English
THOUSANDS of firefighters who lost their lives in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster were remembered at ceremonies in Cork and Dublin yesterday to mark the 19th anniversary of the accident. They gave their lives to prevent an atomic explosion at the plant which would have made Europe uninhabitable, the Chernobyl Children’s Project said.

Director Adi Roche said fires at the plant could have triggered a nuclear explosion 50 to 80 times the force of Hiroshima.

She paid tribute to the 25,000 “liquidators” who died and the 70,000 who are permanently disabled as a result of making the reactor safe.

While people had a “searing image” of the firefighters in 9/11, nobody had a similar understanding of the heroism of the “liquidators”, she said. She was speaking in Dublin where 19 children, each with a candle and a photograph of a worker, commemorated the men who died.

The Belarussian Ambassador to Britain, Dr Alyaksei Mazhukhou, said 1.5 million people, including 420,000 children, were still living in affected areas.

“Chernobyl remains a great burden for our people and our economy,” he said.

However, the future of recuperation visits to Ireland of children from the affected region remains uncertain.

In Cork, two white doves were released from City Hall during an ecumenical service attended by lord mayor Sean Martin and Ukrainian Ambassador Yevhen Perelygin.

The Greater Chernobyl Cause also announced it is sending an aid convoy to the Ukraine tomorrow. Included is an ultrasound machine that can detect early cancer in patients.

Meanwhile, Ms Roche warned that the consequences of the disaster would not be fully felt for another five decades.

Congenital birth defects have increased by 250% since the disaster, while one-in-four children in Belarus will develop thyroid abnormalities including cancer, she said. Environmentalist Duncan Stewart said the cement sarcophagus that covers the damaged reactor and which contains 97% of the plant’s lethal material is in need of repair, at a cost of €758 million. The Children’s Project called for the international community to help make the reactor safe and rebuild lives.

Chornobyl in the News

It’s amazing what you can find when you start to pay attention. Almost 25 years after an event you would not really expect to see it still getting attention in the news. But with Chornobyl it just takes looking a little deeper. The effects of this event were and are so profound that new information is still being discovered all the time. Below is sampling of Chornobyl on the internet this week.


Bromsgrove man returns to Chernobyl radiation zone

10:46am Friday 3rd September 2010

A BROMSGROVE-based travel writer will be returning to the Chernobyl radiation zone to work with disabled children. ...

Photo Essay on JPG

Chernobyl disaster

By Giuseppe Cicconi

27 Aug 2010

13:23:44 (local time) on April 26, 1986, reactor number four exploded.


Exhibits on a television screen

The “Chornobyl Museum” received new equipment for exhibitions from the government of Japan.

By Inna FILIPENKO, The Day
EXTRAORDINARY AND PLENIPOTENTIARY AMBASSADOR OF JAPAN TO UKRAINE TADASHI IDZAVA “CHECKS” THE NEW EQUIPMENT


Chernobyl zone shows decline in biodiversity

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC News
30 July 2010 Last updated at 11:00 ET

Some reports suggested that the lack of humans was beneficial for wildlife
The largest wildlife census of its kind conducted in Chernobyl has revealed that mammals are declining in the exclusion zone surrounding the nuclear power plant.

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