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Forests Around Chernobyl Aren't Decaying Properly

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the this-is-what-happens-when-forests-aren't-educated-properly dept.

Earth 167

An anonymous reader writes "Smithsonian Magazine has an article about one of the non-obvious effects of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown: dead organisms are not decomposing correctly. 'According to a new study (abstract) published in Oecologia, decomposers—organisms such as microbes, fungi and some types of insects that drive the process of decay—have also suffered from the contamination. These creatures are responsible for an essential component of any ecosystem: recycling organic matter back into the soil. Issues with such a basic-level process, the authors of the study think, could have compounding effects for the entire ecosystem.' The scientists took bags of fallen leaves to various areas around Chernobyl and found that locations with more radiation caused the leaves to retain more than half of their original weight after almost a year. They're now beginning to worry that almost three decades of dead brush buildup is contributing to the area's fire risk, and a large fire could distribute radioactive material beyond Chernobyl's exclusion zone."

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Zombie trees? (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#46494267)

SF authors were right!

Solution... (3, Insightful)

mark_osmd (812581) | about 8 months ago | (#46494271)

Go to other areas of Europe and Russia that have normal forest breakdown, grab some soil and dead leaves and spread them in select locations around Chernobyl. If the fungi and mold was damaged back when the radiation was really high it can be reseeded now that it's lower

Re:Solution... (5, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#46494319)

I would have thought that the fact that the experiments with leaves brought there from elsewhere decaying slower demonstrate that merely bringing foreign organisms (the collected leaves are not sterile, of course) is not going to help.

Re:Solution... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494471)

They're not sterile but it's not merely one organism that attaches early to the leaf that is responsible for the decay. It's a collection of different organisms that each take their share of the organic matter for their own needs. Hence the note of various fungi and insects. Notably, a large part of plant root systems are often heavily intertwined with fungi which either directly or indirectly take part in the breakdown of organic matter around the plants. Hence, just dumping soil onto a new area might not be enough.

To me the more interesting aspect is just how the plants themselves are fairing as one of the major supposed risks of nuclear fallout is precisely the way it results in uptake of dangerous radioactive material into food. But if the root system and fungi system underground have been largely buffered because the surface fungi/insects die before being able to do the necessary processing...then the plants themselves may be perfectly safe to consume (properly rinsed off, of course) but fail to restore themselves which would quickly turn the area into a desert once a fire occurred.

So, for all the risks of fallout, perhaps Planet of the Apes (the original one) had it right.

Re:Solution... (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 8 months ago | (#46494501)

Yea, the radiations slowing it down, sure. But literally crop dust the area with microbes once a year and I bet you'll see a hell of a difference.

Re:Solution... (1)

whit3 (318913) | about 8 months ago | (#46494713)

I would have thought that the fact that the experiments with leaves brought there from elsewhere decaying slower demonstrate that merely bringing foreign organisms (the collected leaves are not sterile, of course) is not going to help.

It's a full set of organisms you need; if, for instance, the earthworms were missing, a few strips of sod (or waiting for 'foreign' worms to migrate in) would be effective, but a pile of leaves wouldn't.

Re:Re:Solution (3)

MatthiasF (1853064) | about 8 months ago | (#46494779)

"The results were telling. In the areas with no radiation, 70 to 90 percent of the leaves were gone after a year. But in places where more radiation was present, the leaves retained around 60 percent of their original weight."

Areas with no radiation presently showed decomposition (70-90% reduction in weight).

Areas with radiation presently showed decomposition (40% reduction in weight).

So, yes, it seems like it would help. A 40% reduction is better than 0%.

Re:Re:Solution (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 8 months ago | (#46494819)

TFA calls it suffering. I'm not sure that's the word I'd use to describe microbes, fungi, and insects failing to decompose. I mean, who is the author to say with authority the desires and emotions of these little creatures?

Re:Re:Solution (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 8 months ago | (#46495291)

suffer

1. To undergo or feel pain or distress: The patient is still suffering.
2. To sustain injury, disadvantage, or loss: One's health suffers from overwork. The business suffers from lack of capital. Pspahn's karma score has suffered since he became a pedantic arse.

Re:Re:Solution (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 8 months ago | (#46494839)

Areas with radiation presently showed decomposition

It's probably reduced to oxidation (pun not intended). So not really proper decomposition and I would expect impaired nitrogen "recuperation", soil degradation and desertification.

Re:Solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46495219)

Those outside leave samples might not be sufficiently traced with fungi spores and mold from their parent location. The problem seems that the local Chernobyl insects, mold and fungus are damaged genetically from their ancestors 28 years back when the exposure was higher. Reseeding the Chernobyl area with fresh fungus, mold, insects and nematodes/worms from elsewhere might help as the radiation is lower now

Re:Solution... (1)

icebike (68054) | about 7 months ago | (#46495999)

I would have thought that the fact that the experiments with leaves brought there from elsewhere decaying slower demonstrate that merely bringing foreign organisms (the collected leaves are not sterile, of course) is not going to help.

The collected leaves are not sterile, but that isn't where the bulk of the organizes live. They live in the soil.
The best thing to do is leave it alone and let organisms that are tolerant of radiation evolve.

Perhaps we have a solution to carbon sequestration!. (I kid of course).

Re:Solution... (1)

mikael (484) | about 8 months ago | (#46494937)

Some long-lasting foods are made through the use of various types of radiation; UV light and gamma rays. These break up the DNA of bacteria and fungii which don't have advanced self-repair mechanisms like mammals.

Re:Solution... (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 8 months ago | (#46495077)

Maybe the Russian troops that are "passing through" can bring some of that.

Re:Solution... (2, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | about 7 months ago | (#46496467)

Perhaps you should reference a map first. Chernobyl is one of the booby prizes the EU gets to keep, along with the Ukraine debt and the tens of thousands of neo-nazis. Of course as an 'applying' member of the EU Ukraine will no longer be able to do a middle man attack on the gas supplies between Russia and the EU when it comes to extorting reduced gas prices (that application might drag on quite a bit, seriously who Europe would want tens of thousands of neo-nazis, just the right mix to set of mass conflict with European Muslims and Jews)

Learn process first (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 7 months ago | (#46496253)

The obvious thing is obvious - however there is value in finding out what is going on here so we can be better prepared for other, possibly larger, radiation incidents or acts of war later.

Controlled fires (1, Interesting)

Lisias (447563) | about 8 months ago | (#46494289)

Controlled, man initiated fires can be the solution.

Problem is: who will do the task, and how to keep it controlled?

And yet, the area to be safely burnt at one time can be so small that the time needed to carry on the task can be impracticable.

Re: Controlled fires (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494341)

I think they meant the smoke alone from the fire would cause radiation to spread.

Re: Controlled fires (3, Funny)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 8 months ago | (#46494517)

I think they meant the smoke alone from the fire would cause radiation to spread.

Oh come on, get a half-life already!

Re: Controlled fires (1)

Lisias (447563) | about 8 months ago | (#46495645)

The smoke spreading is not linear to the size of the fire - the more the heat, stronger and stronger hot air will go up.

Hundreds of sequential (and mutually exclusive) small fireworks will spread smoke in a smaller area.

Not a good solution, I know. But probably the lesser of two evils.

Re:Controlled fires (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494749)

The Russians are ready.

Re:Controlled fires (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 8 months ago | (#46494845)

Nuke it from orbit! It's the only wait...

Re:Controlled fires (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494945)

You are stupid and everyone knows it, clap your hands.

Re:Controlled fires (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46495859)

Clap Clap Clap!

Business opportunity (4, Funny)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 8 months ago | (#46494317)

Sounds like the perfect place to sell burial plots to the rich. Their corpses can remain intact for thousands of years. And the fear of radiation poisoning will keep grave robbers away. As a bonus, it will save more land from being developed into wasted space. And this land that can't be used by the living will become useful as well. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Re:Business opportunity (3, Funny)

mikeabbott420 (744514) | about 8 months ago | (#46494353)

It is a trade off, lead lined suits to visit the grave but the flowers you leave last so much longer!

Re:Business opportunity (1, Offtopic)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 8 months ago | (#46494375)

Sounds like the perfect place to sell burial plots to the rich.

Better yet, sell the rich bottled Chernobyl water.

"Drink Chernobyl Water and you will never age! It will keep you young forever!

Re:Business opportunity (2, Funny)

relisher (2955441) | about 8 months ago | (#46494397)

Sure, let's put dead bodies into highly radioactive zones and not expect people to have a zombie scare.

Re:Business opportunity (0, Offtopic)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 8 months ago | (#46494419)

It's a great business opportunity. You can sell that land at a high price to gun nuts.

Re:Business opportunity (2)

ultranova (717540) | about 8 months ago | (#46495239)

It's a great business opportunity. You can sell that land at a high price to gun nuts.

And then the gun nuts can combine work and play by selling tickets for zombie banker safaris.

"Honey? That guy who repossessed our home 20 years ago is a Chernobyl zombie now. I know where we're vacationing this year."

Re:Business opportunity (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 8 months ago | (#46494851)

Sure, let's put dead bodies into highly radioactive zones and not expect people to have a zombie scare.

Meh. The CDC already has a plan for that.

Re:Business opportunity (1)

gtall (79522) | about 8 months ago | (#46495507)

Or....to Kremlin criminal bosses. The Ukraine ought to offer Tsar Putin a final resting place, cheap. And he'll remain there to inspire the faithful since he won't decay very well. Hell, they could even promise to put up one of those Lenin "I-Just-Cut-One-for-the-Proles" statues. Instead of striding forcefully into the future, they could give him a tail and tuck it between his legs in a galloping romp headed back towards Mother Russia. Who knew she was really a Mother-in-Law?

THEM! (1)

lieumorrison (902792) | about 8 months ago | (#46494361)

THEM! (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047573 ) @slashdot http://bit.ly/1ipJ13A [bit.ly] “Apart from a few ants, the dead tree trunks were largely unscathed[...]"

Fire = Good (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494393)

The fire "risk" is natures form of healing. By re-distributing the radiation the area can heal.

We humans take issue with the idea of the radiation spreading outside "the zone" but nature doesn't.

Re:Fire = Good (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 8 months ago | (#46494411)

Because nature has shit loads of fusion reactors all over the planet that go critical all the time.

Re:Fire = Good (5, Informative)

Ferrofluid (2979761) | about 8 months ago | (#46494527)

Chernobyl was a fission plant. Mankind has yet to create a viable fusion power plant. And even if we were able to make a fusion plant, it would be impossible for a fusion reactor to "go critical" since "criticality" is not even a concept applicable to fusion reactions.

Re:Fire = Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494575)

Chernobyl was a fission plant, but nature does have fusion reactors reacting all over the universe all the time,

criticality is heretofore a fission specific term, but might emerge as a relevant term for fusion as well - being able to sustain the conditions for a fusion reaction over time, without increase or decrease in power. If we accomplished such a thing, we might very well call that condition criticality as well.

Re:Fire = Good (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 8 months ago | (#46494657)

Chernobyl was a fission plant, but nature does have fusion reactors reacting all over the universe all the time,

And quite a lot of them actually exploded. ;-)

Re:Fire = Good (3, Interesting)

x0ra (1249540) | about 8 months ago | (#46495273)

Nature even had fission reactor, on earth, operating for a few hundred thousand years, cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Fire = Good (5, Insightful)

jc42 (318812) | about 8 months ago | (#46494631)

Because nature has shit loads of fusion reactors all over the planet that go critical all the time.

Actually, that's not all that far off from reality. Except that, in our solar system, nature has only one fusion reactor, which went critical roughly 4.5 billion years ago. Nature has been powered by the output of that one runaway fusion reactors ever since then. And life here has had to handle the fact that our power supply is available only about half of each day, so each species needs to develop ways of surviving a total failure of the power plant every day.

Re:Fire = Good (2)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about 8 months ago | (#46494829)

Wait, are you saying we're all inundated by radiation from nuclear fusion? How can we stop this atrocity! We must protect ourselves from the radiation of that nuclear fusion - think of the children!

Re:Fire = Good (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494877)

no, idiot, the van allen belt and ozone layer and the rest of the atmosphere protect us from the radiation.

no, idiot. sunlight is radiation. Heard of sunburn (5, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | about 8 months ago | (#46495821)

Speaking of "no, idiot", sunlight IS radiation.
As anyone who has ever had a sunburn knows, it's damaging radiation. Quite a bit more damaging than any radiation anyone has ever received from. US nuclear power plant, in fact.

Re:Fire = Good (5, Funny)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 8 months ago | (#46495145)

"we're all inundated by radiation from nuclear fusion? How can we stop this atrocity! "

Move to Seattle.

Re:Fire = Good (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 7 months ago | (#46496271)

Not so funny after the first skin cancer.

Re:Fire = Good (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46496693)

Actually, that's not all that far off from reality. Except that, in our solar system, nature has only one fusion reactor, which went critical roughly 4.5 billion years ago.

Nature also makes its own fission reactors on occasion, through natural processes concentrating fissionable materials [wikipedia.org] . And through other natural processes which turn over portions of the land, some of those materials can become exposed or even distributed across large areas. One would expect this to happen very rarely, but over sufficiently long time scales it may be something which could be expected to happen nonetheless.

Re:Fire = Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494689)

Fusion, no. Fission, however? Thee have been several. Look into the rather strange geology around Oklo.

                                             

Re:Fire = Good (2, Insightful)

macpacheco (1764378) | about 8 months ago | (#46494799)

Yeah go right ahead and conflate the most wildly unsafe nuclear power plant in the world with all of the others with a secondary containment building. With proper safe design.
Go ahead and spread all of your anti nuclear paranoia non sense.
While we are at it, why don't we push the disapearance of Air Malasia Flight 370 as an excuse to ground all airliners, eventually leading to shuting down the whole airline industry for good. It's the kind of wisdom the anti nuclear wise man are proposing.

Re:Fire = Good (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 8 months ago | (#46495449)

Or how about we get some perspective. Chernobyl nearly bankrupted the USSR, and the cost of Fukushima is looking like it will be in the range of hundreds of billions of Euros/USD. The loss of one airliner doesn't really compare. In fact all their air accidents in the history of the world don't really compare.

Re:Fire = Good (2)

macpacheco (1764378) | about 8 months ago | (#46495591)

How much 9/11 losses caused on the American economy ?
Studies place the price tag at 2 trillion USD !
Again, then why are we letting the airlines continue to operate ?
Can we honestly guarantee a 9/11 style attack will never, ever happen again ?

A Chernobyl style accident is essentially impossible to happen again. It wasn't the first stupid idea coming from Russia, the stupidity continues right now (in other areas). Nukes without secondary containment were a stupid idea only the Russians would be stupid enough to pursue. And the other problems with that reactor were the result of it being a knockoff from the USA design before it was fixed.

The Tsunami reconstruction is projected to cost US$ 300 billion. Let's maintain that number for perspective.

There are credible, rational, facts based studies that show tens of millions of people would have died if we had no nuclear power stations using coal instead.
Wanna put a price tag to those lifes ?
Those same studies show that nuclear is the safest energy source per GWh produced in the USA, and France.
I was educated with the thinking that instead of looking for the worse possible way of doing something, instead we learn what to do from the BEST and what not to do from the WORSE.

Re:Fire = Good (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 8 months ago | (#46495675)

How much 9/11 losses caused on the American economy ?
Studies place the price tag at 2 trillion USD !

Very little of that was directly due to the aircraft though, most of it was self-inflicted damage due to the way the US responded.

Nukes without secondary containment were a stupid idea only the Russians would be stupid enough to pursue.

Actually the root cause was exactly the same in the case of both Chernobyl and Fukushima, and most other commercial nuclear accidents. It's not stupidity per-se, it's that safety is expensive. The USSR was building reactors on the cheap, and TEPCO was running them on the cheap. It's not really stupidity, it's simply the reality of trying to run something that is expensive to make safe in an environment where money is a limited resource.

The Tsunami reconstruction is projected to cost US$ 300 billion. Let's maintain that number for perspective.

Good point, Fukushima on its own just about doubled the cost of the whole event.

There are credible, rational, facts based studies that show tens of millions of people would have died if we had no nuclear power stations using coal instead.

If only there was some other way to generate electricity other than coal and gas. If only our modern coal plants weren't just as bad as third world ones built in the 50s for emissions. Seriously, can't you see the irony of on the one hand suggesting that we should have modern nuclear plants with the latest safety features but insisting that the only alternative is ancient coal power stations with no carbon capture or modern filtering?

Re:Fire = Good (1)

l0n3s0m3phr34k (2613107) | about 7 months ago | (#46496461)

Chenobyl would still be functioning just fine if their management hadn't have forced them to run "emergency drills" by actually causing real-life overloads and not informing workers what was going on...they basically blew themselves up. Japan's reactor would also still be fine if it hadn't been in the path of the tsunami. So the root cause isn't the same...one was from human stupidity, the other was from a natural disaster. I do root cause analysis at my job, be very careful of the built-in bias that everyone has and how it affects analysis!

Re:Fire = Good (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 7 months ago | (#46496297)

That plant won a safety award the year before the accident so was not "the most wildly unsafe nuclear power plant in the world".
Some of the "nuclear paranoia" had the positive effect of a large number of improvements to places that were potentially even worse. We didn't completely stop using nuclear reactors for civilian purposes in 1986 did we? I think you really are overstating the "nuclear paranoia" to a ridiculous point.

Re:Fire = Good (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494849)

Actually, yes. We know of 16 natural fission reactors on Earth, that mother nature ran for hundreds of thousands of years.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_nuclear_fission_reactor

yes, ONLY nature has working fusion reactors (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 8 months ago | (#46495805)

Your sarcasm is ironically correct. Only nature has fusion reactors, mankind is still trying to figure out how to build one.

Re:Fire = Good (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 8 months ago | (#46494491)

Generally, yes, but in the fear expressed at Chernobyl is apparently that it will render airborne radioactive particles that are currently sequestered in vegetation, which apparently the natural organic decay process would retain.

Re:Fire = Good (4, Funny)

quantaman (517394) | about 8 months ago | (#46495433)

The fire "risk" is natures form of healing. By re-distributing the radiation the area can heal.

We humans take issue with the idea of the radiation spreading outside "the zone" but nature doesn't.

But in what patterns does it get redistributed? Does it get diluted down to homeopathic levels thus curing everyone in the Ukraine of cancer, or does it get redistributed in concentrated form, creating pockets of high radiation outside the exclusion zone causing Ukrainians to get superpowers and kick the Russians out of Crimea.

Definitely superpowers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46496073)

It will definitely be superpowers. Everyone knows that homeopathy is fiction.

Re:Fire = Good (1)

l0n3s0m3phr34k (2613107) | about 7 months ago | (#46496473)

sounds like a great science fair experiment from the Venture School for Gifted Geniuses lol...only one way to find out, let's go start some fires!

I wouldn't worry so much about Chernobyl... (2)

cosmin_c (3381765) | about 8 months ago | (#46494407)

...as I'm worrying right now about Fukushima. At least in Ukraine they aren't pumping sea water to cool it, which afterwards gets dumped in the ocean for further spread via currents - http://borderlessnewsandviews.... [borderless...dviews.com]

Re: I wouldn't worry so much about Chernobyl... (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 8 months ago | (#46494561)

Actually that is safer.

At bikini atoll were the USA tested nuclear weapons on ships. The sunken ships pose no radiation hazard. You can swim through them safely.

The island itself is just as bad as chernybol still. As sea water is the natural moderator. The radiation particles get pushed around by the currents. Ideally if we could but a giant glacier over cherynbol by the time it melted most of the radiation would be gone as well.

Re: I wouldn't worry so much about Chernobyl... (4, Insightful)

cosmin_c (3381765) | about 8 months ago | (#46494613)

You can't wish radioactive particles to "be gone". They do have a half-life, but for example the Ce-137 that's depicted in my link has a half-life of ~30 years. And it's spewed continuously into the ocean and spread around the world. The Bikini Atoll experiments resulted in sea-life in general being hundreds of times more radioactive than the norm because those elements, and guess where that radioactivity ended up - on people's tables. Saying it's safe to swim around the sunken ships is interesting to say the least. My point is that radioactive particles don't just "go away" and their generation can overwhelm the moderating capabilities (i.e. dilution) of the sea water. And it isn't reasonable to think that having radioactive material being spewed into the ocean like that is all-right.

The solution to pollution is dilution. (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 8 months ago | (#46495429)

And it isn't reasonable to think that having radioactive material being spewed into the ocean like that is all-right.

Nobody said it was "all-right" or "safe", the OP said it was "safer" and AFAIK common-sense plus all the evidence from the various Pacific nuke tests supports that claim. Survival is about risk minimization, no activity is totally safe, there is no efficient way to safely dispose of nuclear waste, especially when it has already escaped into the environment, better to help wash it into the ocean than try to keep it on the beach.

Re: I wouldn't worry so much about Chernobyl... (1)

mrbester (200927) | about 8 months ago | (#46495245)

And Anthrax Island is clear as well. I'm not going to plan a trip there either.

Re: I wouldn't worry so much about Chernobyl... (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 7 months ago | (#46496309)

It's safe to swim around sunken fuel rods - you've written it yourself "sea water is the natural moderator".
However the bits that come off and could end up in the food chain are a greater worry. Hence encapsulation or incorporation (eg. synroc) of high grade nuclear waste.

Re:I wouldn't worry so much about Chernobyl... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494591)

you should not - the radiation going into the ocean from Fukushima is not serious, and is inferior to other dumps of nuclear waste in the past
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_disposal_of_radioactive_waste
Which also has not been bad for the oceans... We do many other bad things to the ocean, but this is insignificant.
For the top 10 bad things we are doing to the oceans, radioactivity or radioactive waste is not in the top 10.

decomposing correctly (0)

epine (68316) | about 8 months ago | (#46494441)

Nice. What's different or unfamiliar is incorrect.

'cause on the first day God wrote a specification document, on the third day he coded madly, on the sixth day God ticked off the last box on the acceptance test plan, and then he sat back and cracked open a can of Galactic Suds.

It comes in galaxies? You bet.

Re:decomposing correctly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494665)

Well, according to your logic, every single event or occurrence must be worked out from first principles.

"My temperature is 104F! This is not correct!"

"Nice. What's different or unfamiliar is incorrect. 'cause on the first day God wrote a specification document, "

Etc, retarded programmer's opinion redacted.

You really are a programmer aren't you?

why is there a fucking huge bomb cloud over nyc? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494489)

i'm looking out my window and it looks like... a huge bomb just went off! nothing on the news yet...

Re:why is there a fucking huge bomb cloud over nyc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494507)

That's not a bomb. That's the smoke from your crack pipe.

Re:why is there a fucking huge bomb cloud over nyc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494707)

i got pics of it but i guess it was just a random huge blast of smoke from...uh, who the fuck knows.

Re:why is there a fucking huge bomb cloud over nyc (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494723)

I just ass fucked your mom and that cloud is her bad breath.

forests around chernobyl aren't decaying properly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494595)

Carl Sagan said something about nuclear winter. Some decades later, folks ran an experiment on that idea in the San Dimas (CA) experimental forest. While 1 helicopter crashed (1 dead), they found that Mr. Sagan didn't have the half of it: there was also all the pollution from the decades accumulated on the leaves that would also be thrown into the atmosphere (along with basic plant carbon.) Now we learn we'll get the radiation right back at us, too. Sheesh, we're doing it to ourselves.

Probably bad reporting and hyped abstract (2, Insightful)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 8 months ago | (#46494659)

I won't believe a word about this, unless the full study is available for checking and has been independently reproduced. And when I write "available" I don't mean "you can purchase this paper for the wee lil' sum of 40 Euros".

Sorry, but just about any time I actually read the papers that articles on slashdot or anywhere else are about, the result is typically quite different in the actual paper or the methods employed have obvious holes like insufficient data. The more politically relevant the topic, the worse it gets. Hence, I won't take a word of this seriously.

Re:Probably bad reporting and hyped abstract (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494941)

Look, I don't want to ruin your cynical train, but the study looks plausible, as in "common sense" plausible. Even if it, of course, needs to be double-checked, there is no reason to "disbelieve" it without giving it the attention it deserves.

What is triggering your "disbelief" alert here? Radioactive material enter the ecosystem via the trees. Trees die, their leaves fall every autumn. Radioactive material goes back to the ground, causes problem with fauna and fungi. Living organisms are known to be able to cope with radioactivity, but at the price of some energy expense to fight mutations (in higher organisms, tumors), which mean they can't spend as much energy as usual to do what they usually do, that is decompose organic matter and generate nutrients back into the cycle of life.

And of course, if a fire starts, all the radioactive material contained into flammable materials (leaves and tree remnants) will soar into the sky, since the decay of the said flammable materials take longer than usual... This again seems plausible.

Re:Probably bad reporting and hyped abstract (5, Informative)

Tailhook (98486) | about 8 months ago | (#46495055)

When the Soviets contaminated over 800 square kilometers [wikipedia.org] with high levels of Strontium 90 in their first big nuclear disaster, post Lysenko geneticists and biologists studied the effects of this radiation on the entire biocoenosis. Z. A. Medvedev wrote about the results of this work in his book, Nuclear Disaster in the Urals (ch.8):

The given contamination levels (1.8-3.4 millicuries per square meter) were highly destructive for soil animals. Predatory beetles suffered least; their numbers in the contaminated area were reduced to only 66 percent of the figure in the control area. Non-predatory beetles, beetle larvae, and other insects that feed on plants (phytophaga) suffered the most; their numbers fell to 56 percent of those in the control area. Soil animals that feed on organic products in the soil (where the highest level of strontium concentration was found)—the saprophages—died out almost completely; their numbers fell to 1 percent of the control group. Taxonomically, the groups studied were Aranea, Mollusca, Lithoblidae, Geophilidae, Lumbricidae, and Diplopoda.

So small critters in the soil that eat leaves are highly sensitive to radioactive contamination. This has been known for a long time now; at least 40 years. Your skepticism is misplaced; that Chernobyl should have caused a big die-out among the creatures the decompose detritus is entirely predictable. Wait a few years and you'll get to read about the same thing around Fukushima, only there we'll learn about the effects on marine life as well.

Re:Probably bad reporting and hyped abstract (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46495475)

For Fukushima you're talking about a far smaller dose. Even if you assume linear effect (which we know is wrong and suspect is a horrible over-estimate) that's a much smaller effect.

Also, while Chernobyl was a nuclear accident, Fukushima was a mere side effect of a huge natural disaster. So you don't have a nice baseline to work from. Suppose I told you that terrorists had attacked some people in a building with knives. I want you to go find out what effect that had on their lives. Only one problem, during the terrorist attack the entire building was destroyed by a volcano. So, what impact did those guys with knives have? Oh, it's not clear because the whole thing is a mess of charred rubble and ash? Wow, those terrorist were really effective!

Re:Probably bad reporting and hyped abstract (3, Interesting)

Tailhook (98486) | about 8 months ago | (#46495895)

For Fukushima you're talking about a far smaller dose.

That's not the case. The total radiation released by Fukushima Daiichi is far smaller than Mayak or Chernobyl, but there are concentrations of radiation (from Cs-137 and Cs-134) as high as 30M Bq/m2 [hps.org] in the several kilometers of land Northwest of Fukushima Daiichi. This is equivalent 0.8 millicuries which puts it into the ballpark of the Urals EURT areas of 1.8-3.4 millicuries that were studied by the Soviets; high enough to measurably effect the life cycle of saprophage.

Only one problem, during the terrorist attack the entire building was destroyed by a volcano.

The land around Fukushima Daiichi does not fit your terrorist+volcano analogy. The land and around the plant is foothills and the water did not get far inland. The plant itself was build only after the site had been graded to within ~10m of sea level (which is probably the single biggest mistake implicated in the whole event.) So the surface fallout may be studied just fine.

The sea around Fukushima Daiichi may also be meaningfully studied despite the tsunami. One need only establish control areas that are similar to the Fukushima Daiichi area but well away; kilometers or tens of kilometers north and south of the plant and relatively free of radioactive contaminants. Post tsunami recovery of organisms may then be studied and comparisons between Fukushima Daiichi and these control areas can be made.

FYI: this work has been started and is ongoing. Unlike the Soviet case we won't have to wait decades for the cover-up to finally fail and the results to appear, either. Japanese and Western researchers are eager to publish about Fukushima Daiichi.

Re:Probably bad reporting and hyped abstract (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 8 months ago | (#46495515)

No, you won't read the same thing around Fukushima, even if the paper is correct, because there has been no release of Strontium-90 to begin with. Mind you, there is some in the cooling water, but not in the fallout. One of the advantages to have an intact, though leaking, containment is that only volatile components can escape from it. Strontium is not among the volatile components, only noble gasses, Iodine and Caesium. You can keep most of the Caesium inside the containment, if you either have a containment spray system (which the BWR Mark I and Mark II don't have). In this case it takes about 15-20 minutes to remove 90% of it from the containment air. Without the spray, it takes about 8-10 hours to fall out inside the containment.

Unfortunately, GE said about the Mark I containment all the way back in 1966 (part 1, page 50) [nrc.gov] that it would definitively leak very soon after a meltdown, unlike PWR containments (which also have containment sprays). The old BWR containments were designed around 1960 to prevent "catastrophic death tolls", in case of any accident. Back in their time, they were not designed to prevent fallout in the surrounding area. This came later. In order to prevent those with a Mark I or Mark II, you need reinforced, passively activated, filtered containment vents. Those are required by law in Germany, France and Sweden in all nuclear power plants, including PWRs. Not so in the US or Japan for that matter. In the US, the general rule is that nuclear power plant operators are required to keep their plants up to date, but are explicitly not required to perform major changes to the plant. So, there is a lot of grandfathering going on. Installing filtered vents, seems to constitute such a "major change".

In short: Nuclear power plants are exactly as safe as they are designed to be. And they are designed to be as safe as whatever law (that currently applies to them) requires them to be. Fukushima Daiichi worked exactly as required, it's just that the requirements they were held to by the law weren't exactly stellar.

Re:Probably bad reporting and hyped abstract (1)

Normal_Deviate (807129) | about 7 months ago | (#46496425)

Hear hear. The truth is we cannot know the truth about politicized subjects unless we are directly involved. This problem wipes out whole fields of potential science, which is costly, annoying, and important to admit when formulating policy.

Isn't decomposition recent... ? (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | about 8 months ago | (#46494695)

Isn't decomposition a relatively recent phenomenon in geologic time? Coal deposits wouldn't exist if all those ancient forests just decomposed...

Re:Isn't decomposition recent... ? (4, Informative)

LF11 (18760) | about 8 months ago | (#46495267)

Incorrect. Microbes came (long!) before plants, include microbes capable of breaking down each other.

As I understand it, coal essentially came from peat bogs, where decomposition is largely halted. Outside of those peat bogs, decomposition would have run apace.

Re:Isn't decomposition recent... ? (1)

loom_weaver (527816) | about 8 months ago | (#46495307)

I think so. I remember reading in a museum somewhere about a hypothesis that ancient trees didn't decompose... they just kept piling up.

Based on a genetic analysis of mushroom fungi, David Hibbett and colleagues proposed that large quantities of wood were buried during this period because animals and decomposing bacteria had not yet evolved that could effectively digest the tough lignin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

backwards day? (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 8 months ago | (#46494787)

"The scientists took bags of fallen leaves to various areas around Chernobyl and found that locations with more radiation caused the leaves to retain more than half of their original weight after almost a year." I'd certainly be toting my "bag of fallen leaves" if I were in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Of course, I would not be telling people about the where the bag lost some of its original weight. But to be honest, In places with more radiation I would think it would loose more weight. Or am I missing something?

Re:backwards day? (2)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 8 months ago | (#46494969)

Yes you miss something.
More radiation: less living microbes. Hence less decay.
That was a no brainer ... I don't really know what you miss, though.

The phenomena should have a half-life and ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494837)

should not get any worse.

In the mean time they should try crossing the local fungi with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiotrophic_fungus

Why is this a surprise? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494909)

Don't know about anyone else, but I find this to be not at all surprising. Back in the 1960s the US did experiments with using radiation to preserve food. Seems if you zap all the decay organisms there is nothing left to drive the decomposition process. As an industrial process it is still used in some limited situations but the general hysteria about radiation pretty much eliminated this as a wide-spread technique. The results around Chernobyl suggests the same process works there as well -- the higher the level of radiation the better preserved things are. Be patient... the right bugs will eventually get in there, may just take a while.

Re:Why is this a surprise? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 8 months ago | (#46494953)

Be patient... the right bugs will eventually get in there, may just take a while.

They'll be back. Bigger. And they'll eat Kiev.

This is an opportunity to find bioconcentrators (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 8 months ago | (#46495181)

There have been early reports that certain fungi can concentrate cesium. Let's find out if this is happening at Chernobyl, so we can start using the stuff to pull Cs137 from the environment.

Re:This is an opportunity to find bioconcentrators (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 8 months ago | (#46495587)

Let's find out if this is happening at Chernobyl, so we can start using the stuff to pull Cs137 from the environment.

Research probably not likely to get funding by the USG, since there is no military application for that kind of nuclear research. On the other hand. bioconcentrators of certain uranium isotopes for purpose of bioenrichment, may be of interest to the gov.....

If no decay, why a fire risk? (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 8 months ago | (#46495417)

The place is isolated.... what is the ignition source; if there is no heat produced by decay of materials?

Re:If no decay, why a fire risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46495631)

lightning?

Re:If no decay, why a fire risk? (2)

Strider- (39683) | about 8 months ago | (#46495669)

The place is isolated.... what is the ignition source; if there is no heat produced by decay of materials?

Every so often, especially in certain times of a year, you get these massive natural electrical discharges called "lightning" that does quite a good job of starting forest fires.

Re:If no decay, why a fire risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46495915)

But this can be controlled by weather modification

Re:If no decay, why a fire risk? (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 7 months ago | (#46496039)

Lightning...

Also, a sign on the road will keep people out of the exclusion zone about as well as gun laws will eliminate gun crimes...

Re:If no decay, why a fire risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46496269)

You don't get out much, do you?

From harsh experience in the American west, the big risk is idiots who lie about whether they had a campfire, smoked cigarettes, or pulled other human stupidity in a fire risk zone.

Comments (1)

puddingebola (2036796) | about 8 months ago | (#46495797)

Seems like there's some skepticism over the nature of the study. Somewhat reasonable, but it still seems to add to evidence about the long term effects of the disaster on the ecosystem around Chernobyl. Some comments seem to express skepticism about the importance of decomposition. Perhaps a biologist could go into greater detail on its benefit to life on earth. The suggestion about controlled fires makes me wonder if you read the article.

I don't buy it (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46496369)

The problem here is that microbes are among the most resistant things on Earth to radiation damage. And even larger organisms like earthworms or nematodes tend to be pretty resistant as well (though the study alleged to control for that). That's because they are small and have short life-cycles.

What I think is more likely here is that there is a common environmental condition that both inhibits decay and doesn't move radiation away as readily. For example, if the soil is dry, then that will inhibit decay and it might also result in less movement of radioactive chemicals out of the area.

But having said that, such things could be indirectly a product of radioactivity, if say, trees died off in high radiation areas and that in turn creates a more open, drier environment.

Ugh, ot the only thing that is contaminated.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46496737)

Seriously, a news story illustrated with a tone mapped HDR image? It's bad enough seeing them all over people's facebook images, but don't reporters have some moral obligation to actually use images in straight reporting that at least resemble the realities they are trying to depict?

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