Chernobyl 'poses more risk than Fukushima'
Published 22/04/2011 | 05:00
THE recent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan has been described as the 'next Chernobyl' -- but Chernobyl itself poses an even greater threat, according to campaigners.
Twenty-five years on from the accident at the Belarusian reactor, the sarcophagus hastily put in place to prevent further poisons seeping into the atmosphere is now crumbling. And this poses a great danger to the people of the region, according to Adi Roche, chief executive of Chernobyl Children International (CCI).
A quarter of the region is now unoccupiable and already 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes, but the nightmare may not be over for the people of Belarus.
In the aftermath of the explosion in 1986, emergency teams covered the stricken reactor with a massive steel and concrete structure to seal in the lethal mix of radioactive fuel and materials like concrete and sand that fused together in the 1986 blast.
That has come to the end of its lifespan and must be replaced but, to date, nothing has been done.
"It is a crumbling sarcophagus," said Ms Roche of the structure of nearly 700,000 tonnes of steel and 400,000 tonnes of concrete.
She estimates that just three per cent of the radiation escaped in the original explosion -- leaving 97pc of the material "still rumbling away".
"The next Chernobyl could be Chernobyl," she said. She was "heartbroken" when the catastrophe struck at the Fukushima plant in Japan, saying her heart goes out to the Japanese people.
President Mary McAleese, in her speech at the commemorative event honouring the work of the CCI volunteers, pointed out that in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese disaster, experts had "reassuringly" said: "This is not Chernobyl."
"Now, weeks later, it is Chernobyl," the President said.