MADISON — Wisconsin residents are celebrating the state’s “nuclear moratorium” law today, 24 years after a nuclear reactor exploded in Chernobyl contaminating tens of thousands of square miles with radioactive fallout, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents, and unleashing an epidemic of health problems still felt today.
“The anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy serves as a reminder of the epic dangers of nuclear power,” said Katie Nekola, energy program director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “Nuclear accidents may be infrequent, but the unspeakable environmental and human catastrophe they cause cannot be forgotten or ignored.”
In the pre-dawn hours of April 26, 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, killing thirty people, sparking a fire that burned for ten days, and releasing 400 times more radioactivity than the nuclear bomb dropped at Hiroshima, Japan.
The radiation contamination resulting from the blast displaced over 300,000 individuals and triggered an epidemic of thyroid cancer, heart defects, and birth defects still seen in children born near the area today.
“The children of Chernobyl must face the terrible consequences of a nuclear disaster that took place well before their birth,” said Nekola. “In Wisconsin, we’re very fortunate to have a law on the books that protects our residents from the unacceptable and long-lasting risks of nuclear power.”
Wisconsin’s “nuclear moratorium” law does not strictly prohibit the construction of nuclear power plants, but rather requires that any proposed nuclear power facility be proven economical for ratepayers and that a permanent waste storage site is available to safely store spent nuclear fuel.
Wisconsin legislators introduced a bill to repeal the nuclear moratorium law during this legislative session, but their efforts failed when the session ended last Thursday, April 22, without the bill coming up for a vote.
“A small group of legislators have tried repeatedly to repeal the nuclear moratorium law, but their efforts have failed because Wisconsin residents recognize the monumental importance of this common-sense protection,” said Nekola. “As we remember the terrible nuclear tragedy at Chernobyl, we should be grateful that Wisconsin residents and policy-makers recognize that the risks of nuclear power remain unacceptable.”