Scientists produce 'Atomik' vodka from Chernobyl grain

Alcohol is free of radioactivity and could help economic recovery in region

What do you call vodka produced from grain grown in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster 33 years ago?

Atomik, of course.

British scientists say the alcohol is free of dangerous radioactivity and could be mass produced to help economic recovery in the blighted region around Chernobyl.

Prof Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth hopes the traditionally distilled “artisan” alcohol can be produced and sold through a social enterprise called the Chernobyl Spirit Company, with 75% of profits going back to the local community.

Reactor No 4 at the Chernobyl power plant exploded in the early hours of 26 April, 1986 sending a plume of radioactive dust across a swathe of Europe. An exclusion zone of 18 miles (30km) around the plant was evacuated of 350,000 residents and declared unsafe for human habitation for 24,000 years because of radioactive fallout.

Today, local companies offer tourist tours into the exclusion zone, which has been declared a wildlife area. Studies show it hosts great biodiversity and experts report minimal negative effects of radiation on the flora and fauna.

Smith said the vodka was blended with mineral water from a deep well near Chernobyl.

“I think this is the most important bottle of spirits in the world, because it could help the economic recovery of communities living in and around the abandoned areas,” he said.

A University of Portsmouth spokesman said the research team had found some radioactivity in the grain, grown on a farm in the exclusion zone.

“But because distilling reduces any impurities in the original grain, the only radioactivity the researchers could detect in the alcohol is natural Carbon-14 at the same level you would expect in any spirit drink,” he said.

“We don’t think the main exclusion zone should be extensively used for agriculture as it is now a wildlife reserve, but there are other areas where people live but agriculture is still banned.

“We aim to make a high-value product to support economic development outside the main exclusion zone where radiation isn’t now a significant health risk.”

Oleg Nasvit, the first deputy head of the State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management, told AFP: “We welcome this initiative to use abandoned lands to help local communities. It is important that we do everything we can to support the restoration of normal life in these areas whilst always putting safety first.

“I’d call this a high-quality moonshine. It isn’t typical of a more highly purified vodka, but it has the flavour of the grain from our original Ukrainian distillation methods. I like it.”


Kim Willsher

The GuardianTramp

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