News & Opinion | August 9, 2019 1:18 pm

Scientists Have Made Vodka From Chernobyl’s Radioactive Grain

When life hands you radioactive grain, make non-radioactive vodka

atomik vodka
Atomik is a new grain spirit distilled near Chernobyl
Atomik

Scientists from the University of Portsmouth harvested grain – deemed just above the safe radiation level limit in Ukraine – in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone to create “Atomik” vodka, because why not.

After distillation, researchers diluted the alcohol with mineral water from an aquifer in Chernobyl. Although the grain itself does contain trace amounts of radiation, the process renders impurities to an undetectable level.

“30 years on after the accident we found was that in the area the crops were slightly above the very cautious Ukranian limit for consumption,” said researcher Jim Smith, who led the project and who has studied Chernobyl for decades. “So technically, you can’t eat those crops. But we thought, Well, we’ve got some grain, why don’t we try making a vodka.” 

Chernobyl is the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, killing 31 people from the explosion itself. While millions were exposed to the radiation, 200,000 more lives were taken from long-term health problems.

 “Atomik” is slated to be the first consumer product to come out of the abandoned nuclear reactor site. The newly formed Chernobyl Spirit Company will begin a first phase of small-scale production of the drink this year, and aims to donate 75 percent of the proceeds back to the communities affected by the disaster. 

Roughly 150 elderly people still live in and around the exclusion zone, against the warning of authorities. Although officials say humans won’t be able to safely live in the area again for 24,000 years, tourists are permitted to visit for short periods.

“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,” Smith said.

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