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Wild boars and snakes haven’t suffered from radiation at Fukushima nuclear accident, study shows

The catastrophic Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 caused an estimated 250,000 people to evacuate their homes, but scientists have determined certain wildlife species in the area are thriving, suggesting people could eventually return to the region, according to a new study.

Researchers at Colorado State University, the University of Georgia and Fukushima University’s Institute of Environmental Radioactivity have found that multiple generations of wild boar and rat snakes have not suffered from any significant adverse health effects.

Multiple generations of animals have been exposed to radiation levels above the threshold for human occupancy, but have suffered no ill effects. 

That may be due to the fact that cesium-134, one of the major radioactive materials released during the accident, saw its levels decrease by almost 90 percent. 

The researchers looked at biomarkers of DNA damage and stress to determine that the boar and snakes were thriving in the area.   

Multiple generations of rat snakes have also not suffered any ill-effects

Scientists have determined certain wildlife species in the area of the catastrophic Fukushima nuclear disaster are thriving, suggesting people could eventually return to the region, according to a new study

The catastrophic Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 caused an estimated 250,000 people to evacuate their homes

The catastrophic Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 caused an estimated 250,000 people to evacuate their homes

The researchers looked at the wild boars and snakes between 2016 and 2018, or five to seven years after the earthquake and resulting tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant

The researchers looked at the wild boars and snakes between 2016 and 2018, or five to seven years after the earthquake and resulting tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant

The researchers looked at the wild boars and snakes between 2016 and 2018, or five to seven years after the earthquake and resulting tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, releasing massive amounts of radioactive material in the environment. 

The study’s lead author, Dr Kelly Cunningham said the findings could be evidence that people do not need to be as fearful of moving back into the remediated areas, 10 years after the accident.

The researchers looked at biomarkers of DNA damage and stress to determine that the boar and snakes were thriving in the area

The researchers looked at biomarkers of DNA damage and stress to determine that the boar and snakes were thriving in the area

‘If the boar were stressed, we would see telomeres shortening,’ CSU professor and study co-author Susan Bailey, added in a statement. 

‘We didn’t see any changes related to radiation dose, and we didn’t see it in the snakes either.’ 

The researchers looked at wild boar because they are ancestors of pigs, which are ‘physiologically’ more like humans than mice, according to study co-author and University of Georgia professor James Beasley.

The authors hope the findings will squash many unfounded rumors about the health effects related to radiation in the area

The authors hope the findings will squash many unfounded rumors about the health effects related to radiation in the area

The authors hope the findings will squash many unfounded rumors about the health effects related to radiation in the area.

‘With hopes of explaining the situation, many local people took part in research activities, including capturing wild boars,’ Hiroko Ishiniwa, a co-author and project assistant professor at Fukushima University, added.

When the research started, the levels of cesium-134, one of the major radioactive materials released during the accident, had decreased by almost 90 percent, due to its short half-life of just over 2 years. 

The experts expected that the boar and snakes, which live in contaminated soil, would have large doses of radiation, but they do not

The experts expected that the boar and snakes, which live in contaminated soil, would have large doses of radiation, but they do not

WILDLIFE IS ‘FLOURISHING’ AT FUKUSHIMA 

 Images from remotely-operated cameras indicate wildlife is flourishing in Fukushima’s exclusion zone.

Wildlife ecologist James Beasley of the University of Georgia and colleagues used a network of 106 remote cameras to capture images of the wildlife in the area over a four-month period. 

They more than 20 species in areas around the reactor, including wild boar, macaques and fox-like raccoon dogs. 

Read more: Wildlife is flourishing in the exclusion zone around Fukushima

Bailey, who has previously looked at biomarkers on NASA astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly after Scott spent a year in space, said that neither the boar nor the snakes had any signs of shortened telomeres, the protective ‘caps’ on the end of chromosomes. 

The experts expected that the boar and snakes, which live in contaminated soil, would have large doses of radiation, but they do not.

They found that there were lower levels of the cortisol hormone of wild boar in the Exclusion Zone, likely due to the fact that humans are not in the area.

‘It’s similar to what they’re seeing in Chernobyl,’ Bailey said. 

‘The animals are flourishing mostly because there aren’t people around, and they don’t experience the related stress that brings.’ 

The study was recently published in the scientific journal Environment International

In January 2020, a separate study found that more than 20 species, including wild boar, macaques and a raccoon dog were thriving in the ‘exclusion zone’ near the disabled Fukushima Daichii nuclear reactor.

In July, researchers discovered that the disaster had create a boar-pig hybrid, as both species in the area mated with one another.

Japan was devastated by the Fukushima disaster, which permanently shifted large parts of Honshu, the country’s main island, several feet to the east.

It launched tsunami waves more than 130 feet high, destroying the homes of 450,000 people and sending several nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into meltdown.

A steady stream of toxic, radioactive materials spewed into the atmosphere and forced thousands nearby to flee their homes. 

In April, the Japanese government announced it will start releasing treated radioactive water from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean in two years, a move that has angered China, South Korea, fishermen and residents of the island nation.  

WHAT WAS JAPAN’S 2011 FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER?

In 2011, a 33ft (10m)-high tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 people crashed into Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant. 

This led to several meltdowns, allowing harmful radioactive fuel rods and debris to escape from contained areas.

Approaching a decade after the disaster, researchers are still struggling to clean up fuel in the waters of the wasting reactors.

Pictured is an aerial view of the reactors of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant stand in Okuma, Fukushima

Pictured is an aerial view of the reactors of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant stand in Okuma, Fukushima

It’s estimated that plant officials have only located 10 per cent of the waste fuel left behind after the nuclear meltdowns.

And the damaged plant is believed to be leaking small amounts of the radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean, which could be travelling as far as the west coast of the United States. 

Researchers are now pinning their hopes on remote-controlled swimming robots to locate the lost fuel in order to work out the safest way to remove it. 

The government has lifted evacuation orders for much of the region affected by the meltdown, except for some no-go zones with high radiation levels.

Authorities are encouraging evacuees to return, but the population in the Fukushima prefecture has more than halved from some two million in the pre-disaster period.  

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