TORCH-2016. An independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster
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TORCH-2016 An independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster Ian Fairlie, PhD, UK www.ianfairlie.org Version 1.1 March 31, 2016 Introduction Thirty years ago, on April 26 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl1 nuclear power plant (NPP) in Ukraine. The explosions and resulting graphite fire at Reactor 4 over the following ten days ejected 30 % to 60 % of the reactor core’s contents (60 – 120 tonnes) into the troposphere initially over the USSR and most of Europe2. As most also reached the stratosphere, most of the northern hemisphere was eventually affected by radioactive fallout3. Approximately 50 people died in the immediate aftermath of the accident, however many thousands of cancer fatalities and other probabilistic effects are estimated to arise over many decades. For example, Imaizumi et al (2006) found that a significant dose- response relationship still existed among the Japanese bomb survivors nearly 60 years after they were exposed. Initially, about 116,000 people were evacuated from the town of Pripyat and areas surrounding the reactor and relocated. After 1986, an additional 230,000 people from contaminated areas in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine were resettled (UNSCEAR, 2008). About 4,000,000 km2 of Europe was contaminated by Chernobyl’s fallout – 42 % of Europe’s land area. The most contaminated countries were the former USSR republics of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. In addition, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Austria and the Balkan and Slavic countries were also affected by high levels4 of radioactive contamination. The first TORCH Report (www.chernobylreport.org) was published in 2006 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The Report concentrated on estimating the released amounts of radioactivity, the radiation doses and likely numbers of resulting cancer deaths which would arise in future years. Many major reports on Chernobyl’s effects were published in late 2005 and 2006 on the 20th anniversary of the disaster: these are listed in Annex D. Thousands more scientific articles have been published between 2006 and 2016. PubMed alone cites over 400 scientific articles on 'Chernobyl cancer' published during the past 10 years, plus 270 more on 'Chernobyl thyroid cancer', and 20 on 'Chernobyl cardiovascular'. Hundreds more articles are cited in Medline, Science Direct, British Library and Science Citation search engines. This report, TORCH-2016, updates the 2006 TORCH report with the new health evidence which has emerged in the past ten years. It is important to note that the accident had many adverse consequences, including economic, ecological, social and political effects as well as health effects. This report focuses on health effects. Before we commence, some preliminary matters need to be discussed.