Radiation is safe for wildlife...
...or at least less damaging than humans.
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 …
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..
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.
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?
"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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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?
"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?
"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.
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.
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.
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"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.
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.
"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.
@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)
"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.
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.
"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
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.
@andy gibson - thanks, extremely interesting.
By the way, the radiation level of 2.3uSv/hr registering in the linked Fukushima article is equivalent to around 20mSv/year. For comparison to some benchmarks from site below, that's 5 times less than the minimal amount known to cause an increase in cancer, a bit more than a single CT scan, and 10 times normal background. It's also 2-3 times higher than current Chernobyl levels. So quite probably already mostly safe now, and quite probably will be habitable within 10 years of the event.
Both Chernobil and Fukushima pale in comparison to the radiaton released from the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar_Bomba test and other nuclear testing.
The rain after Tsar Bomba was still glowing _AFTER_ it went around the globe and reached Northern Europe a few days later coming from the _WEST_. I know someone who was stupid enough to observe it in person, outside and ended up with a bone marrow transplant. She got lucky she got one so she is alive. The other 8 people camping with her near the arctic circle on a student summer practice for the Mos Gos University meteorology class are no longer between the living. They are all dead from cancer.
USA tests on Enewetak were not far behind either. In fact, they were probably worse as the Tsar Bomba whose radiation fallout was mostly confined to the Arctic as the fallout from them went to more populated areas.
So thankfully we have not seen a REAL nuclear disaster on par with other nuclear disasters we have created so far. That does not mean it is impossible. It can happen and it can easily dwarf either Chernobil or Fukushima.
"The rain after Tsar Bomba was still glowing _AFTER_ it went around the globe and reached Northern Europe a few days later coming from the _WEST_"
I call complete b*****ks on this after circling around the globe radioactivity would be detectable in rain but that the rain was glowing! If that was true then a large fraction of the globe would be glowing (everywhere where it rained). this is scaremongering/fantasy.
CHernobyl was mor eor less the worst possible nuclear accident and it was not very bad, much less significant than any number of natural disasters and many man made ones with no radioactivity inolved. One of the worst I am famililiar with being a renewable power disaster in which 3000 times more people died than as a result of Chernobyl. That was immediate deaths as well not the undoubtly massively greater long term deaths that could be attributed to it.
The anti-nuclear movement by Greenpeace and others is very damaging. We would be safer and better of and the environment would be less damaged if we substantially increased radiation safety levels to level of risk more inline with every other industry and switched from renewable energy solutions that do not really work to nuclear power which does.
"What renewable disaster was that?"
Hydro dam collapse would be my bet. Banqiao Dam collapse killed about 25,000 immediately, and another 150,000 from resulting starvation and disease. Upper numbers for the total are about 240k. 10+ million homes destroyed. That was after about a years worth or rainfall in the space of 2 days, the failure of safety features (sluice gates), and a breakdown in communication regarding what the engineers where allowed to do.
They happen rarely, but are the main (90%+) contribution to the deaths/Gw for hydro. Not maintaining the filters on your intakes are another scary/impressive way for a hydro station to "explode". Waterlogged tree trunk into turbine makes for a hell of a mess.
When you fuck up civil engineering, things can go horribly wrong.
Deaths from solar are mainly from waste products in manufacturing, and installation casualties.
Nukes are not nearly as dangerous as some people like to make out, certainly not as dangerous as a coal plant.
I do always enjoy reading the accounts of people who deal with these fuck ups. Windscale/Sellafield is always a nice one. The reactor was on fire for 48 hours before they realised, and it was monitored by people going in and having a look through inspection hatches.
The problem with nuclear is not really the scale of the problem. It's that it is not easily seen by other bystanders and the public and has quick effects and long term effects.
Other forms of power generation and industry have this problem, but may be better understood by the public, or better hidden or mitigated by the industries. Such as chemical poisons and spills.
People are more afraid of what they cannot see, than what they can see.
So thankfully we have not seen a REAL nuclear disaster on par with other nuclear disasters we have created so far. That does not mean it is impossible. It can happen and it can easily dwarf either Chernobil or Fukushima.
Please expound on that scenario.
Chernobyl was surely as bad as it could get. A reactor reactor core that had suffered an explosive criticality excursion, without containment, on fire, open to the elements. The only way I than think of to make it any worse would be to nuke it ... but if you have a nuke, there are worse things still that you can do with it.
As has been observed, VW's actions with cheating diesel emissions tests has probably caused more fatalities than Chernobyl. Certainly more than Fukushima.
This is all absolute rubbish. Rain doesn't glow. The Tsar Bomba had a lead tamper instead of a uranium-238 fusion tamper, so there was very, very little nuclear fallout. There was no measurable fallout outside the exclusion zone. I suspect the poster has no idea how much nuclear fallout is dropped by a nuclear weapon. And probably watches too many movies. And believes them.
Nice link. Can someone explain the Terminator 2 toy?
T2 was half a decade later.
If the animals can breed before they die horribly, then that means they can thrive. The place won't be free of radiation for a nice long life for many many thousands of years, unfortunately.
This kind of implies that the only thing that negatively impacts wildlife is the presence of humans.
Not even the acts of humans - just the presence.
Act of humans - poison Chernobyl - long term effect negligible.
Remove humans from Chernobyl - long term uptick in wildlife.
Now can we remove an entire useless third of our population?
This point caught me. We are the apex predators on the planet, there is nothing that effectively hunts us. That does not mean we are not a part of the chain.
In fact, super-predation (the act of hunting another predator) is pretty rare in nature, as it is largely too risky from the point of view of the hunter to be a wise long-term tactic. Other apex predators (lions, eagles, sharks etc) don't really have any real predators either. There are even some herbivores that are sufficiently large / tough to have no natural predators (adult elephants spring to mind). They are still part of the chain too.
Eventually, hunted or not, we die. Our bodies rot and break down, providing food for bacteria and fertilizer for plants. Even if we are cremated, we eventually return to the earth. So does almost everything we make. Every other species on the planet consumes and, from an individual point of view, "gives nothing back". We are all still part of the chain.
As a small aside, even at the heart of one of humanity's greatest calamities nature has adapted. Try looking up radiotrophic fungi (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiotrophic_fungus). It makes for an interesting read.
"[...] there is nothing that effectively hunts us."
Various bacteria and viruses have the potential to wipe out a large number of the world population.
Usually such lethal forms are self-limiting as they need sufficiently dense concentrations of people to keep spreading. However - in the modern world interconnectivity of most populations happens on a daily basis.
At the moment we are in danger of losing the fight against mutated MRSA bacteria as many antibiotics are no longer effective. TB in India? has apparently now mutated into a variant for which there is no effective drug.
Bacteria and viruses ... Usually such lethal forms are self-limiting
But not always. Most recently, the 1918 Flu. And we got incredibly lucky with SARS. It's infectivity was just slightly too low to grow exponentially, once we realized the danger and changed our behaviour. Just slightly more infectious, and face-masks and gloves would have made no difference.
"Indeed. The planet doesnt actually need humans, we add nothing to the chain, we only consume, we don't balance."
We're needed for the final stage - diaspora (and when I say 'we' I mean the organism we design for this purpose that won't be human. Humans can't leave. We'll always be Earthlings)
"Perhaps there are no intelligent aliens out there because intelligence is an evolutionary blind alley"
We're allowed our minds because it gets the beast the results it seeks. It's just as much a tool as tooth and claw. The downside is that we still use the tool for hunting, food gathering, marking territory, killing etc, which are all actually still beast-algorithms which were never intended to operate on a global scale, because they rely on there always being more grapes.
Until we aren't wielding our intelligence for unintelligent goals, we won't count as an intelligent species. At the moment, we're blatantly going to crumple the biosphere. I suspect all alien races have to pass the test of becoming *genuinely* intelligent, and hitting the brakes, before they breed, eat and poop their world into rebooting them. I doubt many make it.
Now can we remove an entire useless third of our population?
Best point here! Because I can’t see anything much wrong with enjoying gadgets, driving cars, flying in jets, eating meat, drinking milk or doing any of the other million and one things that we’re told we mustn’t do. Yes, there’s a problem with resource scarcity and pollution - but it’s putting the cart before the horse to say that we must now all eat muesli and quorn and walk everywhere, before going back home to our yurts. The problem is overpopulation - fix that and we’re golden. 1/3rd might be enough, but I’d rather see a 9/10ths reduction - and then we can enjoy peace and solitude, without all this stress about our environmental impact on the planet.
The church must play its part. For years it’s been crapping on about how bad contraception is - and the gullible have lapped it up. Now’s the time for religion to show that it’s a force for good in the world and mandate that all adherents are prohibited from sexual congress on pain of hell, unless they use a 100% effective contraception. No exemptions.
I see that you have selected yourself as being part of the 1/10th to stick around…
Correct. But if I’m the selector, I’ve also selected you, and Lewis Page, and everyone else here. For good measure, I’ve selected everyone else on the planet too. What I suggested is widespread and compulsory contraception as a way of reducing the population. If the birth rate falls then the population will necessarily fall too. No need to do it in on day - or even in one year.
Just increase standards of living and reduce infant mortality. Oh and access to contraception, but the first two reduce population growth the most, since people can have 2-3 kids and expect them to reach adulthood, instead of having 4-5 and hoping half make it.
There's often an increase in women's rights that go along with the increased living standards too, so there are a many factors at play.
Maybe you should ask our resident economist to explain it :)
"I see that you have selected yourself as being part of the 1/10th to stick around..."
Anyone who has chosen not to have children doesn't have to shuffle off this mortal coil prematurely. It is the subsequent generations of other people's offspring who are going to be the ecological footprint.
In an article a woman was singing the eco-credentials of her parents who had never given their children mass produced toys. She then spoiled it by saying she had five siblings.
As Mark Steyn says, the future belongs to those who show up for it.
Could the human race be more efficient? Quite likely, but when you see the Burj Khalifa glistening from the more run down parts of Karama you realise that the Burj couldn't be there without all the people in Karama. It's a bit like the Games Workshop game Necromunda set in the hive worlds of the Imperium. In Necromunda, the hive worlds have huge towers where people live their lives without seeing the mythical 'ground'. The rich live at the top of the tower and the poor are the metaphorical foundations on the bottom: fodder for the Imperial Army and all the other ancillary activities of the empire. The Imperium doesn't need all those people, but without the hives it wouldn't have enough.
Would Killer Whales and even normal whales (some eat squid, which eat fish), not be Apex predators?
I think the selective bias in your examples is too strong. Given half a second more I could probably come up with lots of apex predators you've not really considered.
However, as an example you are right that they are rare, through necessity, as they eat other animals.
Agent Smith: I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.
"Every type of life develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment."
Bollux it does. Google 'The Great Dying' - something got overexcited and a large part of the biosphere crashed during a runaway BIOLOGICAL process.
An awful lot of the time 'the natural equilibrium' is 'I ended up dead' or 'you ended up dead'. The holes then refill with things that already existed anyway. Life keeps speciating before the parent species disappears, to only be seen in fossils. Only the very tips of the tree of life seem to survive. Nothing is stable. None of that excuses making it so, so much worse.
With humans, the 'equilibrium' is typically 99.99% 'you ended up dead'. Not much biomass left in a concrete jungle to be 'in equilibrium' with.
"when did we consume all the natural resources? still plenty around here & no sign of them being depleted."
Perhaps a better question might be 'where did we put them'? Apart from a tiny amount of stuff used for space probes, and a bit of Helium, everything that was on the planet when we got here is still here - albeit mixed up and spread out rather differently.
Remember the old Greenpeace slogan 'Throw nothing away; there is no "Away"'? Well they were right - but it implies the opposite of what they think. With enough energy (and the sun will be around for a while) we can recycle anything, if the need arises.
Wow, 32 down votes. Guess a few people have some issues with my sentiment.
This clip is from "long Way Round" during their visit to a Unicef clinic.
It made an impression where hundreds of adverts and pleas didn't.
Quite. But Lewis Page is a troll, and has very little scientific knowledge. What he is good at is shouting loudly and mobilizing group think - he’s pure link bait. An empty vessel makes the most noise. What he ignores is that there are plenty of deformed animals in the exclusion zone and some parts of the food chain have been so badly damaged (particularly fungi) that dead matter isn’t being broken down properly - this presents the very serious risk of wildfire (all that dried, undecomposed, matter lying around) which would redistribute the radioactive material over an ever wider area.
It’s true that there has been significant recovery of some wildlife in the area - but only because humans aren’t competing for resources. If the recovery of wildlife in the exclusion zone were compared with a virgin, unpolluted, abandoned zone* then the recovery figures for Chernobyl would seem far less impressive.
In fairness, I am pro-nuclear provided that we can make reactors much safer (tick - we’ve done this) and provided that we can deal with the waste such that it doesn’t continue to be a highly dangerous problem for future generations (cross - we haven’t done this, and it will take significant investment in future generation highly efficient reactors before we can do so).
* which doesn’t exist because, if it did, why would we abandon it?
"If the recovery of wildlife in the exclusion zone were compared with a virgin, unpolluted, abandoned zone* * which doesn’t exist because, if it did, why would we abandon it?"
No we don't have a virgin unpolluted abandoned zone for comparison, however the study DID compare Chernobyl exclusion zone to 3 existing virgin, unpolluted*, never-occupied nature reserves. And found that the wildlife populations in both were similar.
* to the extent that any place on the planet's surface can be unpolluted
The study did compare the exclusion zone with nearby wildlife preserves, and the numbers of animals were similar, except for wolves which existed at higher numbers in the Zone.
Unless you're saying that a nature reserve doesn't make a good control area because it wasn't hastily abandoned, in which case I don't really follow your reasoning.
It's also worth remembering that this study has been released thirty years after the contamination was released. The levels of Caesium 137 for example will have fallen to about half of what they were in 1985, so there will have been large changes in how habitable the environment there is.
@phuzz a nature reserve doesn’t make a good comparison because it’s still a managed environment - managed by, and impacted by, humans. Culls take place in nature reserves (please don’t think that I’m arguing against culls, by the way, I’m not - culls are necessary to ensure a healthy population). Similarly, humans abound in nature reserves - with all that that entails. It’s not a bad comparison - better than nothing - but not perfect.
Besides, and as I said originally, some life has been more seriously affected than others. Fungi are doing very badly, for example, and that might be a better indicator since funguses lack the ability to migrate from outside the zone.
"The levels of Caesium 137 for example will have fallen to about half of what they were in 1985, [...]"
The remaining restrictions on the selling and movement of sheep in Wales and Cumbria - due to the Chernobyl fallout - were only lifted in 2012.
> ... and provided that we can deal with the waste such that it doesn’t continue to be a highly dangerous problem for future generations (cross - we haven’t done this, and it will take significant investment in future generation highly efficient reactors before we can do so)
Being pedantic, we have dealt with this - as in we know how to do it.
It is actually the anti-nuclear lobby that stops it being put into practice - by insisting that we can't built the sort of reactors for which much of this "waste" is actually "fuel". I can't think of another industry where we throw away (at vast expense) 90+% of our fuel to appease a bunch of ill educated people who know how to shout loudly.
The fundamental problem is that there is one word that gets people frothed at the mouth more than "nuclear" - and that's "plutonium". Since the type of reactors that can burn all this "waste" also generate plutonium (which is itself fuel in the right reactor) - that gets the hippies even more worked up.
On the previous one (safer reactors), have a look at the Westinghouse AP1000 design - and it's passive emergency cooling. I'd say that very much ticks the box for "improved safety".
Mr P holds a masters in (engineering) science from Cambridge, which suggests he was at least in the top percentile for 'scientific knowledge' in his year-group. Contrast that with the BBC's own guru on environmental matters, Roger Harrabin, who also went to Cambridge, but studied ... err ... English.
I know who I'd trust to get their science right.
@Chris Miller with regard to Mr. P's master's. Bully for him. But since it's in engineering, this no more qualifies him to pontificate on climate change, biological systems or pollution than Roger Harrabin's degree in English. The difference is that Roger Harrabin has listened to scientists from many eminent institutions who are qualified in these subject areas.
Lewis, on the other hand, bangs his ignorant drum like a demented Duracell bunny and waits for his fan base to say "Ooh. Shiny degree. He must be qualified."
"The difference is that Roger Harrabin has listened to scientists from many eminent institutions who are qualified in these subject areas." (...) "Ooh. Shiny degree. He must be qualified."
Uhm... I can only admire your way of reasoning. Good luck with that.
Wait, fungus is especially badly damaged? How does that square with the fact that fungus is growing on the reactor itself, and apparently extracting energy from the radiation, as a previous comment mentioned? Wrong kind of fungus, or what?
"If the recovery of wildlife in the exclusion zone were compared with a virgin, unpolluted, abandoned zone* then the recovery figures for Chernobyl would seem far less impressive."
Maybe so, but that's not the point of the article. The point is to compare current reality with what the doom-mongers (and the standard models) predicted would happen. It's all supposed to be a highly hazardous death zone. But it isn't. Far from it.
This article is a bit pants.
The quotes you've pulled from the hippie article say that there are serious morphological effects, that the HEALTHY population is likely due to immigration, that there will continue to be an effect for decades and that levels of some incorporated radionuclides will remain dangerous for mammals.
The other study is looking simply at population, and confirms it has risen (i.e. that the radioactivity isn't at a level where it's killing everything faster than humans in the area would).
A vast population of unholy mutated deer, thirsty for blood and glowing in the dark would not contradict either study despite being suboptimal for humanity.
Was Chernobyl not as bad as it was painted? Yes, absolutely. Is it a nature preserve I'd love to live in? Absolutely not. We don't need more extremely biased articles from either side, we need sensible planning - remember the disasters, plan for them (and any others you can imagine), and get new plants built to provide lovely low carbon energy.
It's not a bit pants, it's total pants. The conclusion at the end ; "the horrific consequences of a nuclear "disaster" are that you get a thriving national wildlife park" is beyond stupid.
You may as well conclude that the consequences of murder is a degree from the Open University. (Cos that's what a murderer might end up doing while serving their time in prison). You don't need to be a murderer to study for a degree.
The wildlife at Chernobyl is entirely down to the lack of human interference. You don't need a nuclear disaster to achieve this.
Erm - Chernobyl radiation wasn't, the removal of humans was.... I worked in the Nuclear industry for a long time - its cleanish (as it's very heavily regulated - but there are still accidents) but ****ing expensive - last time I had access to the figures the cleanup cost was at least £40 billion and will be even higher now (and that assumes certain costs relating to an underground respository which they haven't even found a site for yet.....). Mind you coal and gas would be more expensive if you had to factor in any sort of carbon clean up cost so I guess it depends. Great for baseload power though.
I've got a great idea for the next Reg SPB activity (while we wait for Lohan)
How about setting up a Ukraine office next door to the reactor, and move the Editor to report from there for a few years. Shouldn't be difficult so long as there's decent broadband available. That we we can prove beyond all doubt that radiation is good for mammals.
"morphologic, physiologic, and genetic disorders in every animal species that has been studied "
but no evidence of giant carnivorous clams yet? All the same, perhaps those carrying out the next study should only venture in while protected by personal protective equipment. Perhaps some sort of all-enclosing personal travel machine that will protect them from radiation and hostiles. With a "weapon for self-defence"
What I would really be interested in is if the life span of the animals in the dead zone is the same as elsewhere.
Im really not surprised to know that life is thriving in these dead zone, but maybe mostly simply because human are not there anymore?
So I would like to know if that aspect has been evaluated, i.e., did they study the age repartition of the various species and what the result was.
Then and only then, if the life span of the animals is the same as elsewhere, then yes I will believe that radiation danger may be exaggerated...
I'm sure the lifespan of the wildlife is very similar to non-glowing wildlife... Which is a lot shorter than the lifespan of humans.
If humans were allowed to live in the area they would become sick after a few decades. The animals don't have a long enough natural lifespan for cancer to become a major issue in their demise.
Here, fixed that for you:
If humans were allowed to live in the area they
would become sick would have an unspecified increase in their risk of becoming sick from certain illnesses, if whatever was going to kill them anyway didn't first after a few decades.
Of course, if humans were allowed to live there, they would be in a largely rural environment, which would probably lead to a lifestyle involving a greater amount of exercise, and healthier diet involving more fruit and vegetables than they would otherwise consume, which in turn would probably reduce the rate or morbidity and mortality from various diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. It;s hard to say whether this would counterbalance the small increased risk from the slightly elevated background radiation levels.
So nuclear contamination, radiation and chemical poisoning have no effect on the greater population in general. We should all be thankful
Unless you're one of the unlucky individuals affected in which case your fucked. But don't be sad, everyone else is alright.
Good to see we live in a caring society that values the individual.
<icon being ironic>
Some of us think that nuclear safety should be judged in the same way we judge all other risk... be it from pollution, diet, what you do for a living, the diseases you may get and so on... I.e with statistics and science.
To treat nuclear differently from everything else is not only unscientific, but incredibly short-sighted. Such an attitude effectively guarantees that the human race will release all the carbon it can find into the air... Something which antinuclear protesters are supposedly against.
Since so many bombs and explosives were dropped across most of the jungles many areas are total no go zones for humans. In other such countries most jungle would have been cleared cheaply for cattle or other crops, clearing an acre of land there costs a small fortune.
If you really want to save the forests and jungles from humans for a set period, scatter them with millions of anti-personnel mines with a set shelf life.
Could do similar with protecting fish stocks...
I can see it actually coming to that.
There was an article saying essentially the same thing in a popular science magazine several years ago. The tone of the article was of 'who'd have thought it'. I don't find it at all surprising that when humans pull out of area other species thrive, even in an environment that was been damaged. But the study tells us only about populations. We have no idea how many animals died, and continue to die. This stuff can't really be tested on real people so we're wise to be very wary of large doses of radiation, aren't we?
It seems probable we read the same article and I cannot find it. My google-fu seems to be on the blink.
What interested me was that when the biologists were counting chromosome breakages at Chernobyl by eye, they found a significant number above expected. Then they gained access to a machine that removed subjective judgement from the count. The number dropped to the same rate as background.
because their shorter lifespans mean radiological damage is less significant than for the longer-lived humans, can't we gently increase the radiation level of e.g. white rhinos to the level where they rhinos themselves are OK, but the poachers, handling a larger volume of material, are seriously impacted?
... in direct contradiction to the conclusions reached by the American scientist working in the area on Radio 4's "Burying Chernobyl" last week - i.e. that wildlife numbers have increased in the "safer" areas, but have been heavily reduced in the others, and that most reports only consider large-area studies, rather than local-area ones.
You might want to leave the comments section open here for a few hundred years Reg.
At 3 billion dollars for the current Chernobyl upgrade, surely this has to be the most heavily funded wildlife park on the planet? The cleanup costs of Sellafield could have paid a massive workforce to externally insulate every 100 year old property in the UK and cut the need for future energy by some significant stretch, not to mention helping to lift people out of fuel poverty.
As for Fukushima, the ongoing pollution and forced collection of groundwater by the destroyed reactor cores presents a problem that has never been dealt with by Engineers, ever.
Looks like cleaning up nuclear has got massive growth potential as an industry, and it sounds like Reg readers are investing.
> The cleanup costs of Sellafield could have paid a massive workforce to externally insulate every 100 year old property in the UK
I haven't looked at the figures - it might, but I also suspect it might not.
> and cut the need for future energy by some significant stretch, not to mention helping to lift people out of fuel poverty.
Except that it wouldn't. At it's peak, nuclear represented a huge proportion of our base load - vastly reducing the amount of coal, gas, and oil burned. Even with good insulation, I very much doubt that insulating all homes would reduce energy consumption by that amount - thus without nuclear we'd be burning even more coal, oil, and gas.
Now refer to previous articles (not just by LP !) about the cost to society, and in particular the poorest, of our irrational push for reduced carbon dioxide emissions regardless of cost. Without the contribution of nuclear, our emissions would be higher, and the demand for cuts in CO2 emissions louder, and the costs of such reductions even more severe.
Now, bear in mind that "modern nuclear" if we started from a "if we knew then what we know now" basis would be a fraction of what Sellafield is costing. I'll be perfectly honest, I'm pro-nuclear and some of what went on I find hard to discuss without a "what were they thinking of" attitude.
But a lot of what went on at Sellafield wasn't to do with civil nuclear power. Yes a lot of research led to technology & knowledge for civil power - but there was some which was purely for weapons.
The same applies to de-commissioning costs. New reactor designs actually consider how to take the things apart - which wasn't the case with the older designs ("what were they thinking of" !)
And the current appproach to "waste" is along the lines of extracting oil, pulling out the petrol and diesel, then calling what's left (a large proportion of it) waste and insisting that it be disposed of at great expense. AIUI, most of the high level waste would be classified as fuel if the hippies weren't even more rabidly against the types of reactor that could use it than they are against "conventional" reactors.
After a minute or so on research sites:
"Chernobyl contamination is also affecting nonhuman communities. Although the absence of people has attracted a surprising amount of wildlife—moose, wolves, rodents, and birds—their populations are not as diverse or abundant as would be expected in a region where there is little pressure from human communities... He [Mousseau] and his colleagues have found fewer mammals in high-radiation areas than in less-contaminated areas. Among birds they have documented reduced longevity and male fertility, smaller brains, and mutations that indicate significant genetic damage compared with the same species in areas of low radiation."
(These particular conclusions are drawn from two studies by Møller, Mousseau, et al; one published in "Ecological Indicators" vol 26, the other in PLOS ONE.)
> Dr Yablokov's paper was not peer reviewed and has not been taken seriously outside hippie circles...
WTF? All I find under the title "Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment" is what looks like conference proceedings and appeared in the "Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences" (volume 1181, 2009).
In the first few pages there is a list of editors.
Am I looking at the wrong source?
That may depend on the field, then. A have seen a publication rejected for a proceedings, in Mathematics.
On the other had I have seen proceedings where apparently no-one had taken a look into any paper, as many (sometimes: most) were of appalling quality.
For the book in question: I cannot spot weaknesses, but then this is not my field of research.
That wildlife will re-enter an area abandoned by humans is a no-brainer. Anyone -- like me -- who has restored natural areas knows this. The life span of wolves and the short period of time (relative to the half lives of some of the material in the ground and water) since the explosion argue against assuming there will be no negative consequences for the wildlife in future. The fact of the explosion itself, especially as it was induced by a well-educated human, in no way justifies absolute faith in the nuclear-power industry as implied in this article. Lewis, you're better than this.
"There have been no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident, but over 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes to ensure this. Government nervousness delays the return of many. Official figures show that there have been well over 1000 deaths from maintaining the evacuation, in contrast to little risk from radiation if early return had been allowed."
"The global averages in energy-related deaths... with coal at 100,000 deaths per trillion kWhrs (China is the worst), natural gas at 4,000 deaths, biomass at 24,000, solar at 440, and wind at 150. Using the worst-case scenarios from Chernobyl and Fukushima brings nuclear up to a whopping 90 deaths per trillion kWhrs produced, still the lowest of any energy source."
But why let facts get in the way of bashing LP?
Just as a correction to all of you who saw other reactors as being as unsafe as the Chernobyl design and having had similar accidents.
The Chernobyl reactor design has a positive void coefficient. This means that when it loses coolant the nuclear reaction accelerates which is really, really not a good idea. ALL western reactors have a negative void coefficient - if they lose coolant and if you leave it alone it shuts down.
Further, the Chernobyl reactor did not have a melt down, it actually went prompt critical and the explosion in the reactor chamber was a major nuclear release rather than a hydrogen explosion. This was all reported in the atomic energy agency final report but for some reason wasn't considered news and hence did not appear in any of the main stream news media at the time. I suspect that the Internet wouldn't let that happen today.
If anyone is still operating a Chernobyl style reactor they are completely insane and seriously need to stop it right now.
I could make further comment but I really can't be bothered to butt heads with all the ignorant trolls, I'll let the rest of you fight it out as you see fit.
" ALL western reactors have a negative void coefficient - if they lose coolant and if you leave it alone it shuts down."
I'm puzzled. Chernobyl was certainly an accident waiting to happen - but what happened at Fukishima? The news reports suggested loss of power to circulate coolant - and the core melted into the reactor base. Is that correct?
"I'm puzzled. Chernobyl was certainly an accident waiting to happen - but what happened at Fukishima? The news reports suggested loss of power to circulate coolant - and the core melted into the reactor base. Is that correct?"
Before I answer that, first note that nuclear reactors have two primary sources of heat: artificial nuclear reactions (~93% of heat during steady-state operation), and "natural" radioactive decay among the very short-lived waste isotopes accumulating in the fuel (~7% of heat during steady state operation).
There are many mechanisms in a nuclear reactor designed to stop artificial nuclear reactions, the deliberate, artificial atom-splitting. They range from control rods to reserves of neutron-absorbing borated water to negative void coefficients. It is almost guaranteed that you can stop these reactions - Chernobyl required a bad design (positive void coefficient and graphite-tipped control rods) and strenuous efforts by the operators to bypass all safeties to temporarily let the artificial reactions run wild. Even then, the "unscheduled, prompt disassembly" of the reactor shut down the artificial reactions.
However, you can do f*** all about the natural decay. Radioactive isotopes are going to decay, no matter what you might want. That decay manifests as heat for as long as there's radioactivity. Unlike artificial nuclear reactions, even scattering the isotopes won't halt the decay, it just distributes the heat further (which may be a good thing).
It's not TOO long, really. At shutdown, a reactor produces 7% of its nominal power from decay. That drops to 1% in literally minutes because the nasty isotopes behind all that heat have such short half-lives. But that's still a lot of heat: the little of the Fukushima reactors generated 460MW of electricity, which meant it generated about 1400MW of heat, which means immediate decay heat is 100MW, dropping to 14MW after a few minutes, and continuing to generate megawatts (megajoules per second) of heat for days. The electric steel and copper scrap furnaces I've seen ran at 5 to 10MW.
And that's a meltdown: when the decay heat is not tended to and starts slagging the reactor. It's a different situation than Chernobyl, where the meltdown was just part of the aftermath.
So, you need to provide some mechanism (or preferably mechanismS, plural) to handle that decay heat: pumps driven by back-up generators and batteries; natural convective and conductive cooling through the walls of the reactor vessel; gravity-fed large reserves of cold water; etc. Heck, Chernobyl's operators had this great idea: since their big Soviet diesels were so slow to start, could they use the inertia in their steam turbines to power the pumps until the diesels took over? Chernobyl blew up because they were testing that idea and the artificial reactions (not decay heat) ran away from the operators.
Meanwhile, Fukushima had completely halted its artificial nuclear reactions because the quake triggered safety mechanisms. Its diesel water pumps had started up and were dealing with the decay heat. Everything was peachy until the tsunami rolled in, overtopped the tsunami defenses, and drowned the diesels and their switches, which were in unsealed basements. The power plant crew couldn't bring in emergency diesels or outside cold water sources fast enough to replace those diesels because, well, the whole area was wrecked by a quake.
So: Fukashima had several meltdowns because it lost power, as you said. But the cause and physics differed from Chernobyl and its positive void coefficient.
"ALL western reactors have a negative void coefficient - if they lose coolant and if you leave it alone it shuts down."
"Magnox reactors, advanced gas-cooled reactors and pebble bed reactors are gas-cooled and so void coefficients are not an issue." I guess these don't exist in the West then...
"If anyone is still operating a Chernobyl style reactor they are completely insane"
Quite so. Sosnovyi Bor is definitely still active. Smolensk and Kursk too. Ignalina is closed, Chernobyl buried. A dozen of active blocks then?
However, latest incarnation of RBMK (in Kursk) has negative void coefficient.
Wow, just wow. So you remove the humans from an area – and then animals proceed to thrive in the freed up space? Who would have thought!
On the other hand, during the five minutes of this very recent NYT video
about the wildlife in the hot zones of Chernobyl we learn that there is for example …
• Less biodiversity than expected
• More tumors
• More deformations
• Decline in populations of insects and spiders
• Some birds adapting to increased radiation levels
• Very "hot" mushrooms
• Dramatic color changes in the rings of cut trees starting in 1986
• Abnormal color patterns on bugs
Well, sounds dandy in my book. Therefore, I would suggest for Lewis to permanently relocate to the hot zone in order to prove his point. There are very little human-related distractions there too, so he would find much more time to produce even more flawless pieces of balanced reporting regarding his favorite topics. I would personally volunteer to finance a nice big stick for him to shake at the abundance of wolves that now roam the blooming landscapes of Chernobyl. Further, if Lewis manages to convince a fertile female companion to make the move with him, I will even pay for a second stick in a color of her choice. Be warned though, this pesky radiation thing has a tendency to muck with your offspring so you might want to have an eye on that.
Quite a different story at the BBC:
"Dr Wood's team's project is part of a five-year research programme called Transfer, Exposure, Effects (Tree), which will aim to "reduce uncertainty in estimating the risk to humans and wildlife associated with exposure to radioactivity, and to reduce unnecessary conservatism in risk calculations".
"Illegal poaching is a problem within the CEZ, and one image captured by the cameras suggested that the elk in question had a narrow escape.
The wound at the top of this elk's foreleg could be a shot injury caused by a poacher's gun
Dr Wood said that the team had to bear in mind the activity of poachers when they chose the most suitable species to wear the collars.
He explained that if the animal was killed then it would mean that the collected data would be limited or lost.
He added: "However, this is a concern that could be applied to any of the species because poachers going into the zone are unlikely to be overly selective."
Publicity about this research suggests that there is no censensus:
"despite more than 25 years of ongoing research into the radiological consequences for the environment, scientists have failed to come to a consensus on the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on local wildlife. Some claim the Chernobyl exclusion zone (CEZ) has become a thriving wildlife haven in the absence of humans, whereas others have reported significant biological impacts at even tiny radiation doses."
No need for LP to go there it would seem. There would appear to be several hundred people living in the CEZ.
Unless! They! Have! Turned! Into! Zombies!
What is Lewis Page trying to do. If he is trying to support nuclear power the a silly article like this is just counter productive. Heaven on earth, for animals, is a place where there are non of those created in the image of some god. Just ask African elephants. And besides It's not enough to count the number of animals, to understand if they have suffered and how from the radiation, we should have to call them in for a yearly health check, do autopsy on dead ones before they are eaten, check the newborn and so forth. Good luck with that, and still it might not tell us much because they don't live that long anyway.
Page's articles about Fukushima where equally counter productive. Personally I am for nuclear power too, without dissing solar or wind..... Fukushima was especially annoying as they had been warned about not having enough reserve electricity in advance and still ignored it. Not a non-event. Lewis way of writing is not supporting nuclear power in my opinion. And why the hell is he supporting nuclear when he, at the same time, seems to think global warming is a hoax and the atmosphere is doing so well no matter what we burn.
"And why the hell is he supporting nuclear when he, at the same time, seems to think global warming is a hoax and the atmosphere is doing so well no matter what we burn."
In a recent article Lewis bemoaned VW's NOx emissions. IMO it is quite logical to be pro-CO2 while being opposed to pollution. Any environmentalist worth his salt should embrace CO2 (a crucial gas for plants). If you want to poison your neighbor, CO2 won't help you (unless your neighbor takes a particular umbrage against greener plants)
Pollution causes real health problems, whereas CO2 emissions cause imaginary problems. And like all good doomsday prophecies, the calamities will befall us a couple of generations down the road (so nobody living today will be around to verify the claims – quite convenient for the prophets, no?).
Besides, statistically speaking, nuclear kills much less than any other form of energy production.
If we have to rely on humans to produce flawless designs, flawless operation (especially when things start going tits-up, and make everything resistant to natural events such as earthquakes and tsunamis then. even though the likelihood of a nuclear disaster is small, the consequences are too serious to take a risk.
Containment at the Chernobyl site is currently in its second attempt (costing many billions of dollars) which only emphasizes the point that we simply are not smart enough to take a chance on nuclear.
Interesting book by Sternglass (there is a free PDF download) "Secret Fallout: Low-Level Radiation from Hiroshima to Three Mile Island" - I learned a LOT from this book, including that even x-ray exposure can have serious repercussions.
For sake of argument, assuming both reports are true... The Greenpeace report comments on high defect rates among animals in the exclusion zone. The later report comments on quantity of animals in the exclusion zone. I'm not sure these are even contradictory statements -- if the defects do not make the animals sterile, then having animals with mutations and defects does not preclude the population increasing over time.
Furthermore, if there are any mutations that would increase hardiness in the presence of radiation, they may pop up in this area due to the survival advantage those animals would get compared to the rest, evolution in action.
Time for the mutant superdeer!
I'm not sure where the link between positive void coefficient and weapons has been made..
TBH my best guess is that Mr. Pournelle is mistaken, having made the assumption that because it's a banned design, then it must have been for weapons.
Positive Void Coefficient means that when the coolant inside a reactor boils away (creating "voids" of steam), then the power output actually goes UP, because the coolant was also a neutron absorber, which regulates the speed of the reaction. It is fundamentally a Bad Thing To Do, whether you are making weapons OR power. It is one of the main reasons why the reaction at Chernobyl went out of control.
All modern reactors are specifically designed so that the coolant forms part of the neutron *moderator* rather than *absorber* - (a neutron moderator speeds up the reaction by slowing down neutrons without absorbing them, bringing them to the correct energy level where they are most likely to collide with a U235 atom and continue the chain reaction) - thus a loss of coolant in a modern reactor intrinsically results in a slowing down of the chain reaction. This is called a Negative Void Coefficient.
That's the reason Positive Void Coefficients are banned in the US. Nothing to do with weapons.
What you are seeing are the living. Is anyone looking for what is missing? This is bad science at its worse. You see a proliferation of apparently healthy animals and draw the same conclusion across all life forms.
That there are more healthy adults of one species does not mean the same for others.
That there are more healthy adults of one species says nothing of the early death or mortality rates of ANY.
Human fetus are still very vulnerable to radiation even if adults can survive there and reproduce.
You can bet that if the Russian government felt the area was safe then there would be people there immediately. There is a lot of usable land there and no one is touching it.
Per title - whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?
Are you actually trying to piggy-back on the current story about diesel's impact on air quality and ignore the fact that for the best part of a century beforehand we'd been dumping all manner of noxious shite into the atmosphere? Even though said dumping was why efforts were being made to cut back CO2 emissions to begin with?
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but even Jeremy Clarkson would struggle to make that claim with a straight face...
It only hurts individuals. If the percentage of birth defects and the cancer rates go up by a factor of 10, wildlife will still thrive. Damaged newborns die immediately, sick adults die as well, but the reproduction rate easily covers that. So if you are happy with an AVERAGE life expectancy of 45 (you might die younger, or you may live until 100), and with an increased proportion of handicapped children (in contrast to animals, we don't get rid of them immediately, at least in most human societies), you're welcome to live there.
I remember seeing a report on decreased microbial and funghi activity in chrernobyl, just found it again: http://www.sc.edu/uofsc/stories/2014/03_tim_mousseau_microbial_decomposition_chernobyl.php#.VhWE3flVhBc. Even if mammals seem to be doing alright, the ecosystem took a hit in ways we may not understand fully.
All very clever, but is the very small human population since the disaster (it was NOT an accident!) taken into account?
When the area was far more densely populated I suspect that wolves would have been exterminated as "vermin" which probably had a limiting effect on the total number of wolves.
As for the "see, radiation is not that bad" story try reading the book "Secret Fallout - Low-Level Radiation from Hiroshima to Three Mile Island" by Sternglass (free PDF download).
The death toll of Chernobyl was considerably higher than cited here. Yes the wildlife may be thriving, but at a cost of stillborns, deformities, and undesirable mutations. Okay for animals, but who would willingly expose themselves to that?
High-pressure Nuclear power is losing game. We need to invest in much more efficient, safe, thorium molten salt reactors.
Yeah, these work and could well take us to Mars and beyond.
The even more handy feature is that they happily burn weapons grade material and the waste has a half life of mere hundreds of years, the "salt" is only really liquid at above 500C.
A WAMSR would work equally well on the Moon or Mars, the lower gravity is not as bad as people think as simple convection currents will work properly.
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