A team of scientists who studied a key forest mammal, the bank vole, living within 50 km of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, have concluded that the animal’s reproductive success and abundance is impaired by chronic exposure to even “low” levels of radiation in the area, and that no dose is too low to cause these effects. The large-scale, replicated study, by Mappes et al., and published in April 2019, “tested the hypothesis that ecological mechanisms interact with ionizing radiation to affect natural populations in unexpected ways.” The team found that bank voles showed “linear decreases in breeding success with increasing ambient radiation levels with no threshold below which effects are not seen.” The bank vole was chosen because “it is a common and abundant terrestrial vertebrate that inhabits Eurasian forest ecosystems, which makes it an attractive indicator species for the health of forest ecosystems that may have been injured by anthropogenic activities,” wrote the authors. The new Mappes study is important because it joins a body of scientific work that refutes the notion that just because “there are lots of animals in the Chernobyl Zone,” they are unaffected by the nuclear accident. Those “wildlife are thriving” studies mislead the public into believing that animals in the region are benefitting from the absence of humans, and that they are suffering no ill effects from their sustained exposure to radiation caused by the nuclear disaster.
Beyond Nuclear 7th July 2019 read more »
Kate Brown: Five myths about the Chernobyl disaster. More than three decades ago, a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian republic of the Soviet Union exploded. A fierce fire burned for the following two weeks, sending columns of radioactive gases and particles across the European landscape and beyond. The accident is an enduring subject of fascination – HBO recently adapted the event into a hit miniseries, and the site is a popular tourist destination – leading to conjecture and misconception, reports Washington Post.
NZ Herald 6th July 2019 read more »