Soviet scientist recalls liquidation of Chernobyl plant

April 12, 2011 6:09:00 PM PDT
A former Soviet scientist who survived the disaster in Chernobyl was in Berkeley on Tuesday speaking out as an anti-nuclear activist. It's been nearly 25 years since the nuclear incident.

Natalia Manzurova was a 35-year-old Soviet engineer when disaster struck at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986. Manzurova was ordered by the Soviet government to go in and clean up the plant after it exploded. She and her colleagues were called "liquidators."

"First of all, we were mapping the radionuclides that were there, and then we had to bury everything that was above the surface," she said. "Houses were buried."

Manzurova worked at Chernobyl for four and a half years and wore protective clothing the entire time.

"As protection, we had a special uniform and we had masks and we protected our hands with gloves," she said.

But like all her colleagues, she would later get cancer. In her case, her thyroid had to be removed. Of the 14 scientists Manzurova worked with at Chernobyl, she is the only survivor.

"I had the same health consequences as everyone who was engaged in liquidating the accident had," she said. Asked how she's doing today, she replied, "I don't want to complain."

Manzurova now travels the world as an anti-nuclear activist. She believes what's happening at Fukushima in Japan is a clear sign that many of the lessons of Chernobyl were lost.

"Americans maybe think that they are not at risk, that they are quite safe with their nuclear industry," she said. "There is no country which is not at risk."


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