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The United States government recently granted the first loan guarantees for building new nuclear power plants, the first to be built in over 30 years. Some believe nuclear power must replace coal, oil, and natural gas in order to reduce climate change. Others disagree strongly on grounds that nuclear is either unsafe or too expensive or both. How do you cover this kind of story? Is nuclear power safe enough and cheap enough to be a good new source of energy? And Chernobyl: does it have any implications for today’s journalists?
This Study Trip offers an exceptional opportunity to see the impacts of the Chernobyl accident on Ukraine, and thereby gain broader insights into the challenges posed by a nuclear renaissance. Participants will gather near JFK airport in New York for orientation on October 15, 2010, and depart for Ukraine on the 16th. They will have an intensive week in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, meeting and talking with a wide variety of people about the 1986 accident and about Ukraine’s current program of nuclear power. They will also—if they wish—visit the Exclusion Zone and see (from a distance) the containment structure surrounding the ruined reactor. Participants will gain a vastly transformed understanding of the challenges posed by nuclear power. English is the working language.
When: October 15-24 or 26, 2010
Who Should Participate in this Study Trip?
The purpose of this Study Trip is to introduce working professionals from a variety of fields to the major issues surrounding the use of nuclear power. This technology has for the most part been a battleground between fierce advocates and staunch opponents. Each of these adversaries knows a great deal about the technology and its risks, costs, and benefits. All too often, however, other professionals are simply mystified by the passions aroused and have no independent way of assessing in their own minds the pro’s and con’s of nuclear power. Even some advocates and opponents of nuclear power operate in a vacuum in terms of their knowledge of Chernobyl, its lingering effects, and the difficult strategic energy choices faced by countries like Ukraine.
We intend this Study Trip for people working in energy, environmental protection and regulation, environmental health, environmental policy, natural resource management, education, journalism, and other fields. Participants will include people who are pro- and anti-nuclear and also those who are undecided. Ukrainian counterparts you will meet will span a comparable spectrum of opinions. If you are a working professional concerned about energy, nuclear power, and climate change, this trip is for you. It does not matter if you favor, oppose, or are undecided about the issues.
What You Will See and Who You Will Meet
The group will gather at a hotel (TBA) near JFK airport on Friday, October 15, for orientation that evening and on Saturday, October 16. Departure for Kyiv from JFK will be late afternoon on the 16th, with arrival in Kyiv on Sunday morning, October 17.
On the first full day in Kyiv (the 18th), the Study Trip will travel about 100 km north to the Exclusion Zone, a 30-km circle around the ruined Chernobyl reactor. You will see from about 100 m away the concrete containment structure (the “sarcophagus”) covering the ruined reactor and its radioactive debris. At the Visitor’s Center, you will see a detailed model of the reactor and what happened during the explosions. In driving around the Exclusion Zone, you will see the abandoned city of Pripyat, monuments to the first responders to the catastrophe, many abandoned older villages, and vegetation affected by the intense radiation released. If possible you will also meet a few residents who have returned to the Exclusion Zone, because it is home.
During the remainder of the week in Kyiv, you will visit the Chernobyl Museum, meet with staff members of the Ukrainian State Nuclear Regulatory Committee, staff at the Ukrainian nuclear energy agency (Energoatom), staff at Chernobyl at the time of the accident, political leaders in Ukraine, health professionals, environmental contamination scientists, energy policy analysts, artists, educators, and journalists. You will discover that Ukrainians with comparable backgrounds and experiences have diametrically opposed views on the future of nuclear power.
On the arrival day and the day before departure, you will have a chance to see the ancient city of Kyiv and a museum of Ukrainian culture. Participants who are able may stay until October 26 for an extra field trip to the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant complex. An extra charge for additional lodging and food expenses will accrue to those who stay till the 26th.
Travel Grant and Other Costs
Based on current prices, we project that our grant from the Trust for Mutual Understanding to The Evergreen State College will provide one night’s lodging in New York, round trip airfare from JFK to Kyiv, airport transfers in New York and Kyiv, and the field trip to the Exclusion Zone. We ask participants to provide—from their own or institutional sources—travel to and from JFK, lodging and meals in Kyiv, and transport within Kyiv (mostly on very low cost subway trains). At the moment, we estimate those costs to be no more than $50 – $100 per day. Costs may vary due to fluctuation in exchange rates and price changes in Ukraine. Study trip organizers will book the best group travel arrangements possible. The grant from the Trust may be able to support lodging and meal expenses of a few participants. Round trip air travel from JFK to Kyiv will be booked by the travel leaders.
Participants must provide a check made to The Evergreen State College for lodging expenses in Kyiv, which will also be booked by the Study Trip leaders. This amount will be in the neighborhood of $400-$600, depending on single or double occupancy. The exact amount due will be announced in August. Participants who stay over till the 26th for the extra field trip will have slightly higher amounts due. These checks will be due no later than 1 September, 2010.
Note: all expenses at this point are the best estimates we can make. Conditions may differ somewhat due to exchange rate fluctuations and inflation. We will inform participants as we learn more.
Prospective participants must apply using the Application Form. Application review will begin on March 31, 2010, and it will continue until the Study Trip is full (between 8 – 12 people). Successful applicants will receive notices starting April 14, 2010, and continuing until the trip is full. We will if necessary name alternate participants, who will be able to go if space opens up. Participants who do not need support for travel may also be able to join the Study Trip, but they, too, must apply. Deadline for first review of applicants to participate in the Study Trip is March 31st.
Passports and Visas
Participants must have a valid passport that expires no sooner than April 28, 2011 (six months after trip is completed). At the moment, US citizens do not need a visa to enter Ukraine, but we will keep participants informed if this should change.
John H. Perkins, Ph.D. is a Member of the Faculty Emeritus in environmental studies at The Evergreen State College. He has worked in this field for over 35 years. In 2007, he co-led a class to Ukraine to study the Chernobyl accident and its aftermath. His current efforts focus on improving energy education and on the historical debates about safety of nuclear power. He has published many books and articles in environmental history. He received his BA degree in biology from Amherst College and his Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University.
Andriy Martynyuk received his specialist degrees in ecology and environmental protection and in education at the National University of Water Management and Nature Resources Use in Rivne, Ukraine. Andriy did post-graduate work in ecology and environmental protection at the same university, and he has more than 10 years of experience in non-profit environmental work emphasizing energy. Recently he completed an energy efficiency study for the city of Lviv, Ukraine. Since 1998, he has worked with Ecoclub, a non-profit environmental organization in Rivne, and is currently chairman of the organization’s board. Andriy is fluent in English, Ukrainian, and Russian.