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More Chernobyls Unavoidable, Dr. Gale Warns

June 27, 1987|From Reuters

BONN — Another Chernobyl-type nuclear disaster is unavoidable while present technology is operated by human beings, a U.S. scientist specializing in the aftereffects of nuclear accidents said Friday.

Dr. Robert P. Gale, who coordinated treatment of Chernobyl victims with the Soviet authorities after the Ukraine accident in April, 1986, told a news conference that over the next 50 years, there will be up to 60,000 additional cancer-related deaths, 1,000 incidents of birth defects and 5,000 cases of severe genetic abnormalities such as mental retardation as a result of Chernobyl.

He said plants must be designed to work without humans.

Humans Decide

"Nuclear energy is not inherently good or inherently bad," Gale declared. "It's how civilization uses it. In the long term, we have to develop reactors which are inherently safe and which do not depend on human beings for their safety."

Such reactors, based on thermonuclear fusion, exist in prototypes.

But Gale warned: "The likelihood of another major accident somewhere in the world in the next 10 years is not less than 25%. Or that in the United States the probability of a core meltdown within the next 20 years is about 50%."

He said that about 40% of the extra deaths will occur in the Soviet Union. Other European countries, contaminated by radioactive clouds after Chernobyl, will suffer the rest of the damage.

"A nuclear accident anywhere in the world is everywhere in the world," he went on. "Nuclear energy is an international event. We can't afford to have national interests dictate technologies which are by definition international."

Sources of Data

Gale, a professor at UCLA, said that his estimates are based on data given by the Soviet Union, the U.S. Department of Energy, Britain's National Board of Radiation Protection and independent scientists in the United States and Europe.

Gale, who made several trips to the Soviet Union to help carry out bone-marrow transplants, said that of the 500 people treated in Soviet hospitals, all but 29 have been released and most are recovering well.

"One can conclude from this that the human being can tolerate much higher doses of radiation than was previously thought--approximately twice as much," he added.

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