University of Portsmouth professor distils Chernobyl's first vodka

Professor Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth and the Atomik vodka brewed from crops grown near Chernobyl
Professor Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth and the Atomik vodka brewed from crops grown near Chernobyl
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A PROFESSOR from the University of Portsmouth has helped to produce vodka from crops in an abandoned area of Chernobyl.

An exclusion zone was set up around the Ukranian region following the nuclear reactor disaster in 1986.

But now, Professor Jim Smith and a team of British scientists have created a bottle of vodka – called Atomik – which Professor Smith believes could kick-start the area’s economy.

The vodka is free from radioactivity, because the distilling process reduces all impurities in the grain – as is the case with all spirits.

Professor Smith 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.’

To produce the vodka, Professor Smith and his team diluted the distilled alcohol with mineral water from a deep aquifer in Chernobyl town.

Currently, just one bottle has been produced, but The Chernobyl Spirit Company is hoping to churn out 500 bottles by the end of this year.

He says there are areas of Chernobyl where economic development could begin to really flourish.

‘We don't think the main exclusion zone should be extensively used for agriculture as it is now a wildlife reserve but there are other areas where people live but agriculture is still banned,’ he said.

‘Thirty-three years on, many abandoned areas could now be used to grow crops safely without the need for distillation.

‘We aim to make a high-value product to support economic development of areas outside the main exclusion zone where radiation isn't now a significant health risk.'

A University of Portsmouth spokesman said: ‘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.’