Chernobyl @ 25 Years: Unacceptable Uncertainties and Uncorroborated Optimism

Friday, April 8, 2011

Exhibit Reception: April 8th, 2011; 6:00pm - 8:30pm Harper Memorial Library Commons,

Stuart Reading Room 3rd Floor of the Harper Memorial Library Building

1116 E. 59th Street Chicago, IL 60637

This event is free and open to the public.

 

The reception will feature talks by: Timothy Mousseau, Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Education and Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina. and Michael Forster Rothbart, Exhibit Photographer "Chernobyl @ 25"

 

Preview: It is notable that even 25 years after the disaster at Chernobyl, so little is conclusively known concerning the health and environmental impacts of this nuclear accident. This deficiency of knowledge is primarily the result of minimal investments in the basic and applied research that is needed to provide answers to questions of fundamental importance for assessing risks and hazards related to nuclear energy. For example, at present it is not clear how much unspent fuel remains inside the reactor site at Chernobyl, and by deduction, exactly how much radioactive material was released to the environment. There is considerable uncertainty concerning the health impacts in Eastern Europe with long-term human mortality predictions ranging from 4,000 (UN) to almost 1,000,000. And, although there is incontrovertible evidence for sustained elevated mutation rates in a wide variety of organism, including humans, there is very little information concerning the consequences of this mutational load for the survival and reproduction of plants, animals and humans. These uncertainties, which stem from a lack of fundamental information, have generated widely disparate opinions concerning the long term impacts of the Chernobyl event as well as the potential hazards related to current and future nuclear incidents.

 

Dr. Mousseau will present an overview of research conducted by the Chernobyl Research Initiative in the Chernobyl-affected regions of Eastern Europe with an emphasis on the impact of chronic exposure to radionuclides in animal populations, especially birds, insects and mammals. Key findings, based on peer-reviewed scientific publications, include elevated mutation rates, increased numbers of birth defects, decreased fertility rates, reduced longevities, lowered total abundances of animals, and reduced biodiversity. These findings will be discussed within the context of public perception of risks associated with nuclear energy that are frequently based on inaccurate media reports, and current world events.

 

About Prof. Timothy Mousseau: Dr. Timothy Mousseau is a professor of biological sciences, associate vice president for research, and dean of the graduate school at the University of South Carolina. He obtained his PhD at McGill University in Canada in 1988, and is a leading authority in the fields of ecological genetics, evolutionary ecology, and most recently, the impacts of radioactive contaminants on natural populations. He is the founding co-director of the Chernobyl Research Initiative, a scientific consortium that has the mission of providing rigorous scientific information concerning the hazards of nuclear accidents to natural populations. Since 2001, he and his colleagues have published more than 30 reports concerning the effects of Chernobyl derived contaminants on wildlife of the Chernobyl region. He is currently serving as an expert advisor to the Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities Panel of the US National Academy of Sciences. About Michael Forster Rothbart: Michael Forster Rothbart is a photojournalist, whose projects explore the human impacts of environmental change. His interactive website After Chernobyl resulted from his Fulbright year in Ukraine. After years in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and India, Forster Rothbart now lives in upstate New York and photographs for educational institutions — primarily colleges, museums, and private schools. His next documentary project, Fracking Pennsylvania, will explore the effects of natural gas drilling on rural communities. After Chernobyl: Photographs by Michael Forster Rothbart opens on March 28, 2011 and continues through May 20, 2011.

 

Sponsored by CEERES, the Center for International Studies, the Program on the Global Environment, the Global Health Initiative, the U of C Arts Council, Harper Memorial Library Commons, and the Soviet Arts Experience. For more information please contact CEERES at ceeres@uchicago.edu or 773-702-0875.