How would you like to try vodka that is made from wheat grown near the site of a famous nuclear disaster?
A team of scientists from the United Kingdom and the Ukraine have produced a bottle of vodka — perhaps appropriately named "Atomik" — that was made from crops grown in the abandoned areas surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear plant, according to the University of Portsmouth.
“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," said University of Portsmouth professor Jim Smith, who lead the team of scientists involved in the project and now wants to mass produce the vodka.
“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 researchers who came up with the vodka are setting up a company, The Chernobyl Spirit Company, and plan to produce and sell the vodka. Plans call for 75 percent of the profits to be used to benefit the community living in the Chernobyl Zone of Obligatory Resettlement.
The Chernobyl plant is, of course, famous for its 1986 accident which leaked radiation into the surrounding environment and lead to the permanent evacuation of about 300,000 people.
The University of Portsmouth said, however, the vodka is radioactive-free.
The grain used to make the vodka was itself found to be radioactive with levels of strontium-90 just above the Ukrainian caution limit of 20 Bq/kg. But university officials said the distilling process removes that radioactivity, along with other impurities in the grain, and that only natural Carbon-14 can be detected and even that is reportedly at the same level found in other distilled spirits.
Mineral water from a deep aquifer in the Chernobyl town located about 10 kilometers south of the nuclear plant is used to dilute distilled alcohol, but the University of Portsmouth said the water is not contaminated and has the same chemistry as groundwater from France's Champagne region.
“33 years on, many abandoned areas could now be used to grow crops safely without the need for distillation," Smith said.
“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.”
The Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute, the University of Southampton GAU-Radioanalytical, the University of Portsmouth Geological and Environmental Laboratories and an independent wine and spirits testing laboratory conducted tests on radioactivity levels in the distilled alcohol and water.
“We welcome this initiative to use abandoned lands to help local communities," State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management First Deputy Head Oleg Nasvit said in a statement released by the University of Portsmouth. "It is important that we do everything we can to support the restoration of normal life in these areas whilst always putting safety first ...
"I’d call this a high quality moonshine - it isn’t typical of a more highly purified vodka, but has the flavour of the grain from our original Ukrainian distillation methods – I like it.”