Nuclear-Free Future

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17 November 2016

Bruno Chareyron

Two skills count in a garage:  identifying problems and fixing problems. The mechanic must be a detective and a physician; and he guarantees the quality of his work. Roger Chareyron ran a garage in Mars near Saint-Agrève (department Ardeche). To his son Bruno he passed on mindfulness and precision. „And then there was my mother, a teacher, and last but not least my grand-parents, who questioned everything that came from the top,“ says the son.


Bruno Chareyron, born in 1964, did not take over his father’s garage, which had a large customer base, but studied engineering and nuclear physics. He was at the university when the meltdown at Chernobyl happened. At that time the professors and the Authorities were claiming that the radioactive fallout on the French territory was negligible which was totally wrong. In 1992, Bruno was shocked by the fact that infant leukemia rates were elevated in the surroundings of the La Hague reprocessing plant. He decided to learn more about the impact of nuclear energy.


What better way to confront a venal science than by a not-for-profit laboratory? CRIIRAD – Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendentes sur la RADioactivité – in French Valence (Drôme) is such a laboratory: It was founded in May 1986 because it seemed almost impossible to obtain reliable data after the Chernobyl accident on April 26. In 1993, at age 28, Bruno became director of the CRIIRAD laboratory. The lab, which not only analyses radioactivity in environmental samples but also trains citizens to conduct their own investigations, is mainly financed by commissions from the civilian sector and by donations. That the employees receive lower wages than in the industry is no surprise.


Bruno‘s willingness to travel all over the world has made CRIIRAD – admittedly not a catchy name – globally familiar.. In the documentary film „Yellow Cake“ you can see Bruno travel through the grounds of Arlit in Niger, the beeping Geiger counter always at hand, tracing uranium mined by the French company AREVA without regard for man and nature. For the tiny local resistance group, Aghirin Man (protection for the soul), he supplied equipment and scientific know-how. After the Fukushima disaster he helped his friend Wataru Iwata, a Japanese artist, to create a public measuring station, where everyone can scan his person and his food for radioactivity.


In France, he gave particular attention to disused uranium mines and their radioactive legacy. There are 210 such sites with elevated levels of radiation, inadequate protection and without warning signs. The radioactive debris was often used as raw material for construction. Chareyron and his colleagues found the material in the foundations of houses, in covered parking lots and children‘s playgrounds. When there were accidents in the Tricastin nuclear complex, it was Bruno and the CRIIRAD team that refuted the official figures and reassurances.


After 23 years spent at CRIIRAD Bruno concludes “ I m still very impressed by the lies of the nuclear industry regarding the actual level of contamination of the environment. This is why it is so important to train affected communities in the area of radiation monitoring and radiation protection”.