Yesterday, hundreds of people marched towards the memorial build for the first victims of the disaster in Chernobyl. Exactly 20 years after the reactor accident in Chernobyl, I can still remember how I felt when we got the news. I was in kindergarten at the time and everyone was called inside and told we had to wash our hands and could not go outside and play anymore, because a nuclear accident had happened. It was 1986 and the cold war was still going on. Even though, I had no real idea at the time of what the cold war was, I heard about it a lot. Everyone was very scared and no one knew if Ukrainian authorities had really been honest as to the extend of the accident. The media and government warned people of the winds and rain that might carry radioactive particles. Produce, dairy and other products might be contaminated. For a child, this all was very hard to understand. I remember walking down the street and I saw my neighbors digging in their front yards. When I asked them what they were doing, they said that they had to rip out all their lettuce and other vegetables because they were contaminated. When I found out what nuclear energy really was, I was afraid to turn on my bedroom light for days.
For ten days, regions of North and Western Europe were radioactively contaminated and hundreds of thousands of people had to be relocated. According to a WHO study, about 9000 people died as an immediate reaction to the radiation. A Spiegel article points out that environmental activists point to more than 100 000 deaths. The reactor was enclosed with a concrete sarcophagus, which however is brittle. Even to this day, the Chernobyl accident is often referred to by nuclear energy opponents.
What I find unbelievable is that people actually are taking tours to the area as part of a tourist excursion. They pay about $200 for the day trip and are able to view the site. The area is still contaminated; this is why guests are not allowed on the lawn for example.
Every time a Castor transport, which contains nuclear energy waste, would pass my town, activists would chain themselves to the rails and protest the movement of this still radioactive material, which was to be stored about one hour away. It was stored underground; however, if a plane would crash close to that site, it would absolutely damage the storage area and result in serious health risks for the close by population. The rate of leukemia actually started to go up in children that lived close to the storage area. These are some of the reasons why many Europeans are so opposed to nuclear energy, especially in Germany. I personally believe that there are better ways to provide energy such as wind, water and solar energy.
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