Nuclear Textbook Provokes Debate
Published: April 18, 2006 (Issue # 1162)
As the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster approaches on April 26, a group of Russian environmentalists has published a school textbook about the accident and begun nationwide distribution.
Titled “Chernobyl Lessons”, the book, put together by experts from Ecodefense, Greenpeace Russia and Bellona, describes the disaster and its consequences in great detail, explaining the dangers of radiation, analyzing the mistakes that were made and suggesting protection strategies for similar situations.
The lectures give a critical assessment of nuclear industry in general, and offer a comparative study of the risks and benefits of nuclear industry versus renewable energy, such as, for instance, wind energy. The book is intended to be used during lessons on biology, physics, sociology and personal safety.
One of the sections contains the testimonies of Chernobyl survivors.
Local teachers have been keen to acquire the book, Rashid Alimov, editor of environmental portal Bellona.ru, told The St. Petersburg Times on Friday.
“We received orders for over two hundred copies after just the first two presentations, and the interest is growing,” Alimov said.
In Alimov’s opinion, the book should be of special use in St. Petersburg. “The Leningrad Nuclear Power Station still exploits the Chernobyl-type reactors, and the plant is close to the city,” he said. “People need to read it, if only for safety awareness, and because nobody else seems to be willing to educate them about it.”
Andrei Ozharovsky, one of the book’s authors and a leading expert with Moscow-based environmental organization “Ecodefence”, said the general syllabus in high schools in Russia gives a light-weight superficial coverage of the world’s largest-ever nuclear catastrophe.
“The teachers, if they touch on the topic at all, tend to present the Chernobyl disaster as some kind of technical malfunction, without putting the accident in context with the risks that nuclear industry presents as such,” Ozharovsky said during the book’s presentation at the Regional Press Institute on Friday.
The book quotes Lyudmila Ignatenko, the widow of a man who survived the initial blast. As a firefighter, he was sent to the scene of the accident without any special protective gear. “He was wearing a shirt, and all his colleagues were too,” Ignatenko said.
“They hadn’t been warned about the radiation, they were told it was an ordinary fire.”
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