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No zombies in Chernobyl, but plenty of other horrors

On Friday, the new horror flick CHERNOBYL DIARIES will no doubt have folks all over the country screaming and holding their hands over their eyes. Those of us old enough to remember the actual Chernobyl disaster, in which a nuclear reactor northeast of Kiev, Ukraine exploded, might take some comfort in this: the world’s worst nuclear disaster is far enough in the past that we can make scary movies about it. The nuclear industry might even embrace the film, as it allows them to figuratively pat us all on the head and remind us that radiation doesn’t really turn people into zombies.

The reality on the ground at Chernobyl is, of course, much more complex: no zombies (that anyone’s lived to tell about), but still a lot of impact on the physical and mental health of the people that still live in the area. Former Alabama Congressman Glen Browder recently toured the area as part of Green Cross International’s remembrance of the disaster, and wrote an op-ed for his hometown paper, the Anniston Star, about his trip. Among the legacies of Chernobyl: above-average cancer risks, with a spike in thyroid cancers, and a heavy emotional/psychological toll stemming not only from a lack of economic opportunities, but also broader social stigma. Apparently, even getting a date can be problematic if you’re from the area: rumors have spread about “Chernobyl HIV.”

Keeping the real effects of Chernobyl in mind is incredibly important as we continue to think about how we’ll lower carbon emissions while maintaining developed standards of living: energy production is critical to that mix, but we might want to pause just a bit from the rush to re-embrace nuclear reactors as “green” energy sources. Yes, they create a very low greenhouse gas load in the production of energy, but, as we learned in Chernobyl, and more recently in Fukishima, there are other costs that can we can’t just absorb and move on.

I doubt I’ll get out to see CHERNOBYL DIARIES – not my thing – but don’t begrudge anyone a little fictionalized fun. Others, though, still might find the concept of this film disturbing. What do you think: just a harmless zombie movie? Or an attempt to brush over the disaster with which maybe millions are still living?

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Image credit: Screen capture from CHERNOBYL DIARIES trailer