Natalia Manzurova, shown here in 1988 in the "dead zone" of the Pripyat, is one of the few survivors among those directly involved in the cleanup of Chernobyl.
About a week ago, AOL News reported on Natalia Manzurova's words of warning for the workers who are desperately trying to contain the brewing disaster in Japan's wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant. Manzurova is one of the last surviving workers who worked to contain the Chernobyl disaster and she is on a tour of the United States this week. At the time of the Chernobyl disaster, she was a 35-year-old engineer. She spent four-and-a-half years helping clean the area. She still lives in Ozersk, a closed town in Russia. The town is near the Mayek plant which featured the second-worst nuclear accident in history, the Kyshtym disaster of 19 September 1957 (I will blog about that incident in April). Ozersk is still highly radioactive, so it's strange that her words of advice for the Japanese workers in Fukushima are: "Run away as quickly as possible. Don't wait. Save yourself and don't rely on the government because the government lies. They don't want you to know the truth because the nuclear industry is so powerful." She bears the so-called 'Chernobyl necklace,' also known as the 'Belarus necklace,' a scar formed after an operation conducted to remove her thyroid gland. You can see a graphic photo of the necklace here. She is the author of Hard Duty: A Woman's Experience at Chernobyl.
She explained that when called to help contain the Chernobyl disaster she had no idea how bad it was. And if asked today to do the same task, "I'd never agree." She and her fellow liquidators dug holes and buried animals, machines and buildings. She described it as an unearthly experience: "I always felt I was in the middle of a war where the enemy was invisible. All the houses and buildings were intact with all the furniture, but there wasn't a single person left. Just deep silence everywhere. Sometimes I felt I was the only person alive on a strange planet."
Alongside scientist and former Yeltsin advisor, Dr. Alexey Yablokov, anti-nuclear leader Dr. Nataliya Mironova, and Chelyabinsk spokesperson Tatiana Muchamedyarova and other anti-nuclear experts and activists, Manzurova is visiting the United States this week with the support of Beyond Nuclear, an American-based group that is critical of nuclear power. This tour commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident that occurred on 26 April 1986. The tour has visited Vermont, the Southeast including Tennessee, Seattle and Washington DC. According to the Beyond Nuclear press release, their visit ends 6 April.
You can see Yablokov speaking with others on the connection between the Japanese crisis and the Chernobyl anniversary in Washington DC (25 March 2011) here. For subsequent parts of the press conference, go here, here, here and here on Youtube. For other anti-nuclear news, go here.
Pripyat Hallway. Image Source: Portal to Fashion.