Radioactive-free vodka produced from crops in Chernobyl

A radioactive-free vodka produced from crops in Chernobyl’s abandoned zone has been brewed by a team of scientists.

Professor Jim Smith, at the University of Portsmouth, described the artisan vodka branded ATOMIK as possibly the most important bottle of spirits in the world.

He and colleagues in Ukraine, where is was traditionally brewed, hope it will help the region recover economically.

In a report released today, Prof Smith and colleagues in the UK and Ukraine present the results of a three-year research project into the transfer of radioactivity to crops grown in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Professor Smith now wants to produce the artisan vodka made from grain grown near Chernobyl, and give 75 per cent of the profits back to the affected community.

He said: “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.

“Many thousands of people are still living in the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement where new investment and use of agricultural land is still forbidden.”

The team found some radioactivity in the grain: strontium-90 is slightly above the cautious Ukrainian limit of 20 Bq/kg. 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.

They have diluted the distilled alcohol with mineral water from the deep aquifer in Chernobyl town, 10km south of the reactor, which has similar chemistry to groundwater in the Champagne region of France – and is also free from contamination.

They are setting up a social enterprise “The Chernobyl Spirit Company” to begin to produce and sell “ATOMIK”, a high quality home-made vodka or “moonshine”.

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

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