Comments from project participants
B.W. Wachholz, National Cancer Institute, USA
It is commendable that the Government of the USSR not only requested but invited the international community to look over their shoulder to evaluate, to review, to criticise, to conclude, to recommend. That in itself is almost unprecedented in an accident of this nature.
B.G. Bennett, U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation
It is common practice (to overestimate doses). It is something that scientists would do to make sure that they do not underestimate the doses. This is important to provide adequate radiological protection of the people. But the danger in doing that is that you take protective measures which are excessively stringent and you expect health effects which are exaggerated. This is what must be kept in perspective. You must estimate doses as realistically as possible. You must use the best, most realistic estimate of doses to make your judgement about relocation, evacuation, and estimated health effects that might occur eventually from these doses.
T.R. Lee, University of St. Andrews, Scotland
The consequences of relocation depend upon the length of time for which people have expected it, their preparedness, whether it is to favourable circumstances or unfavourable circumstances, whether it is voluntary or involuntary and so on. However, the sheer disruption effect for elderly people can take its tolls.
J. Jovanovich, University of Manitoba, Canada
I think we should just not forget that we do live in a real world and that there are other technologies that are worse for the health of populations than nuclear power, including the Chernobyl accident.
P. Hedemann Jensen, Risø National Laboratory, Denmark
There had not been, certainly for the people at large, enough understanding of what might go on. And there was clearly a need for much public discussion, not in the heat of an accident, but before an accident, with what one might call local liaison committees, so that the risks are all explained, so that emergency procedures are understood, and all be exercised, so that it does not come out of a clear blue sky, at some terrible time in the morning, that people know that there has been planning for this, that something can be done about it and that something is being done about it.
F. Steinhäusler, Austria
I do not think it helps the people in the settlements to state repeatedly, against the facts of measurements, that food is contaminated, that it is poisoned, or that water cannot be drunk, when the measurements clearly indicate, that in most of the water measurements for instance, we could not even detect any radioactivity. Not because we used unsuitable equipment, but because there is not any.
P. Waight, World Health Organization
Before the initiation of the Chernobyl Project, the World Health Organisation sent a team of experts to the Soviet Union in June 1989 which concluded that scientists who are not well versed in radiation effects have attributed various biological and health effects to radiation exposure. These changes cannot be attributed to radiation exposure, especially when the normal incidence is unknown, and are much more likely to be due to psychological factors and stress. Attributing these effects to radiation, not only increases the psychological pressure in the population and provokes additional stress-related health problems, it also undermines confidence in the competence of the radiation specialists.
F.A. Mettler, The University of New Mexico, USA
There certainly may be health effects worth studying in the future. We need organized studies with appropriate control groups and the best dosimetry available.... We must use uniform methodology in these studies, not only amongst Soviet investigators, but among international investigators, if we hope to get useful data out of it.