Monday, June 8, 2009


Kathy and I took a journey to an exhibit on Chernobyl, showing photographic evidence of the aftermath of the explosion at one of the area's nuclear power plants.

The photographs were excellent, and often moving.

Deserted houses, a debris-strewn shop floor, an abandoned doll, an empty Ferris wheel make the point that, despite the intervening years, much of the area is an off-limits no-man's land.

At the same time, the exhibit fails to persuade that nuclear power is a Bad Thing.

Certainly, lousy design and an inability to contain problems is a bad way to go through life, especially when radioactive materials are concerned, but freezing to death in a harsh Russian winter isn't an attractive alternative.

Other accounts of present-day Chernobyl suggest that the affected area is much smaller than initially feared, and that conditions are returning to normal. Whether or not this is true I have no way of knowing. And, of course, an exhibit such as this is under no obligation to be even-handed in presenting an issue.

Still, one cannot help but be reminded of the Bad Old Days, when Jane Fonda was constantly jetting to places and shrilling yelling about how evil nuclear power is (she was like a 1970s amalgam of Cindy Sheehan and Al Gore - virulent anti-Americanism masquerading as pacifism, and blatant hypocrisy over energy use masquerading as social activism), and masses of unwashed Young People held up "No Nukes" signs, reminding the rest of us of the perils of the U.S. college system, with its uncanny ability to mass-produce uninformed "non-conformists." Ah well, the present day has its own difficulties, I suppose.


MarkR said...

I know some people who used to live in Pripyat, near the Chernobyl Plant. Some have been quite ill for the past 23 years and many of their friends from Pripyat have died as a result of their radiation exposure.

Knowing people who have been so horribly affected by the Chernobyl accident convinced me that we need to find alternatives to nuclear power. I may be biased, but it just doesn't seem worth the risks. Yes, there are more safety measures now, but accidents can still occur.

I personally visited the Chernobyl area for two days in June 2006 with a friend who is a former resident of Pripyat. We toured the Chernobyl Plant (including the Reactor 4 control room), several of the abandoned villages, and Pripyat. I have posted a photo journal of my trip at:

My Journey to Chernobyl: 20 Years After the Disaster

Rhianon Jameson said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Mr. R. I'll be the first to admit that I occasionally (often?) opine in the absence of all the facts. It may well be the case that nuclear power is far too dangerous to continue using. On the other hand, I like to think of costs and benefits and try to rank alternatives. In the absence of nuclear power, and in the absence of some miracle cheap, clean energy source, one can (1) use more fossil fuels or (2) lower standards of living sufficiently to use less energy. I honestly don't know how the first choice would rank against continued and expanded use of nuclear power; those more informed than I can debate it. But I would be happy to defend the proposition that the second choice is morally unacceptable, so we're left with deciding which less-than-happy choice is the better of the two. Reasonable people can disagree, and I make no claims to having any kind of wisdom on the subject.

As for biases...well, we all have them, and discussions are almost always better off when biases are open rather than concealed. :) I'm sympathetic to the problems people in the region have and continue to face, and I can imagine how first-hand experience with those problems would shape anyone's opinions.