Less radiation damage in Chernobyl lakes than feared

April 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study of the lakes in and around Chernobyl's fallout zone reveals that radiation from the nuclear accident appears to have had no long term effect on the abundance or diversity of aquatic animal life.

The study, which coincides with the twenty fifth anniversary of the , examined invertebrate animals, such as insects, snails and crustaceans, living along the shores of eight lakes. Levels of radiocaesium in the lakes ranged from near-background levels at 0.1 microGrays per hour, considered normal, to around 300 times higher. No evidence was found that the abundance or diversity of the animal communities was influenced by direct contamination from the Chernobyl accident. Indeed, the most contaminated lake, Glubokoye, 6.5 km north of the , supported the most animal diversity of those lakes studied.

The findings are published in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity by Dr Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth, Dr John Murphy from Queen Mary, University London and Dr Liubov Nagorskaya of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. The results of the lake-based research are significant because they contrast with previous studies of the region’s land-based and flying insects which reported a significant negative impact associated with radiation from Chernobyl.

Dr Murphy said: "Our study found no evidence that radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl accident has had a direct influence on the lakes' aquatic invertebrates. We discovered over 230 species some of which are rare and endangered and even species that are thought to be particularly susceptible to high levels of radioactive contamination, such as freshwater snails, showed no response.

"This indicates that, twenty five years on, the radiation has not had a perceptible affect on the diversity and abundance of the region’s lake invertebrates."

The study may have significant implications for the long term affects of the recent at the Fukushima power plant in Japan, where scientists are already monitoring levels of radiocaesium in a lake in the village of Iitate 40 km to the northwest. Dr Smith suggests that long-term radiation dose rates to organisms there could be similar to those seen in some of the contaminated Chernobyl lakes.

Dr Smith, from the School of Earth & Environmental Science, said: "Whilst recent estimates by the Japanese authorities show that the radioactive releases to the air at Fukushima were about ten times less than Chernobyl, there are high levels of radiocaesium fallout to land in some areas to the northwest of the power plant."

The scientists examined samples from the lakes, situated in Belarus and the Ukraine, over a two year period and found that they contained a range of diversity typical for the region.

They documented 230 different species including water mites, beetles, freshwater shrimp, seed shrimps, true flies, mayflies, caddis flies, water bugs, leeches, snails, dragonflies, damselflies, and flatworms and even found three species new to Belarus and a number of threatened species.

Dr Murphy said: "Studying aquatic invertebrates is a valuable and well-established method of measuring effects of pollution on freshwater environments because they generally complete their entire life cycle in or close to water and thus reflect conditions in the water body over the preceding months."

Dr. Smith added that: "Estimating the radiation dose to organisms inevitably involves a degree of uncertainty since their exact habitat is imprecise and varies with their life cycle. However even taking this into consideration, the results suggest that natural environmental factors, such as lake size, and hydrochemical factors are the main drivers of biodiversity in the lakes."

The study did not examine possible genetic or physiological responses of organisms at the individual level however the scientists said such effects could not be ruled out.

"Regular monitoring of the freshwater habitats in the affected regions around Chernobyl and Fukushima would greatly help our understanding of how nature responds to such radioactive contamination events," Dr Smith said.

Explore further: Researcher finds Chernobyl birds have smaller brains

More information: Download the paper here. (PDF 631KB)

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1 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2011
fukushima propoganda.
4 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2011
dullard ^
not rated yet Apr 22, 2011
One would expect that animals living in a column of water with cantmination introduced at the surface would be less affected than those living on a surfaces that were exposed to contamination. Add that water makes good shielding and the numbers will be helpful.
1 / 5 (3) Apr 22, 2011
Dr Murphy said: "Our study found no evidence that radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl accident has had a direct influence on the lakes' _aquatic invertebrates_. We discovered over 230 species some of which are rare and endangered and even species that are thought to be particularly susceptible to high levels of radioactive contamination, such as freshwater snails, showed no response.

Microbes evolve faster and can live in contaminated areas. The microbes in the water "clean-up" the water so that other organisms can live with less contamination. Plus that the microbes that these organisms exist out of evolve to live with the contamination.

How about life on LAND? How about plants that grow from the SOIL?

Pro-nuclear propaganda.
Oh and i invite all pro-nuclears to go jump in the lake and see how refreshing it is since it is so safe.
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 22, 2011
I found this tidbit of information very interesting and sad.

More deaths were caused by the FEAR of low levels of radiation from Chernobyl than were caused by radiation of Chernobyl. Over 50,000 babies were killed in their mothers wombs in Europe because of irrational fears, 40 people died dealing with the disaster.

People need to become educated or they do irrational things based just on propaganda. Like taking iodine here in the US. We need to teach kids to think about risk in a rational way(drinking water carries a risk).

Unfortuantely there are very few teachers who know science, that teach kids to question environmentalists, socialists, and progressive propaganda pushed by the school system.

One other point, background radiation is not constant world wide. Some areas have higher background radiation than others due to naturally occuring radiation.
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 22, 2011
Oh and i invite all pro-nuclears to go jump in the lake and see how refreshing it is since it is so safe.

I wonder how many people would die if we took all nuclear power plants offline tomorrow. How safe would that be?

Sometimes if you respond to the asinine with asininity it can shake loose some of the emotional pleading and return some reasoned thought processes. In this case I have low hopes.
3 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2011
MM I agree with you. In the USA we need to start building MORE reactors (with lessons learned) now, we need to drill for more oil NOW, we need to build more electric generators NOW. If we don't we will become a third world nation.

Anyone who likes $4.00 gasoline, thank Obama, anyone who wants $5.00 gasoline thank Obama as we will most likely get it this year. Anyone who likes the higher food prices and high inflation thank Obama, as it has already started.

This administration will be responsible for pushing more people into poverty worldwide, making more people go hungry worldwide, than any other administration.

But one the other hand he is a progressive so him doing that is ok, since he says, the media says, his followers say, that he has good intentions and thats all that counts.

2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 22, 2011
BTW even the Comumnist Broadcast System (CBS news) agrees that we are going to have major worldwide problems due to high gas prices. However they will never blame the democrats, Obama, and the crazy environmentalists for pushing people to poverty and starvation.


not rated yet Apr 26, 2011
How is Obama to blame for higher gas prices? You blame him but offer no proof as to what he or this administration has done to increase gas prices.

OPEC controls the price for oil, any oil we would drill here in the USA would go on the World market and because the amount we have and could provide are relatively small, we would not be able to "Flood" the market sufficiently to reduce oil prices AT ALL. Thinking that the USA drilling for more oil would reduce the Global price for oil just shows a lack of understanding when it comes to Basic Economics.

Unless you're thinking Obama intentionally raised the price of oil though some unknown (to me) method, your explanation makes as much sense as ripping up a few bucks to raise the value of the American dollar.
3 / 5 (2) Apr 26, 2011
Comumnist Broadcast System (CBS news)

Actually The C stands for Columbia. Happy to help :)

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