Life After Chernobyl: The Aftermath of a Nuclear Accident

A Swedish family copes with the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear accident and shares their experiences with what caused the accident, what to expect from authorities, preparation, precautions and protection.

| May/June 1987


Wearing protection against fallout-contaminated dust, Eva Forsell carries on, harrowing the fields of the family's small Swedish organic farm.


Twelve months ago, a Swedish family saw the "Cream of the Country" turn sour. The Forssells found their efforts to raise a healthy family and healthful crops mocked by the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. 

Life After Chernobyl: The Aftermath of a Nuclear Accident

If you're reading this magazine, it's likely that you have two things in common with us. First, your desire for a healthy environment probably influenced where you chose to pour your foundations and plant your dreams. Second, there's almost certainly a nuclear reactor within 900 miles of your home. As we found out last year, that's only a two-day ride on the wind.

A Good Place to Hide?

Inspired partially by Helen and Scott Nearing (founders of the back-to-the-land movement and former columnists for MOTHER EARTH NEWS), we bought a small farm at the end of a gravel road in the north of Sweden. We thought we were relatively safe from a radiation disaster. Sweden has an ambitious nuclear power program (at present it supplies 50% of the nation's electricity), but the intense debate here over potential risk has probably led to our reactors being comparatively "safe."

Step by step we've built up a commercial biodynamic vegetable farm. Our three daughters have been raised on our own produce, and our local organic growers' association likes our interpretation of the Rex Oberhelman slogan: "Our food is 1,000 kilometers fresher." [Editor's Note: Rex was interviewed in MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 98.] Over the winter of 1985-86, we finished the vital remodeling of our house. And while the snow was still on the ground, we started 80 (67-hole) flats of parsley as a special push to supplement our regular produce assortment for the season. Life was going well.

No Place to Hide!

We first heard about high radiation levels around a Swedish power plant on April 28, 1986. "Good thing we don't live there," we thought. In spite of being rather new, the Forsmark reactor seemed to be leaking. Authorities weren't able to figure out why a worker's clothing showed five to 10 times as much radiation as normal.

Later that day we Swedes (and the rest of the world) learned that the radioactivity was coming from the Ukraine. Invisible clouds of it blew north from Chernobyl over and around us after the nuclear accident. Everyone hoped that we'd experience just a short and marginal increase above normal background radiation levels. The Swedish Radiation Protection Institute (SSI) said that there was no danger but that, since rain was washing some fallout onto the ground, maybe we shouldn't let our children play in puddles.

1/30/2014 2:58:53 AM

Nuclear power accident is a very serious matter for everybody. These type of accident take many life's and most of the people got disable, accident happen due to many type of causes, those people who work for the project they are very professional and good experience in the projects. Accident happen due to the minor cases and that create a big problem so safety instruction should be very helpful for them.

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!