advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

Scientists made vodka from grain grown at Chernobyl, and it’s totally drinkable and doesn’t glow

The brains behind Atomik vodka want to bring back agriculture to the region devastated by the nuclear disaster, starting with artisanal booze.

Scientists made vodka from grain grown at Chernobyl, and it’s totally drinkable and doesn’t glow
Jim Smith [Photo: courtesy University of Portsmouth]

More than three decades after a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded and caught fire—sending radioactive waste as far away as the U.K.—the 1,600-square-mile exclusion zone around the plant is still largely uninhabited. But thousands of people live nearby, in the “Zone of Obligatory Resettlement,” and struggle to make a living. One project aims to help rebuild the economy with a new product: vodka made from grains and water near the area.

advertisement
[Photo: courtesy University of Portsmouth]

Called Atomik, the booze isn’t yet on the market. But scientists from the U.K.’s University of Portsmouth who have been studying radioactivity from crops in the area made one experimental bottle of the product, and found that (despite the name) the vodka is radiation-free. They hope to begin selling it.

[Photo: Tom Hinton/courtesy University of Portsmouth]
“The most important thing for these abandoned areas around the main exclusion zone, what they need, is jobs and investment and economic growth,” Jim Smith, a University of Portsmouth researcher, said in a video about the project. “What we’re trying to do is make an artisan, kind of homemade, but high-quality grain spirit from grain grown in the regions affected by the Chernobyl accident. And we’ve subjected this to a battery of tests, and we can’t find any radioactivity. There’s no plutonium. No americium, no cesium, no strontium. So from a radiological point of view, it’s safe to drink.”

Self-settler garden Narodychi District. [Photo: courtesy University of Portsmouth]

The grain did have a small amount of radiation when it was harvested, but the distilling process removed it. The water comes from a deep aquifer in the town of Chernobyl that remained uncontaminated. The researchers say that other crops could likely be grown in the area, though agriculture is still prohibited.

The scientists plan to create a new social enterprise, called the Chernobyl Spirit Company, to market the product. They’ll still need to pass some legal hurdles before that can happen, but hope to begin small-scale experimental production later this year.

advertisement
advertisement

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

More