back to article Terror in the Chernobyl dead zone: Life - of a wild kind - burgeons

The Chernobyl "Dead Zone": a terrible wasteland swept clean of life by a foolish humanity's meddling in things best left alone. Or is it? Not so much, it turns out. Not only were the consequences of Chernobyl relatively minor for human health* - they've actually been very positive for wildlife in the area around the abandoned …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

  1. Malcolm 1

    Radiation is safe for wildlife...

    ...or at least less damaging than humans.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

      It's even safer for wildlife because there will be few people who would hunt those animals for food, and the fur may glow a bit too brightly for sale either..

      In all seriousness, though, I'd be interested in how these animals cope with ingesting food replete with radiation. Or maybe the plants have a way of preventing ingress of that dangerous material, and so the recovery starts far earlier in the cycle?

      Either way, good news. At least the animals are safe when we nuke the planet..

    2. Stuart 22

      Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

      Probably not. Thyroid cancer deaths have probably soared amongst elderly wolves. But they got old 'cos they had enough to eat and were not shot. Those, of course, who are less susceptible to radiation will have a much stronger competitive advantage bred into them within a few generations which may be pretty much now.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

        Radiation or lack thereof has much less to do with the thriving animal population than the noticeable lack of human activity in the region. It's good to know that nature is extremely resilient and can get back up to normal within 2-3 decades.

        That begs the question, could humans have continued to live there without any problems? Or would problems show up much later due to long-term effects, seeing that none of the animals studied have a lifespan as long as a human one? No way of knowing with an understandable lack of guinea-pig volunteers.

        In any case, one more solid argument against the rabid anti-nuclear crowd who no doubt have no idea of the science behind nuclear power but it's 'nookoolar' so got to be bad, right?

        1. tony2heads

          Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

          "That begs the question, could humans have continued to live there without any problems?"

          Probably if you are already an adult and not planning to have children around. The uptake of the radionuclei depends on growth rate, so if you are no longer growing it probably is not a big deal. Also if you stick to fruit and veg, and stay away from the top end of the food chain (where they get concentrated) you should also be fairly safe.

          I remember a discussion with a nuclear engineer who said that dosage rates should depend on the individual.

          1. tony2heads

            Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

            See Albert Stevens who survived for 20 years after being injected with Plutonium in his 50s

          2. John Tserkezis

            Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

            James M: "That begs the question, could humans have continued to live there without any problems?"

            tony2heads: "Probably if you are already an adult and not planning to have children around."

            Except they did. As it turns out, the existing adults that flatly refused to move out did sort of ok. In that they don't look great at all, but they're far from dead too.

            But, they're having children too, and they're not doing so hot. In combination of they're still growing and being exposed to the fallout in the food and more so, water, they clearly come out second best.

            At this point, the problem is not the "radiation" as such, it's the fallout. Tourists are covered in white suits and booties to protect them from picking up radioactive contaminants and having them close to their bodies longer term. Background radiation has become a bit ho-hum, there are people who WORK there after all.

            I'd really love to say "if you want to know more, look at the web", however the information is heavily fragmented and takes some time to dig up and read through. Really interesting if you do though.

        2. DaveDaveDave

          Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

          "That begs the question, could humans have continued to live there without any problems? Or would problems show up much later due to long-term effects, seeing that none of the animals studied have a lifespan as long as a human one? No way of knowing with an understandable lack of guinea-pig volunteers."

          Astonishingly, there's no lack of volunteer guinea pigs. People have been moving back there since just after the evacuation. They're not allowed to be there, so information is scarce, but it's thought the population of Pripyat is at least in the low hundreds, with more scattered around in outlying villages.

          1. montyburns56

            Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

            There was a feature about Chernobyl on C4 News months ago and they interviewed this stereotypical old Russian woman who was living in the contaminated zone for years without any health issues. You can watch it on Youtube.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khv87k68kIs

            1. fajensen Silver badge

              Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

              they interviewed this stereotypical old Russian woman

              OLD being the operative word here: If one can survive Russian-quality food, drink and cigarettes for decades, one is probably pre-selected for immunity to all known nuclear, chemical and biological threats.

        3. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

          Humans could probably survive long enough to have children, which is about 12-14 years old if you don't follow modern societal norms. That doesn't mean they will be healthy.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

        Don't be silly. I-131 disappears within a month of a reactor stopping fissioning.

        Long lived (and therefore less active) isotopes tend to be caesium etc etc. More likely to cause bone cancers etc etc.

        Except there's sod all evidence of anything like that. Its another case of 'the model says X, but reality says Y, ergo reality is simply wrong'...

        The regulatory limits and the models were produced by drawing a straight line graph between known points of high level radiation, for which evidence existed from e.g Hiroshima, and the origin.

        Because no data points existed in between at all.

        So the LNT model was born which assumed death rates were proportional to radiation intensity, and there was no safe limit.

        The extraordinary news from Chernobyl, was not how many people died, but how many didn't die.

        The model predicted tens of thousands - even hundreds of thousands. The reality was that the official statistics are less than 100 deaths.

        At last, and with other data from areas with high levels of natural radiation, and studies done on irradiating cells at low levels, we can say that actually chronic low level radiation is 100-1000 times less dangerous than the LNT model assumes.

        But as with climate change, who looks at reality when you have a scary anti-technology model to wave around?

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

          As other people have said, it is the fallout. Thats why the sarcophagus needed to be shored up because there will be an awful lot of fallout thrown up if the crumbling structure fails.

        2. Adrian Midgley 1
          FAIL

          We have some data points from CT etc

          Radiologists pay careful attention to population accumulation of diagnostic radiation and assert, I think on sound evidence, that it matters.

    3. James Micallef Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

      "Radiation is safe for wildlife" - or at least it is at safe-ish levels a couple of decades after a reactor meltdown.

      Given that, why not build a bunch of new reactors where we can simply specify an exclusion zone around them? Like in the middle of existing national parks?

      1. Crumble

        Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

        "Why not build a bunch of new reactors where we can simply specify an exclusion zone around them? Like in the middle of existing national parks?"

        A bit like Windscale, really.

        1. macjules Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

          +1 My thought exactly. Only I was thinking of a minor meltdown (can there be such a thing?) in Dungeness. Result: the new Kent National Animal Reserve.

      2. John Tserkezis

        Re: Radiation is safe for wildlife...

        "Given that, why not build a bunch of new reactors where we can simply specify an exclusion zone around them? Like in the middle of existing national parks?"

        Because the greenie envronmentalists will whine about taking away green vegetation just to be replaced with the machinery of man. Besides, they'd MUCH prefer the area to be re-vegitised with something productive. Like pot. Read their party policy, it's all in there.

  2. Joe Drunk

    Any 3-eyed fish, six-legged deer or carniverous, sabre-toothed elk?

    See title

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any 6 legged chickens?

      Colonel Sanders wants to know

      1. Craig 2

        Re: Any 6 legged chickens?

        Yes, but nobody can catch the bloody things...

    2. Antonymous Coward
      Alien

      Re: Any 3-eyed fish, six-legged deer or carniverous, sabre-toothed elk?

      Bad Lewis.

      Couldn't even get the two excerpts you selected to contradict one another? They don't in the slightest.

      Of course populations of wildlife will encroach on the contaminated area... and the consequences are, of course, horrific. Go for a wander around your "park" of three headed snakes and legless deer and (perhaps) you'll understand.

      I'm a supporter of the contra-carbophobe pieces - the mindless modern mainstream edutainment seems abjectly incapable of scientific reporting and has instead, almost without exception, obediently toed the governmental lines. Balance desperately needed. This shit, however, is perverse. What are you on? Some sort of arbitrary all-environmental-damage-is-imaginary crusade? Mescaline? Jesus Lewis! Bulk dissemination of free radioisotopes into the environment is bad, mmmkay? If you can come up with evidence, or even a reasonable argument, to the contrary I'd be interested to read it. That thing you just published wasn't one. It didn't seem to be anything more than a failure to notice that two quotations don't contradict one-another with a dollop of rhetoric on top. As for "56 deaths" - WTF? Mescaline again? Perhaps you might read something on the subject - I might suggest a quick Google of Mr Henry Marsh CBE FRCS, a decent bloke, and his work in Ukraine* to begin.

      Bad Lewis. Done yourself something of a disservice I fear.

      *I'll leave figuring out the significance of that country as an exercise for the reader.

      /"Hippy" mode

    3. montyburns56

      Re: Any 3-eyed fish, six-legged deer or carniverous, sabre-toothed elk?

      There's some 8' long catfish in the cooling ponds near the reactor apparently.

      1. CarbonLifeForm

        Re: Any 3-eyed fish, six-legged deer or carniverous, sabre-toothed elk?

        Catfish grow a lot. Even if they aren't mutant glowing catfish. Nothing's catching them I'll wager.

    4. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Any 3-eyed fish, six-legged deer or carniverous, sabre-toothed elk?

      No, but from the Daily Mail today there is a one-eyed baby (possibly NSFW)

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3261905/The-tragic-cyclops-baby-born-one-eye-middle-forehead-mother-exposed-radiation-pregnancy.html

    5. Werner McGoole

      Re: Any 3-eyed fish, six-legged deer or carniverous, sabre-toothed elk?

      I think you may have spotted the flaw with this research.

      Presumably it's based on a head count?

  3. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Wildlife friendly - apart from the wolves mutating into werewolves. The local vampire bats, well, you know the rest.

    1. Martin Budden

      And a local chap who can climb vertical walls ever since he was bitten by a spider.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear Power Generating

    Still cleaner and more sustainable than Solar or wind

    (at least for the current crop of solar convertors and wind turbines)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nuclear Power Generating

      Still cleaner and more sustainable than Solar or wind

      Not sure if I've seen a major environmental disaster attributed to one of those though.

      And yes I'm pro nuclear

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Nuclear Power Generating

        No - but their construction and maintenance aren't exactly death toll free are they...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nuclear Power Generating

        The valid objections to nuclear power generation fall into two categories.

        1) the safety of the reactors.

        Some designs are less likely to cause major contamination problems if things go wrong. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima were all melt-down situations that could have, or actually did, cause widespread contamination.

        2) the safe storage of long half-life radioactive waste.

        At present there are temporary holding facilities - but some are deteriorating. Stable geological locations are still being sought and evaluated.

        The solution to both problems has been suggested as thorium reactors.

        Obviously fusion would be a game changer if the current scaled up experimental rigs prove economically viable.

        1. Martin Budden

          Re: Nuclear Power Generating

          2) the safe storage of long half-life radioactive waste.

          Stick it at the bottom of the bloody huge hole which was until recently the Ranger Uranium Mine (now completely emptied of uranium).

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Bilby

            Re: Nuclear Power Generating

            "Stick it at the bottom of the bloody huge hole which was until recently the Ranger Uranium Mine (now completely emptied of uranium)."

            While the idea of burying the waste in defunct uranium mines is a good one, I suspect that the fact that the Ranger mine is now completely emptied of Uranium will come as news to Energy Resources Australia (ERA), who operate that mine, and who are still digging out considerable quantities of ore (at least, they were when I was there last year); Perhaps they could save a lot of money by not doing all that digging, if there's no Uranium left.

            If you could drop them a line to let them know they are wasting their time, I am sure they would be grateful.

      3. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Nuclear Power Generating

        There is - from the diesel generators or coal power stations needed to provide variable load when the sun isn't shining and wind isn't blowing.

      4. MondoMan

        Re: Not sure if I've seen a major environmental disaster attributed to one of those though.

        Wind turbines, being pretty much giant mid-air blenders, seem to be effective at killing off certain local bird and bat populations. This has been a minor scandal in the US, where the Democratic-lead EPA has been handing out waivers on the sly allowing this killing.

      5. Marcelo Rodrigues

        Re: Nuclear Power Generating

        "Still cleaner and more sustainable than Solar or wind

        Not sure if I've seen a major environmental disaster attributed to one of those though."

        I don't know which one is cleaner, but:

        1) Solar covers huge areas with mirrors. Bad for the ground, plants and (I imagine) changes the heat absorption rate of the area.

        2) Solar which boils liquids - opposed to converting light into electricity directly - are known to burn birds mid-flight, as they cross the beam.

        3) Wind turbines are great bat killers. They pass through the arc of the propeller, and the low pressure behind the blades explodes their lungs.

        4) Wind turbines are know to make a very low frequency "hum". I don't know how bad it is to the animals - but can't be good. There are people that complain about the hum: it interferes with the sleep, if I'm recalling it right.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nuclear Power Generating

          Cars also kill birds and bats. Would you suggest taking up a bicycle as an alternative?

          All systems have benefits and draw backs. There really is no better or worse option. Just more or less compromise.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Nuclear Power Generating

            @AC - Cars also kill birds and bats. Would you suggest taking up a bicycle as an alternative?

            Why yes I would - although not because of the birds and bats - but because for the vast majority of car journeys in the UK a bike makes a more sustainable, and far healthier, form of transport - as well as reducing externalised risk and being significantly quicker, much cheaper, and alot more fun.

            Yes I have a car - but I tend not to use it for short, single person journeys - which make up the majority of the journeys made by car.

            I'd like to take the train to visit family 300 miles away - but it costs more than 5 times as much (and my car is NOT efficient), and takes longer - even if I ignore getting us to the station, parking whilst there and the same at the other end...

            The car also gets used for most "multiple person" journeys of significant length (for a child), or journeys with significant load (a half tonne trailer load to the tip, or a full PA setup for a gig)

          2. Ogi

            Re: Nuclear Power Generating

            "Cars also kill birds and bats. Would you suggest taking up a bicycle as an alternative?"

            I wouldn't, bicycles kill birds too*. In fact given a stupid/ill enough bird, any moving object will kill it. There is a difference between a moving object (which healthy birds/bats/etc... will notice and try to avoid), and something (like wind turbines) that causes a partial vaccuum to form in their wake, causing lung damage to said bird/bats. They can't see that, so can't avoid it.

            Saying that, I think that is more a problem with the massive turbines and solar power stations. On a small, distributed setup, these things are less of a problem. Perhaps the idea then is lots of smaller, local power stations, rather than a few honking great massive ones? With base load supplied by Nuclear ideally (in my world at least)

            *hit a bird in the face once on a downhill ride, thankfully I had a helmet with visor, but the bird didn't fare too well.

        2. Adrian Midgley 1

          Trailing bat exposers? Citation

          Needed for that one please.

          My impression is occasional bats and birds bounce off a blade in the usual way but most manage to apply the results of millennia of evolution and fly round.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nuclear Power Generating - a major environmental disaster

        But the evidence says that even Chernobyl was not a 'major environmental disaster'. That is the whole point..

        The worst possible scenario was Chernobyl. A totally uncontained nuclear pile still fissioning and with decay products spewing into the air and being carried miles on the heat generated by burning graphite.

        Seriously it doesn't get much worse.

        Less than 100 people die, and 3000 avoidable thyroid cancers if they had given everybody iodine pills.

        Now compare that with Bhopal. Or Banqiao.

        For sure windmills kill more wildlife. Bats and birds mostly.

        And solar kills more plants. Not much grows under a solar panel.

        The big news of 3MI, Fukushims and Chernobyl is not how dangerous nuclear power is, but how safe it is.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Nuclear Power Generating

      "Still cleaner and more sustainable than Solar or wind"

      Most certainly. There is one thing that I couldn't quite put my finger on when I saw this article yesterday, that clicked later on - the real reason that 'powers-that-be' are wary of nuclear power is probably not so much to do with human casualties as with economic casualties.

      If for safety reasons you might need to evacuate tens/hundreds of thousands of people and relocate them to somewhere else, assign housing, build more infrastructure etc, then there's a huge cost of dealing with that, plus the huge economic loss of having a previously productive area lie completely unutilised for a few decades (opportunity cost), plus needing to rebuild the place if ever it is declared safe again.

      Really, an added incentive to locate such plants in the middle of effing nowhere. You'll be destroying far, far less nature per KWh produced compared to solar or wind

      1. Ogi

        Re: Nuclear Power Generating

        I keep thinking the best idea is to build more nuclear power plants in the contaminated zone.

        I mean, the area is already contaminated, so it can't get much worse, you have all this idle land devoid of population, and (most likely) a country hungry for as much cheap clean energy as possible (including neighbours willing to buy it off you if the price is right). As there was a power plant there before you already have the infrastructure in place for power transmission (although it will most likely require a refurb), and no NIMBYs to protest and strangle the construction to the point where it becomes prohibitively expensive.

        Better than building a nuclear power plant in another part of the country that is not contaminated, where even a minor radiation leak would register and cause problems.

  5. Gavin Chester

    OOh Holiday...

    Wanted to visit Chernobyl for a while to see how nature has reclaimed the place. This just adds to it.

    Thanks El Reg for another reason to give to my wife to go :)

    1. MondoMan

      Re: OOh Holiday...

      Chernobyl has been open to tourists for a while. In the US, PBS has broadcast this travelogue among others: http://www.pilotguides.com/holly-morris/holly-morris-why-stay-in-chernobyl-because-its-home/

    2. Fink-Nottle

      Re: OOh Holiday...

      Be warned - Jeremy Clarkson went there and look what happened to him ...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OOh Holiday...

        Be warned - Jeremy Clarkson went there and look what happened to him ...

        Don't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry. (The Incredible Twat)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Coat

        Re: OOh Holiday...

        Clarkson was a mutant before he went home to Chernobyl, dunno about the stig but I has my worries about him

        mine is the one glowing in the dark

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019