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Chernobyl expert: Japan situation could be ‘radioactive volcano’

Famed South Carolina naturalist and Chernobyl expert Rudy Mancke said Sunday that Japan’s nuclear situation could become a historic catastrophe if early reports of meltdowns turn out to be true — depending on the severity of the meltdowns.

“If they are melting down and being released into the air, they are going to become a radioactive volcano,” said Mancke, 65, the University of South Carolina’s naturalist in residence who has studied animal and plant life around Chernobyl for more than two decades.

Mancke is one of several S.C. experts featured on an upcoming three-part ETV series on the 25-year aftermath of Chernobyl, whose April 1986 meltdown up until now was regarded as history’s greatest nuclear reactor disaster.

Mancke has visited Chernobyl and its environs four times and in 2003 made a half-hour ETV show on what has happened to plants and animals around Chernobyl since the 1986 disaster.

Contamination from Chernobyl resulted in the relocation of some 336,000 people and a 30-kilometer wide exclusion zone in which no humans are supposed to live. Some 4,000 deaths from cancer will eventually occur because of the accident, scientists predict.

The full extent of Japan’s situation, in which four nuclear reactors were damaged, is not yet known. However, early reports say safety and containment features on Japan’s reactors are superior to those at Chernobyl.

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