Scientists have covered new ground with the production of artisan vodka made from water and grain grown near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. A team of scientists have announced the release of the first bottle of ‘Atomic Vodka’. This is the first consumer product to be made within the exclusion zone of the nuclear reactor.

A team of researchers from the UK and Ukraine along with Professor Jim Smith grew rye crops within the exclusion zone. Public access and inhabitation have been restricted in the exclusion zone due to dangerous levels of radiation still present.

The vodka has no radioactive elements 

While testing Smith and his team found a radioactive isotope, strontium-90, present in the grain. It exceeded the levels of radiation allowed in goods by Ukrainian authorities. However, the vodka will not cause any harm because the distillation process safely removes all radioactive impurities. “This is no more radioactive than any other vodka,” Smith said. He added, “Any chemist will tell you when you distill something, impurities stay in the waste product.”

artisan vodka
Pripyat, Chernobyl

Smith explained the production process. He said, “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. [And] they couldn’t find anything — everything was below their limit of detection.”

The vodka will have no radioactive elements

The vodka will be sold by the newly-created social enterprise Chernobyl Spirit Company. It will return 75% of its profits to the affected community. Even though radiological conditions in the area are slowly improving, the social and economic development of the people living there has remained stunted.

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Smith said, “The problem for most people who live there is they don’t have the proper diet, good health services, jobs or investment. Now, after 30 years, I think the most important thing in the area is actually economic development, not the radioactivity.”



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