Chernobyl Vodka Made from Contaminated Grain Around Nuclear Disaster Area Goes on Sale

A team of scientists have unveiled a vodka which has been produced using grains and water from the Chernobyl exclusion zone, which they claim is completely safe to drink.

Professor Jim Smith, from the University of Portsmouth in South England, assured that the ATOMIK drink is no more dangerous than any other alcoholic drink.

The drink is the first consumer product to have come out of the forbidden zone in the Ukraine since the nuclear catastrophe occurred in Ukraine in 1986.

Smith went as far as to say he believes the team has produced the "most important bottle of spirit in the world" as they plan to give 75 percent of the profits back to communities who are still affected by the Chernobyl disaster after more than 33 years.

"Many thousands of people are still living in the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement where new investment and use of agricultural land is still forbidden," Smith said.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement are areas stretching more than 2600 square kilometers (1003 square miles) around the nuclear reactor near the city of Pripyat which are still under restricted access and legislation.

The team, consisting of scientists in the U.K. and some who have worked in the exclusion zone, said they did find some radioactivity in the grain.

"Strontium-90 is slightly above the cautious Ukrainian limit of 20 Bq/kg," a University of Portsmouth spokesperson said.

"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."

The team said they diluted the distilled alcohol with mineral water from a deep aquifer from the town of Chernobyl, which was also found to be free from contamination. Smith said the water has similar chemistry to groundwater in the Champagne region of France.

"This is no more radioactive than any other vodka," Smith told the BBC.

"Any chemist will tell you, when you distill something, impurities stay in the waste product. So we took rye that was slightly contaminated and water from the Chernobyl aquifer and we distilled it.

"We asked our friends at Southampton University, who have an amazing radio-analytical laboratory, to see if they could find any radioactivity. They couldn't find anything—everything was below their limit of detection."

The vodka was the result of three-years' worth of research into the transfer of radioactivity to crops grown in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Smith said he hopes that ATOMIK could pave the way towards further helping the communities around the abandoned zone.

"We don't think the main Exclusion Zone should be extensively used for agriculture as it is now a wildlife reserve," Smith said. "But there are other areas where people live, but agriculture is still banned."

"33 years on, many abandoned areas could now be used to grow crops safely without the need for distillation.

"We aim to make a high-value product to support economic development of areas outside the main Exclusion Zone where radiation isn't now a significant health risk."

Oleg Nasvit, first deputy head of the State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management, welcomed the finding. He said: "It is important that we do everything we can to support the restoration of normal life in these areas whilst always putting safety first."

Nasvit added: "I'd call this a high-quality moonshine–it isn't typical of a more highly purified vodka, but has the flavor of the grain from our original Ukrainian distillation methods–I like it."

So far the team has only produced one bottle of ATOMIK, but are hoping to produce as many as 500 this year to initially sell to tourists visiting the exclusion zone.

The vodka, made with grain and water from the Chernobyl exclusion zone, is the first consumer product to come from the abandoned area the nuclear power plant. University of Portsmouth

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