Aftermath of Chernobyl




The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine exposed thousands to excessive radiation and put all of Western Europe on alert. For more than a decade a team of scientists and engineers has been working at the facility to figure out how to contain the huge amount of nuclear fuel that makes it impossible for anyone ever again to live within a 20 mile radius of the facility and which threatens a much larger population unless the containment problem can be resolved.

The scientists and engineers are exposed to radiation levels far in excess of what is regarded as acceptable in the U.S. (some more than 60,000 times greater). Featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes (Dec. 18, 1994), one of the team members said he turns in an "official" record of his level of exposure that is substantially below the actual exposure so that he will be allowed to continue on the project. Asked why he wants to say, he replied, "Someone has to do this. Who else will go instead of me?" He specifically mentioned his two sons, who said they would like to join the team; but he replied that he does not want them to, that it is not necessary for them to do this. Commenting on the team’s efforts, a Ukrainian spokesperson characterized the volunteers as heroic and brave (if a bit "eccentric" and in some instances "foolish").

Identify and discuss the ethical dimensions of this situation.