Atomik vodka is being produced by a team of scientists from crops in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, according to University of Portsmouth.
As widely-known today, especially thanks to a recent HBO miniseries, Chernobyl was a real-life nuclear power plant in Ukraine, during the era of the old Soviet Union.
The plant’s reactor exploded in 1986. The blast killed dozens of people and sent radiation into the air, resulting in the evacuation of a large 1,000-square-mile “exclusion zone.” Here are some photos of the site today.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Atomik Vodka Is Produced From Crops in Chernobyl’s Abandoned Zone
Mike Kowalski shared a tweet which oozed scepticism regarding the new product.
According to the ATOMIK website, a group of Ukrainian and UK scientists have been studying the transfer of radioactivity to crops both in the main Exclusion Zone (CEZ) and in the Narodychi District within the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement. The land cannot officially be used for agriculture, however, people still live there.
Their research reportedly shows that, in many areas, land could now be used to produce safe and edible crops. The website says that distillation of fermented grain leaves many heavier elements in the waste product, as a result, the distillate alcohol is more radioactively “pure” than the original grain.
“We have used distillation to reduce radioactivity in the grain even further to make a product from Chernobyl which we hope people will want to consume,” the brand wrote.
2. Atomik Vodka Is Radioactive-Free
“I want the atomic vodka to give me super powers dangit!” ToshPointFroEats wrote on Twitter.
Unfortunately, Atomik vodka will not give anyone superpowers. According to its website, the scientists behind the drink have been doing studies to see how much radioactivity transfers from soil to crops in the Chernobyl abandoned areas.
More than 30 years after the accident, at their site in the main exclusion zone, the scientists found that radiocaesium in rye was below the “cautious” Ukrainian limit, but that radiostrontium was a slightly above the limit. However, when they made ATOMIK grain spirit from the grain, they found no Chernobyl-derived radioactivity in the distilled alcohol, according to its website.
“The laboratories of The Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute and the University of Southampton GAU-Radioanalytical could find no trace of Chernobyl radioactivity in ATOMIK grain spirit,” the website states. “Out of scientific curiosity we’re going to try even more sensitive analytical methods to see if we can find something – nothing on Earth is completely free of radioactivity.”
3. The Drink Is Produced by a Team of Scientists
According to its website, ATOMIK vodka was created by a team of five scientists. The first, Jim Smith, is a professor of environmental science at Portsmouth University who has studied the Chernobyl accident since 1990.
Jim’s brother, Neil Smith, is also on the team. Neil is a qualified accountant who held senior positions in Finance at energy company E.ON before taking early retirement in 2016.
Jim’s wife, Monica Alferez Calvo, is part of the team as well. Monica is a Consultant Psychiatrist and has worked for more than 20 years for the NHS. In addition, she produced the artwork for ATOMIK.
The last two members of the team are Gennady Laptev and Kyrylo Korychensky. Laptev is Head of the Radiometric Laboratory at the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute while Korychensky is a geologist and radiochemist currently completing his PhD at the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute. According to its website, Kyrylo is the “Master Distiller “of ATOMIK grain spirit.
4. Only One Bottle Has Been Produced
According to is website, Atomik vodka is currently limited to one experimental bottle.
“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,” Jim Smith said.
According to the University of Portsmouth, the team is reportedly setting up a social enterprise called “The Chernobyl Spirit Company” to begin to produce and sell “ATOMIK”, a high quality home-made vodka or “moonshine.”
“We’re scientists, so we’re taking a trial and error approach to the development of ATOMIK grain spirit..,” the team wrote in a blog post. “Our plans could change as our dreams are challenged by reality. And we might well mess it up altogether.”
5. A Portion of the Profits Will Go to Communities in the Affected Areas and Wildlife Conservation
YouTuber Jordan Simons traveled to Chernobyl recently. “The truth is though that once you’re inside it’s a very somber place and for the most part people are respectful of that,” Simons wrote. “I think it’s easy to be desensitized to something when you see it on a series on tv, but this was a huge tragedy and it only happened 33 years ago. It’s still fresh in a lot of Ukrainians memories.”
According to its website, The Chernobyl Spirit Company is a social enterprise aiming to produce high-quality artisan vodka from land in the areas of Ukraine abandoned after the Chernobyl accident.
“More than thirty years after the accident, we believe that what these areas need most is economic development and management of the unique wildlife resource the abandoned areas represent,” the website states. “At least 75% of profits from sales of ATOMIK will go to supporting communities in the affected areas and wildlife conservation.”
According to the University of Portsmouth, Oleg Nasvit, the First Deputy Head of the State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management, welcomes the initiative. Nasvit said it is important to support the restoration of normal life, all while putting safety first.