Firstly lets get our facts straight the people whom we can definitely say died as a result of Chernobyl is 28, not 56 (keep you’re lies consistent guys!). Although this statement is true, it’s a case of weasel words; in much the same way that we can claim that hardly anyone has ever been killed by smoking…of course the list of people who have died as a result of suspected smoking related illnesses runs into the hundred’s of millions! As it was noted earlier, quite a number of the nuclear cheerleaders work for the PR industry, and include the tobacco lobby as among they’re clients from time to time, so its hardly surprising to hear them utilising the same tactics (grossly distorting the truth) for their nuclear industry pay masters.
The official likely death toll from the Chernobyl accident, according to a report by the IAEA and the WHO is closer to 4,000 Most of these deaths will be as a consequence of increased cancers among the many hundreds of thousands to “liquidators” who were sent into the Chernobyl site to deal with the clean up, as well as local civilians affected by the disaster. It should be noted that even this 4,000 figure from this IAEA/WHO report is hotly disputed by many. This is largely because it relied on evidence from the IAEA and the Soviet authorities both of whom have a strong incentive to understate the impact of Chernobyl. Wikipedia give a good summary of the various other studies here. These give estimated death tolls in the order of 10,000 all the way up to 93,000 (the last one from Greenpeace I believe).
Either way, the actual death toll from Chernobyl will likely be an order of magnitude or higher than what the nuclear energy supporters make it out to be. Unfortunately being off by an order of magnitude or more is a trait you will frequently find affects the figures presented by the nuclear cheerleaders all too often (do we really want to trust our future to people who are so bad at maths!)
Personally, I find this obsession with the Chernobyl “body count” morbid and pointless. It ignores the many hundreds of thousands of people, notably those liquidators who now have serious long term health problems as a result of the accident. Many now live in poverty in former soviet countries entirely dependant on state benefits and charity. It ignores the hundred’s of thousands of people expected to develop cancer but survive (cancer treatment is no walk in the park you know). It ignores the mental anguish of mothers who miscarriaged babies in the wake of the accident, children born with serious birth defects and the plight of the many people forced to abandon their homes and livelihoods. That the nuclear industry supporters can so callously dismiss such a mass of human suffering while actually seek to downplay it, speaks volumes as regards both their compassion – and their sanity.
Also, we’re missing the wider point here. The Soviet Union could indeed throw bodies at the problem, but I don’t think a western country could do that….largely because of these pesky little thing’s called democracy and a capitalist market economy. The costs of a Chernobyl style nuclear clean up in a western state are too awful to actually even contemplate, likely it would bankrupt any companies involved and possibly governments too (given the state of global finances right now). It will be interesting to see if any of the Fukushima 50 sue the power company (never mind anyone else effected by the accident, even a fruit seller who was forced to shut his doors due to the accident has a case) and how much compo they get. While fortunately, the chances of another Chernobyl style meltdown are fairly low, they certainly aren’t zero (notably, the Russians inexplicably still have 11 RMBK reactors in operational use) and the risk of such a misadventure is part of the price we pay for having nuclear power. And it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this risk be weighted up against the alternatives to nuclear energy, notably renewables, which don’t come with the risk of nuclear meltdown.