New report examines financial costs of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster

Chernobyl

The Chernobyl accident 30 years ago on April 26, 1986, is the worst disaster in the history of nuclear power generation. Although fewer than 50 deaths have been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, up to 4,000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure, according to the World Health Organization.

A new report by USC Institute for Global Health Director Jonathan Samet focuses on the disaster’s financial costs.

“The 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe that exposed some 10 million people to nuclear radiation in the surrounding countries has estimated costs of roughly $700 billion over the past 30 years, according to our extensive review of the literature,” said Jonathan Samet, Distinguished Professor and Flora L. Thornton Chair of the preventive medicine department at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Health represents the largest proportion of the indirect costs. These costs greatly exceed those directly related to the plant because this price tag spans a lifetime and possibly even reaches to the next generation. Neuropsychological effects, such as depression, are among the most widespread and expensive of the long-term consequences.”

Samet has published several reports on the long-term health consequences of the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters. The most recent, published April 21, 2016, reviews literature and recommendations on what should be done to provide a broader, more certain cost estimate of the disaster’s negative consequences. 

Such understanding, the report states, is needed for a deeper societal appreciation of the costs of nuclear power, which must reflect not only the costs of construction, operations, and decommissioning, but of any accidents.

This report complements Samet’s previous reports prepared for Green Cross Switzerland that addressed the long-term health consequences of the disaster, including neuropsychological and chronic disease outcomes (Samet & Chanson, 2014; Samet & Patel, 2011; Samet & Patel, 2013). Learn more »