Almost 25Years Later, Chernobyl & Its Effect On Biodiversity

There is renewed interest in Nuclear Power in today’s world as fossil fuel deposits are getting depleted as each day passes and the consumption increases. The supporters tout the usage of Nuclear energy in France and rest of Europe without major issues, but the reality is that nuclear fallout when it happens can leave an indelible mark on the environment around. We know for a fact that human impact on the environment has been the worst in recorded history in the last 100 years. One way we find out what the impact is on the environment is by learning from the mistakes we make and one of the worst ones was the Chernobyl Incident in 1986.

For the uninitiated Chernobyl is one of the largest nuclear disasters in Human history. 24 years back in 1986 in the early morning hours of April 26th some complications triggered an explosion in the Chernobyl Nuclear plant in the town of Pripyat in the erstwhile Soviet Union (now in Northern Ukraine). The fallout covered a vast area and led to the evacuation of the town of Pripyat.

The abandoned town and surroundings are still not populated and the nuclear plant which was closed down entirely in 2000 still remains, enveloped in a sarcophagus made of reinforced concrete (it is supposed to hold in the radioactive substances for at least 100 years).

I read this article in the BBC about a report in the Journal of Ecology about a study titled “Efficiency of bio-indicators for low-level radiation under field conditions” 2 eminent scientists Professor Timothy Mousseau from the University of South Carolina, US, and Dr Anders Moller from the University of Paris-Sud, France have been researching the fallouts impact on the wildlife in the region around Chernobyl. In their study from 2006-2009, they counted and examined wildlife including insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. In conclusion they have reported that their census of species in the zone – which was carried out for more than three years – provides more evidence that contamination has a “significant impact” on biodiversity.

The research team compared the abundance of species in the exclusion zone with similar types of habitats in the area, which were not contaminated. Ukranian scientists have challenged this study, but the reality according to the team is that this is the first in-depth study done in Chernobyl.

Professor Mousseau says: “If society is ever to learn more about the long term environmental consequences of large scale accidents – and Chernobyl is just one of several – it is important that we all take our responsibilities seriously.”

So before we support building new Nuclear Power Plants in our backyards – I believe most of us would say NIMBY to nuclear power plants, yet some of us would say “Yes” to it as long as it is not where we can see it, or we feel safe enough. Like Prof Mousseau says “We all have to take our responsibilities seriously” and I add “for we are the safe keepers of this earth for the future generations”. Live Green!

The Entire Article on the BBC website is here

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has been the leading international force behind rehabilitation, relieving issues of the people affected by Chernobyl disaster, developing the containment area, and educating the people about the nuclear disasters nationally and internationally. The website run by them has plenty of information about what has happened there past the disaster. This year (2010) the reigns have been handed over to the UNDP (The United Nations Development Programme) Check it out here

Some interesting pictures of the vehicle grave yard in Chernobyl here

Elena Filatova has a blog of pictures and write-ups about her visit to Chernobyl starting 2004 amazing pictures of a dead-city here

Check out this video on youtube from Feb 2010

Suggested Reading  –

Living with Chernobyl – The Future of Nuclear Power

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