Scientists make radioactive-free vodka from Chernobyl crops


It’s may be made from radioactive crops — but it won’t give you spidey senses.

Scientists have made vodka from crops grown near Chernobyl, and the alcohol safe to drink although it could cause a drunk meltdown, like any other booze. Professor Jim Smith and his colleagues in Ukraine have created the “ATOMIK” vodka as part of a three-year project, according to a statement from the University of Portsmouth.

Although the grain used to make the alcohol had traces of radioactivity, through the distilling process, the impurities are reduced. The only radioactivity detected after distilling was Carbon-14 which is to be expected in any kind of alcoholic drink. Mineral water from the deep aquifer in Chernobyl was used to dilute the distilled alcohol. It is free from contamination. Gennady Laptev of the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute and Smith spent a quarter of a century studying the long term effects of radioactivity in Chernobyl, and their vodka project has been in development for three years. Together, they founded the Chernobyl Spirit Company.

The two scientists and some of their colleagues were looking into the possibility of producing crops from Chernobyl good for human consumption and found vodka to be a decent possibility. The local water in the vodka is safe, too, they posited, because it comes from a discreet aquifer about 500 feet (150 meters) below the radiated area where the chemical composition is similar to the groundwater of the Champagne region.

sign of radiation hazard on the background of radioactive garbage

Only a trace of Carbon-14 was detected in the vodka they made, at a level organically present in hard spirits. Radiation tests carried out by scientists at the University of Southampton confirmed the product to be as safe as any other hard liquor. On April 25 and 26, 1986, disaster took place at the Chernobyl plant in what is now Ukraine. Workers shut off the reactor’s power-regulating and emergency safety systems. They also withdrew most of the control rods from the core. This, along with other mistakes, was done while the reactor was running at 7% power, resulting in the chain reaction going haywire.

And just to be safer, Laptev and Smith said their vodka will be triple-distilled, like premium vodkas. They are pitching their proposed product as a way for tourists to give back to the Chernobyl region by supporting local agriculture and local business.

“Ten thousand to 12,000 people are still living in the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement,” explains Smith, “where new investment and use of agricultural land is still forbidden.”

For them, Smith and Laptev claim, Atomik vodka could be an economic lifeline.