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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Chernobyl Remembered

Air Date: Week of

Host Bruce Gellerman, who reported on the 10th anniversary of the nuclear reactor accident at Chernobyl looks to the 20th anniversary this April with thoughts of his own energy needs.


GELLERMAN: Ten years ago this April I stood in the shadow of what was left of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. I was gathering sound for a story I was gathering sound for this program about the 10th anniversary of the disaster. Even then, sarcophagus, the giant black hood that shrouds the doomed reactor was leaking radiation and we could only stand there for but a minute or so.

In the nearby town of Prypiat, where reactor workers and their families lived, you can still see the remnants of their lives: newspapers from April 25, the day before the accident. In a playground, a Ferris Wheel once filled with squealing kids now rusts and creaks in the wind. 47 emergency workers died fighting the explosion. Tens of thousands were caught in the radioactive fall out. How many more died from cancer? Nobody really knows.

But these days the only time I give any thought to Chernobyl nuclear reactors, or power generating plants at all, is when I get my monthly electric bill. It’s been going up. A lot. And that’s got me thinking: sure, I’m worried about global warming, and nukes don’t produce greenhouse gases. And they’re safe… if you don’t worry about the 100,000-year half life of the radioactive waste. Or terrorists. Or an accident.

But I need my electricity. It’s the lifeblood for all the gizmos and gadgets; my cell phones, PDAs, laptop, and mp3 players. Efficiency experts call them energy vampires, and they’re slowly bleeding me. They’re on 24-7

Today, a TV uses more energy during the 20 hours its on stand by then the four hours you watch it. If we just unplugged these devices we’d drive a stake through the vamp amps, and the nation would need 20 fewer power plants. But how realistic is that? Well at least on one day this April 26, on the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl, I’m going to pull the plug on my kitchen full of energy wasters. The people who lived and died in Pripyat deserve at least that.



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