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From Chernobyl to Fukushima; 20 Things You Didn’t Know

Nuclear accidents have in recent history become something that has caused substantial damage to the environment and to people and animals living in those environments. From Chernobyl to Fukushima, here are 20 things you didn’t know about nuclear accidents.

  1. The worst nuclear accident to occur in history happened in 1986. Chernobyl, Ukraine; this disaster is anticipated to have an impact for the next 300 years in the area. An easily detected radioactive contamination covers an area of 15,000 square miles.
  2. A short while after the accident, the pine needles on trees in the surrounding forests turned red. This phenomenon has been observed in an area as large as 1.5squaremiles surrounding the power plant. Today, the trees that do grow there appear to be twisted and misshapen, many of which the central stem characteristics of normal, healthy pine trees.
  3. Barn swallows studied by scientists from 1991 through to 2006 in the vicinity of Chernobyl site were observed to have developed as many as 11 different abnormalities ranging from deformed beaks and feathers.
  4. Further studies had also identified that the brains of more than 49 species of birds in the Chernobyl area are somewhere in the range of 5 to 6 percent smaller than the average avian as a result of the radiation. It is believed that the fallout after the incident had caused oxidative stress in the birds also, which has been linked to theories around the possibility of decreased cognitive activity.
  5. Japan’s Fukushima disaster returned higher and less variable mean levels of radiation when measured by researchers in comparison with the measurements taken post-disaster at Chernobyl. The Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was significantly worse than Chernobyl, but more sophisticated cleanup and containment strategies have helped since the 2011 meltdown.
  6. A short six months after Fukushima’s meltdown, a staggering 28% of the native pale grass blue butterflies in the surrounding area had produced deformations such as altered wing patterns, and deformed legs and antennae.
  7. A world first study on wild primates and the effects of radiation exposure in 2012, revealed that the monkeys near the Fukushima area had developed changes on a cellular level such as their white and red blood cell counts were significantly lower when compared to monkeys in other parts of Japan.
  8. Melanized fungus, a fungus that contains melanin, was strangely noted to convert the gamma radiation that it was exposed to into energy.
  9. The spider population in the Fukushima area seemed to explode not long after this disaster. It seems that the spiders benefited as a result of their prey being slowed with the development of various abnormalities, thus making them easier to catch. You are what you eat; so what’s around the corner for those spiders?
  10. Pacific bluefin tuna fishermen in Japan and California were expected to only face minor risks from the fallout after Fukushima’s reactors polluted the waters off the coast. Researchers anticipated that the numbers of cancer deaths as a result of exposure would be as low as two in 10 million more than previously recorded.
  11. The Swedish government made special allowances for the Sami, a subsistent culture in northern Scandinavia, to be able to consume the radiated meat of reindeer. They were permitted to continue to hunt and consume the meat which was contaminated with as much as 1,500 Becquerels of radiation per kilogram, which is five times the acceptable level for the general population.
  12. In 1987 the contaminated reindeer on the Sami lands were destroyed. This number accounted for 29% of all reindeer in the Sami lands.
  13. In the Ukraine some 15,000 cows were slaughtered days after the incident. Concerns about radioactive meat after the Chernobyl fallout was cited as the fuel for the measures taken to control the probable risk.
  14. It is believed that the Chernobyl fallout was the cause of the dramatic alteration to Cuban birth ratios. As Cuba received a substantial percentage of its food from the then Soviet Union it was thought that this was the cause behind the male birth rates skyrocketing. Post the incident in the Ukraine the 1996 data on births in Cuba showed that there were 110 girls born for every 118 boys.
  15. In fear of contamination to local food stocks in the north of the UK, tests were conducted on sheep grazing in far north for radiation as a result of Chernobyl until as late as 2012.
  16. Cat littler (AKA kitty litter) is often used in the absorption of radioactive chemicals. It also has the ability to stabilize radioactive substances.
  17. New Mexico, 2013; a storage facility holding nuclear waste had switched the type of kitty litter they were using in storage drums. There was an unexpected reaction which then caused one of the drums to rupture and subsequently leak radiation.
  18. Mayapuri, India, 2010; eight workers were hospitalized when an unusual incident occurred after the workers had cut into radioactive cobalt 60 which was accidentally left in some research equipment that was sent off to a scrap metal yard for recycling. Unfortunately, one died as a result of the exposure.
  19. At the same scrap yard in Mayapuri, one of the workers had apparently carried around a piece of the isotope with him for days, completely unaware of the danger he was exposed to.
  20. Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, 1979; the resident survivors in the surrounding area of a nonlethal nuclear accident had exhibited much higher levels of stress up to a year and more after an incident at the nuclear plant.
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