Everything in the world is atomic. In this respect, the brand name Atomik is strictly speaking nothing special for a vodka. What makes the liquor so unique is its basic ingredient. British and Ukrainian scientists have distilled it from grain that originates from the death zone: 30 kilometers restricted area around Chernobyl. The new spirit is the result of a three-year research study into how radioactive materials are transferred to crops in the disaster area.
But nothing is deadly about this vodka: Although the name Atomik suggests the otherwise, the alcohol is not radioactive according to the researchers from the University of Portsmouth. Thus, although radioactivity was measured in the grain from the area around the nuclear power plant, the vodka itself has no more traces of it after the distillation process. Also the water for the vodka comes from the area.
“I think [Atomik] 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,” says Professor Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth. “Many thousands of people are still living in the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement where new investment and use of agricultural land is still forbidden.”
So far, there is only one bottle. But Smith and his fellow scientists want to start a business and start production in 2020. 75 percent of the profits from the sale are to be given to the locals.
Working under a £100,000 (€108,000) grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Smith and his team took grain cultivated in test plots in the Exclusion Zone and water from deep aquifers located 10 km (6.2 mi) from the reactor site and then used them to make the vodka. The team says that initial mixture did contain enough strontium-90 to produce a radiation dose of a little over 20 Bq/kg, but the distillation process removed this, leaving behind only natural carbon-14, which is a normal background radioactive isotope found in all foods and spirits.
Block 4 of the Soviet nuclear power plant Chernobyl had exploded in the morning hours of April 26, 1986. The nuclear accident irradiated the area and sent a radioactive cloud over Europe. From the periphery of the reactor about 350,000 residents had to be evacuated. It could take another two or three centuries for a return to the region to be truly free of radiation risks. If you want an excellent dramatic retelling of the whole incident, Check out “Chernobyl”, the HBO Miniseries that is currently the highest rated TV show of all times.