A new report concerning the Chernobyl region says that the exclusion zone around the destroyed power plant has become a thriving wildlife refuge. (1) Few wild animals lived in the region before the nuclear accident of 1986, but the evacuation of nearly all humans has allowed the animals to flourish. This includes some species that were not seen in the region for decades before the accident. Yes, the animals are considerably more radioactive than the same species outside the exclusion zone, but there have been no mutations or heritable genetic damage. For a few years after the accident, mutations, dwarfism and gigantism were discovered in plants found in the highest areas of contamination close to the damaged power plant, but all have apparently dissipated. This totally contradicts the reports by some critics who claim relatively small brain sizes in some birds and a few reduced avian populations indicate significant radio-biological impact on the local Chernobyl creatures. They concluded that the birds indicated significant biologic and genetic impacts on the future animal populations. But after 25 years, the new report reveals just the opposite. According to all the population counts performed by the Ukraine and Belarus over the past 27 years, there is enormous animal diversity and abundance. The exclusion zone has unintentionally become Europe’s largest wildlife sanctuary.
This past August, a study was published claiming mutated wings and antennae of one species of butterfly common to the Fukushima Accident region…made by the very same researchers who published on the mutated birds near Chernobyl. (2) In the butterfly report, numerous references were made to their earlier Chernobyl paper and a parallel conclusion was drawn…there will be a significant biologic and genetic impact on the future wildlife of Fukushima. The new Chernobyl report makes the claims relative to Fukushima seem nigh-vacuous.
Can we compare low level radiation’s non-impact on the Chernobyl wildlife to the possibilities facing the wildlife of Fukushima? It seems that we can, and the possibilities are in no way worrisome. Let’s look at the numbers. First, we must make a distinction…Chernobyl’s unique accident allowed both volatile and non-volatile radioactive isotopes to be atmospherically expunged in large quantities. Volatiles, like Cesium and Iodine, have a strong property to dissolve in water and vaporize. Volatiles dominated the Fukushima release matrix, primarily Iodine, Cesium and Strontium, but there were almost no non-volatiles released. The total Fukushima volatile releases were a bit more than 160 PetaBecquerels (Nuclear Safety Commission, Sept. 2011). On the other hand, Chernobyl not only spawned a 12.5 times larger volume of volatiles than Fukushima at 2024 PBq, but also more than 1100 PBq of non-volatiles (like Zirconium, Molybdenum, Ruthenium and Cerium) plus a detectible wide spectrum of toxic semi-precious metals and rare earths. (3) Thus, the total releases for Fukushima were nearly 20 times less than with Chernobyl. The inescapable conclusion is this – if the Chernobyl radioactive releases have allowed the region’s wildlife to flourish, the wildlife around Fukushima will even more likely flourish.
The mutated butterfly report made headlines across Japan, but there were little or no opposing views presented. The new Chernobyl report provides some disturbing reasons as to why the fear-inducing previous reports were little more than statistically-manipulated exaggerations. Numerous opposing views made by eminent researchers in the radio-biology and health physics fields existed when the scary reports were published and broadcast by the Japanese Press, but the news media decided to ignore them and post only the scary stuff. Will the Japanese Press tell the Japanese public that the Chernobyl wildlife is flourishing and the previous studies may well have been flawed? They probably won’t, but I hope and pray I’m wrong on this one.
(1) Do Animals in Chernobyl’s Fallout Zone Glow? –http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/nuclear_power/2013/01/wildlife_in_chernobyl_debate_over_mutations_and_populations_of_plants_and.html
(2) The biological impacts of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the pale grass blue butterfly – http://www.nature.com/srep/2012/120809/srep00570/full/srep00570.html#/f1
(3) Chernobyl: Assessment of Radiological and Health Impact 2002 Update of Chernobyl: Ten Years On: The release, dispersion and deposition of radionuclides; Nuclear Energy Agency (2002) – https://www.oecd-nea.org/rp/chernobyl/c02.html