Welcome to the Nuclear Zoo. Here they have an impressive array of exhibits. Nuclear power and the nuclear industry have had a profound impact on the world in which we live. Shall we take a tour?
Over here we have a family of moon jellyfish. Back in 2008 hundreds of their cousins jammed the pipes of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in US shutting it down. Next to them we have a tank of alewife, northern pike, Chinook salmon and rainbow smelt. These are the kind of fish killed in their millions at Canada’s Pickering nuclear power plant.
A little further on we have some Scandinavian radioactive lobsters, shrimps and mussels. Sealife in the North Sea has been contaminated by nuclear waste from the Sellafield nuclear plant on England’s north west coast.
Staying with Sellafield, in this glass case here we have some stuffed Sellafield seagulls. The seagulls swim in the water of the open air nuclear waste storage tanks, become radioactive themselves and then fly off to spread contamination elsewhere. Sharpshooters have had to be hired to cull the birds.
There’s some British sheep. Almost twenty five years after the Chernobyl disaster, ‘nearly 370 farms in Britain are still restricted in the way they use land and rear sheep because of radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power station’.
The zoo also has some animals from Chernobyl area. There are some birds that have learned to avoid nesting in areas of the heaviest contamination. Here are some spiders and insects whose numbers have declined thanks to radioactive contamination.
Which brings us to the zoo’s latest addition: radioactive wild boar from Germany:
Wild boar are particularly susceptible to radioactive contamination due to their predilection for chomping on mushrooms and truffles, which are particularly efficient at absorbing radioactivity. Indeed, whereas radioactivity in some vegetation is expected to continue declining, the contamination of some types of mushrooms and truffles will likely remain the same, and may even rise slightly -- even a quarter century after the Chernobyl accident [...]But radioactivity in wild boar isn't likely to disappear soon. "The problem has been at a high level for a long time," says Reddemann. "It will likely remain that way for at least the next 50 years."
All this points to the long term effects of radiation and nuclear power on our environment. And yet, there has been ‘no concerted effort to monitor the long-term effects of Chernobyl on free-living organisms and humans’. We simply have no idea what to expect in the long term in the event of a nuclear accident.
Despite that, it hasn’t stopped people making sweeping claims. The eminent environmentalist James Lovelock says – in contradiction of studies made there – that wildlife around Chernobyl is flourishing and that this shows we could quite happily dump nuclear waste in the Amazon basin.
Others vastly downplay the Chernobyl death toll and dispute the effects of radiation from the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet these terrible legacies are there for all to see, standing as reminders of past disasters and warnings against future nuclear folly.
Thank you for visiting the Nuclear Zoo. Please leave a donation on your way out.