Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 404–417 | Cite as

From Chernobyl to Fukushima: an interdisciplinary framework for managing and communicating food security risks after nuclear plant accidents

  • Alexander Belyakov


This comparison of government disaster management and public communications after the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents seeks to create a framework for disaster management that enhances food resilience (the ability of food systems to withstand perturbations that could cause disruption of food supply); and in the specific case of nuclear disasters, the avoidance of contaminated food and provision of alternative foods. This paper integrates food security, emergency management, and risk communications perspectives. Misinformation and incomplete information can bias decision-making and political actions. When risk communication is inadequate, the public reacts with fear, mistrust, panic and stress. People have difficulty deciding what they can safely eat and what they should not eat. Many choose to reject all food from affected regions, which can compromise food security. Lack of proper information may lead to such extremes in behavior as avoidance of dairy products and consumption of untested foods, which may in fact have high levels of radioactivity. The measures taken by the USSR after the Chernobyl disaster lacked consistency and clarity and were not effective in providing food security for the affected people. The government also demonstrated a lack of attention to social justice in its dealings with people who moved back to the contaminated area, ignoring government policy that they should stay out. Those people still suffer from food insecurity. In Japan, food that met government safety levels was available, but many consumers nonetheless questioned the safety of food supplies and farmers often were confused about production and marketing. In both the Chernobyl and Fukushima cases, the evacuation of affected people was aimed at reducing exposure to radiation and did not sufficiently consider neither the psychological and physical health impacts of resettlement nor the security and safety of food supplies. Government responses would have been more effective in some regions if a timely distribution program of adequate, safe alternative foods (especially radioprotectors) from non-affected areas had been initiated.


Food security Nuclear safety Chernobyl nuclear accident Fukushima nuclear accident Emergency management Risk communication 



The author would like to thank Robert Mason for editing, John Dudley Miller, the editors of this special issue, all participants of the authors’ presentations at the Ukraine Research Group at University of Toronto in 2015, the 2014 AESS Annual Meeting at Pace University in New York City, the 2013 Yale Food System Symposium, and the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments.


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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing EducationRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada

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