Learning from, and Spinning, the Chernobyl Disaster

"Chernobyl has not taught anything to anyone," Viktor Bryukhanov, the former director of the infamous nuclear power plant, told a Russian magazine. Twenty years after the disaster, Bryukhanov said plant employees had made mistakes, but "official investigations into the cause of the disaster had been a whitewash designed to exonerate the nuclear industry." Nature magazine noted that "arguments over the death toll of Chernobyl are as politically charged as ever." In addition to politics, "uncertainty about the health effects of low doses of radiation" also complicates assessments. Death toll estimates range from 4,000 to 100,000 people. In the U.S., the Nuclear Energy Institute marked the Chernobyl anniversary by unveiling a new pro-nuclear PR campaign, headed by Hill & Knowlton.