Radioactivity in “unspoilt” nature

Tomorrow, on the 11th of March it is one year since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. My photo posted here is showing a national park in Norway, still contaminated with radioactivity from Chernobyl.  The nuclear disaster in Ukraine, which occurred on April 26, 1986, is the worst nuclear accident in history. It is estimated that it will be another 150-200 years before the radioactivity in the contaminatedet areas in Norway will be as low as it was before the Chernobyl accident.

Last week scientists from Norway and Belarus visited Japan to share their experiences with the japanese. The norwegian experts and authorities have in all these years tried to lower the effect of radioactivity in different ways. Among many things regulating the meat and milk from livestock who traditionally graze in otherwise unspoilt mountain landscapes during summer. 26 years after Chernobyl there are still sheep and goats that have to be given special feed in the autumn to reduce radioactivity. And the same goes for reindeers in some parts of the country. That is especially the middle part of the country.

Tjohkele, the mountain in the picture above is a sacred mountain for the sami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia. It did not help of course when the radioactive clouds arrived here from Ukraine in 1986. It fell on the ground as rain, and was transmitted to the ground, the lakes, the fisk, plants, animals, and people. The sami people who traditionally eats a lot of reindeer meat and mountain fish got a huge problem, which I wrote about in a previous post. There are more information about these effects on sami life in this webpage.

The two pictures above are showing reindeers giving special feed to lower radioactivity, and being measured for radioactivity.

What is disturbing is the big number of nuclear power plants, and the huge amount of plans to build more of them. Today there are some 435 nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries. Over 60 power reactors are currently being constructed in 14 countries, and the nuclear power production may triple before 2013, according to The World Nuclear Accosiation. The world did not seem to learn anything from Chernobyl, and even the decline in nuclear energy ambitions after Fukushima seems to be gone.  Among others USA just approved a construction and operating license for new nuclear power reactors for the first time since 1978.

In Norway we do not have and do not need atomic energy, we have hydro power, and there are efforts to build more wind power. But the effects of nuclear power, and its disasters seems to be global.

There are more photos from reindeer herding in my photo gallery.

19 thoughts on “Radioactivity in “unspoilt” nature

  1. Oh, sorry Yoshizen, I did not mean it like that, in any way. I really hope for the japanese people to find the best solution of such a vast problem. But I must say I do not understand the plans to build a lot more nuclear plants in the world, in fact maybe triple the numbers in just a few years. This is really a dangerous technology.

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  2. You’ve made a very important point. Milk from cattle and sheep meat from Cumbria in the north of England could not be eaten for many years after Chernobyl, and may still be unfit for human consumption.

    We’ve had on average approximately one major nuclear accident per decade since the 1970’s (Three Mile Isalnd in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011) with the current numbers of nuclear power plants. As more and more get built by countries which have little or no previous experience of safely constructing and operating nuclear reactors, that rate of accidents will increase. And it will inevitably render larger areas of the planet not only uninhabitable but unable to be used to grow food for tens, if not hundreds, of years.

    Where’s the sense?

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  3. Excellent post. I couldn’t agree more and it’s unfortunate that we as a society have such short term memory, refusal to learn from our past, and disregard for our future. Beyond these monumental disasters such as Chernobyl and what happened in Japan (and the risk we take of more) we have yet to come up with a feasible means of safely disposing/ containing nuclear waste. Add to this the fact that we are developing cleaner, safer alternative energies and it is ridiculous that the nuclear industry continues to grow rather than be disbanded. I’m very disappointed in my own government for approval of these new reactors.

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  4. What a wonderful and thought provoking post. it’s funny how much nuclear power was recognized as being so destructive back in the 1980’s, but now they seem to think it’s a miracle way to energy.

    Wish the powers to be would realized the damage and destruction these power plants can and does cause.

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    1. Unfortunately we all demand more and more power to run our iPhones, laptops etc etc so now the relevant debate is what is least bad, global warming or contaminating the planet with radionuclides? It’s a very difficult question and not one that we can trust politicians to find a sensible answer to!

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  5. Thank you for your post, its a shame the rest of the world didnt listen and learn, There isnt alot of forthought goes into nuclear power, and how quickly people forget and ignor what people and wildlife are left with after these disarsters happen. Ignorance is bliss.

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  6. A very appropriate post. Nuclear power has been regarded more and more as the clean energy in the view of the climate crisis that are upon us, and many people seem to forget the disastrous effect of using nuclear power, whenever it goes wrong. And technology will always fail at some point. The Japanese people have experience it, as people in Chernobyl did – and many other places to a lesser degree. Great pictures by the way.

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  7. Insightful post, one we need reminding of and educated about. I had no knowledge of Chernobyl’s effect in other countries. As an individual we can vote against building these abominations. Conserve at home as much power use as possible, I deplore all the wasted power, yet even in my own household it falls on deaf ears.

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  8. Reindeer are a special case, they tend to each lichen during winter. Due to the fact that lichen has very shallow roots (no roots in fact) it tends to have a lot of cesium in it compared with plants such as root vegtables which have deeper roots.

    The problem is that cesium tends to be very immobile in soil, so it stays at the top of the soil where it can be absorbed by grass, moss and lichen. One of the best things to do is to plough up the grassland as much as possible to dilute the cesium in the layer where the grass has its roots.

    It is likely that the special food for the reindeer is prussian blue which is a very good food additive which strips cesium out of humans and animals.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Mark Foreman. Yes, reindeers in the middle of Norway accumulate radoactivity in their bodies because they eat lichens and plants in a nature polluted with downfalls from Chernobyl. Mushrooms is another great contributor to this problem, especially some kinds.
      But ploghing is no solution, because reindeers roam the mountains, vast ares of wilderness, where plouhing is of course out of the question. Prussian blue was tried in the first 1-2 desperate years. The big tablets actually killed some reindeers, anyway it could not be used. Scientists and the government have developed a special feeding, looks like dog food. To make the reindeers tolerate this the herders have to mix it with handpicked lichens (Cladonia stellaris), and gradually give them more and more of the feed. Every herder family picks about 500-1000 sacks of lichens a year, in case they have to reduce radioactivity in their reindeers. It is a lot of extra woork and hardship.
      Sheep who have got to much radioactivity grazing in the mountains have to graze on fertilized grasland some weeks or months to reduse the cesium levels before slaugtering.

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