21 April: In Science of Superstorms, a BBC2 documentary Russian military pilots describe how they create rain clouds to protect Moscow from radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl disaster. More than 10,000 km2 of Belarus were sacrificed to save the Russian capital from toxic radioactive material.
23 April: A study of birds around Chernobyl suggests that nuclear fallout, rather than the impact of relocation and stress and deteriorating living conditions, as suggested by the IAEA, may be responsible for human birth defects in the region. Timothy Mousseau, at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and his colleagues examined 7700 barn swallows from Chernobyl and compared them with birds from elsewhere. They found that Chernobyl's swallows were more likely to have tumours, misshapen toes and feather deformities than swallows from uncontaminated parts of Europe. "We don't fully understand the consequences of low doses of radiation," says Mousseau. "We should be more concerned about the human population."
2 June: The impact of the Chernobyl disaster is often seen as a problem in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. The medical effects of Chernobyl disaster, however, have spread all around the world. Courier-Life Publications reports on a story of a New York based medical specialist: "There are between 150 and 200 thousand people in the NY metropolitan area who come from the affected region, and the 'cancer rates are going up and up'"
4 June: The incidence of cancer in northern Sweden increased following the accident at Chernobyl. This was the finding of a much-debated study from Linköping University in Sweden from 2004. Two studies using different methods has shown a statistically significant increase in the incidence of cancer in northern Sweden, where the fallout of radioactive cesium-137 was at its most intense.
16 August: Swedish children born in the months following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster suffered mental impairment from the radioactive fallout, a study found. The report by economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund from Columbia University, New York, and their Stockholm University colleague Mårten Palme carried out an analysis of more than 560,000 Swedish children born between 1983 and 1988. They found that academic performance was generally weaker in all children still in utero at the time of maternal exposure to Chernobyl fallout, and this effect was most pronounced for those foetuses at 8 to 25 weeks post conception. This is the peak period of brain development when cells may be particularly vulnerable to being killed by relatively low doses of radiation. The researchers say it appears prenatal exposure to radiation levels previously considered safe was actually damaging to cognitive ability.
17 September: The French-led consortium Novarka signs a contract to build a new Shelter around the site of Reactor 4 for more than Euro 430 million. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and the French trade minister, Herve Novelli, oversee the signing by the consortium, which includes French builders Bouygues and Vinci. The consortium will build an arch-shaped metal structure 105m tall, 260m wide and 150m long to cover the existing containment structure, which stands over the reactor and radioactive fuel that caused the accident. The new sarcophagus will weigh about 18,000 tons -- more than twice the weight of the Eiffel tower and will resemble a half-cylinder and slide over the existing sarcophagus. [pictures] According to official estimates, the reactor still contains about 95% of the original nuclear fuel from the plant. The EBRD is contributing Euro 330 million (about US$460m.) to the project and says it will take about 1,5 years to design the shelter and another four years to build it.
Officials also signed a US$200m contract with the US firm Holtec International to build a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel from Chernobyl's NPP three other reactors, which kept operating until the station was shut down in 2000.
14 December: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launch an appeal for their Chernobyl Humanitarian Assistance and Rehabilitation Programme (CHARP) for the period 2008-2009.
23 February: Publication of "Anecdotes and empirical research in Chernobyl" by researchers from the Royal Society in Biology Letters. The scientists mop the floor with all the studies on the consequences of Chernobyl that has been done so far and have received wide attention by the international media. They state: "Although Chernobyl is perhaps the largest environmental disaster ever, there has been minimal monitoring of the status of free-living organisms or humans in stark contrast to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where careful monitoring has continued for over 60 years." And asking themselves: "Why has there been no concerted effort to monitor the long-term effects of Chernobyl on free-living organisms and humans?" Further on: "The official reports by IAEA, WHO and UNDP were narrative renditions of parts of the literature [..]. Scientific enquiry depends on rigorous analysis of data rather than rendition of anecdotal evidence." [read more]
5 March: Atomstroyexport has begun work to extend the service life of the Chernobyl protective concrete shelter. This contract envisages the repair of the roof over the confinement, installation of protection systems, and the reinforcement of supporting beams. The project will buy time for the next stage: the construction of a new confinement, or arc. The project moderator is the International Chernobyl Shelter Fund and is financed by the G8 and European Union countries. The EBRD has already accumulated US$1b. for the project.
April: The English Edition of Le Monde Diplomatique states in a background article: "For 50 years dangerous concentrations of radionuclides have been accumulating in earth, air and water from weapons testing and reactor incidents. Yet serious studies of the effects of radiation on health have been obscured - not least by the World Health Organisation." The whole article, entitled Chernobyl: the great cover-up, can be found here.
25 April: The Food Standards Agency Wales reveals that up to 359 Welsh farms are still operating under restrictions imposed in the wake of Chernobyl, almost 22 years after reactor 4 went into meltdown. Heavy rain washed radioactive material from clouds onto fields. The radiation is absorbed from the soil by plants, which are then eaten by sheep. For the hundreds of Welsh farmers still living with Chernobyl's legacy, the restrictions mean their animals are only allowed to enter the food chain after rigorous safety tests.
26 April: Ukraine pays homage to victims of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, 22 years after the disaster. "The Chernobyl catastrophe became planetary and even now continues to take its toll on people's health and the environment," the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Activists from across Russia, Ukraine and Belarus turned out in force in urban centers across the former Soviet republics to hold ceremonies commemorating 22nd anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster and express outrage at Russia's current nuclear plans.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon marks the anniversary by pledging UN assistance for the stricken region's renewal. In a statement to mark the anniversary, he notes that the UN General Assembly has proclaimed 2006-2016 a "decade of recovery and sustainable development" for the Chernobyl area.
2 October: Researchers from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, have tracked the Chernobyl fallout to reveal that much more plutonium was found in the Swedish soil at a depth that corresponded with the nuclear explosion than that of Poland. They took soil samples in various locations in the two countries, measuring the presence and location of cesium-137, plutonium (239, 240Pu), and lead-210Pb. Radionuclides occur in soil both from natural processes and as fallout from nuclear testing. The collected soil samples reveal insights based on several conditions, such as how the radionuclides were delivered to the soil, whether from a one-time event like the Chernobyl disaster or from atmospheric bomb testing. As the team examined a range of soil types from the two countries, they found a spike in 239, 240Pu in Sweden's soil at a depth that coincides with the Chernobyl disaster, yet no similar blip in Poland's soil. Meteorological research showed that it rained in Sweden while the radioactive cloud was over that country. Leeched of much of its radionuclides, much less plutonium fell on Poland when the cloud later crossed over its borders.
30 January:President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko signs the law on the government program for decommissioning of the Chernobyl NPP, and transformation of the Shelter confinement facility into a safer object. The law, coming into force on January 1, 2010, says the nuclear plant will be finally shut down by 2065. The decommissioning will take four phases. The nuclear fuel rods will be removed in 2010-2013 and the reactor systems will be put in dead storage in 2013-2022. After a cool down of the reactor systems in 2022-2045, the systems will be demounted in 2045-2065 concurrently with decontamination of the nuclear power plant's site.
January: 'Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment' written by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko is published by the New York Academy of Sciences. The book is in contrast to findings by the WHO, IAEA and United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) who based their findings on some 300 western research papers, and who found little of concern about the fallout from Chernobyl.
While the most apparent human and environmental damage occurred, and continues to occur, in the Ukraine, Belarus and European Russia, more than 50 percent of the total radioactivity spread across the entire northern hemisphere, potentially contaminating some 400 million people. Based on 5000 published articles and studies by multiple researchers and observers, mostly available only in Slavic languages and not available to those outside of the former Soviet Union or Eastern bloc countries, the authors estimated that by 2004, some 985,000 deaths worldwide had been caused by the disaster.
All life systems that were studied - humans, voles, livestock, birds, fish, plants, mushrooms, bacteria, viruses, etc., with few exceptions, were changed by radioactive fallout, many irreversibly. Increased cancer incidence is not the only observed adverse effect from the Chernobyl fallout - noted also are birth defects, pregnancy losses, accelerated aging, brain damage, heart, endocrine, kidney, gastrointestinal and lung diseases, and cataracts among the young. Children have been most seriously affected - before the radioactive Chernobyl releases, 80% of children were deemed healthy, now in some areas, only 20% of children are considered healthy. Many have poor development, learning disabilities, and endocrine abnormalities.
September: Clearance of the assembly site for the New Safe Confinement (NSC) right next to the shelter of Unit 4 and excavation work for the foundations have been completed. Pilling for the foundations and the lifting cranes started.
Funds for the construction of the NSC are still lacking. The completion of the Shelter Implementation Plan, of which the NSC represents about two thirds of total costs, requires an additional 600 million euro, with current overall cost estimates about 1.6 billion euro. So, despite all positive reports on financial contributions and donor-countries, fact is that only 60% of the necessary funds have been collected. A 'pledging event' will take place in Kiev in April to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the accident.
January: Ukraine's Emergencies Ministry legalizes tourist tours to Chernobyl and Pripyat. Visitors have to sign a waiver, exempting the tour operator from all responsibility in the event that they later suffer radiation-related health problems. Driven round at breakneck speed, and told not to touch any of the irradiated vegetation or metal structures, "tourists" are invited to briefly inspect the stricken number four reactor as the Geiger counter, which guides carry, clicks ever higher. The most arresting "attraction" is not the ruined plant, however, but nearby Pripyat. Visitors can walk through the debris-strewn corridors of its Palace of Culture, admire its crumbling Olympic-sized swimming pool, and wander through the empty classrooms of one of its biggest schools.
4 February: Birds living around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident have 5% smaller brains, an effect directly linked to lingering background radiation. The finding comes from a study of 550 birds belonging to 48 different species living in the region. Evidence for developmental errors in the nervous systems of people exposed to radiation is widespread, including reduced head size and brain damage. Low levels of ionizing radiation cause changes in both central and autonomous nervous systems and can cause radiogenic encephalopathy. Electroencephalographic studies revealed changes in brain structure and cognitive disorders. However, psychological effects of radiation from Chernobyl have recently been attributed to post-traumatic stress rather than developmental errors, and increased levels of neural tube defects in contaminated areas may be ascribed to low-dose radiation, folate deficiencies or prenatal alcohol teratogenesis. Surprisingly, studies of high school performance and cognitive abilities among children from contaminated areas in Scandinavia that were in utero during the Chernobyl disaster show reductions in high school attendance, have lower exam results and reduced IQ scores compared to control groups. These cognitive effects are assumed to be due to developmental errors in neural tissue caused by radiation during early pregnancy.
20 June: The zone is closed to tourists as trips are suspended. The prosecutor general’s office conducts checks and rules that the Emergencies Ministry has broken the law by operating trips as well as making an unhealthy profit. With every tourist to the zone paying around a US $100 for entry the Ministry has a turnover of millions dollars every year.
The Emergencies Ministry files a lawsuit in a bid to resume tours to the contaminated zone.
25 November: A Kiev court officially bans tours to Chernobyl and its surroundings. Officials rule that the Emergencies Ministry does not have the right to authorise trips to Chernobyl without permission from the Interior Ministry.