From Radioactive Reindeer To Radioactive Rainwater: Nuclear Accidents Continue To Contaminate The Environment In Europe and Asia

300px-Chernobyl_Disaster1280px-Fukushima_I_by_Digital_GlobeOne of the chief objections to nuclear power is the catastrophic implications of nuclear accidents or leaks. No better examples of that danger can be found in the aftermath of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters. Reports out this week show precisely how lasting such damage can be.

You know Dasher and Dancer
And Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid
And Donner and Blitzen.
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?
Geiger the radioactive reindeer

That may be the new lyrics coming out of Norway where the country has been recording rising levels of radioactivity among Norway’s grazing animals, especially its reindeer population. It has been roughly 30 years since the nuclear plant explosion in Chernobyl, but the radioactive contamination continues to be registered among roaming animals as well as plant life.

In September, 8200 becquerel per kilo of the radioactive substance Caesium-137 was measured in reindeer in comparison to a prior high of 1500 becquerel among the reindeer in September 2012.

The reason appears to be radioactive mushrooms. The longer than usual mushroom season has allowed a greater and higher range of mushroom production. The gypsy mushroom in particular can have absurdly higher levels of radioactivity.

Caesium-137 has a physical half-life of 30 years.

In the meantime, the typhoon in Asia has led to new water leaks of radioactive rainwater at Fukushima on Monday. TEPCO has had an appalling record at the plant and has been responsible for a series of incorrect estimates and leaks of radioactive water. Such contamination is continuing with bad weather like this week. The leak thus far does not appear to have reached the ocean but TEPCO is viewed by many as a highly unreliable source of information. Just last February, a new leak was disclosed at the plant. About 100 metric tons (26,400 gallons) of water may have escaped a concrete barrier.

The ongoing contamination from both disasters shows the massive costs and lingering problems associated with this technology. Not easy to track are the collateral costs of cancer and illness associated with such exposure and contamination.

91 thoughts on “From Radioactive Reindeer To Radioactive Rainwater: Nuclear Accidents Continue To Contaminate The Environment In Europe and Asia”


    Nine mile unit 1 is the reactor with cracks in its 0.7 to 2.625 inches thick drywell. The cracks are along the weld lines. Some cracks were up to 3/4 of an inch long. Some were fairly superficial, others were clear through, and others of depths in between. If a seismic activity were to hit causing a panel of the drywell to be displaced even 1/4 of an inch, the rods could not be lowered, thereby preventing a shutdown and setting up a meltdown.

  2. It is odd the Mark 5 BWR’s are still in operation around the globe as they’ve been proven defective during a catastrophe to contain their loads and ensure their elevated spent fuel pools are safe. Witness Fukushima.

    Fukushima lost three payloads out of three payloads operating during the quake and four spent fuel pools out of four reactor buildings affected. You can’t have a better batting average…

  3. Jim22
    Did I say anyone was?

    It’s for the people who want to argue eating a banana is the same as flying in a plane which is the same as ingesting caesium and plutonium particles from Fukushima or Chernobyl…

    1. Riesling – Rocky Mountain Oysters are a delicacy but I would not eat them. 🙂

  4. Max-1 Ok, Who’s arguing that Alpha particles of any quantity internally is not bad?

  5. Wild boar is a delicacy in Tuscany. But, they don’t nuke it in the microwave, seared and cooked slowly w/ wine and herbs.


    Thorium Reactors: Their Backers Overstate the Benefits
    Recently there has been a lot of hype about nuclear reactors using thorium as a fuel. Thorium’s backers claim the element is inexhaustible, provides nuclear power that is much safer than uranium-fueled reactors, that thorium reactors produce less radioactive waste, and so on. The reality is quite different, and there is more experience with thorium as a reactor fuel than many people realize. That experience shows that its backers’ overstating the benefits of thorium fuels is putting it mildly. Here are some bits of history about the U.S. experience with thorium fuels:

    • In the 1960”s,the U.S. spent between $5 billion to $11 billion to produce and separate ~1.55 metric tons of uranium-233 from irradiated thorium fuel at government weapons material and commercial power reactors.

    • Research and development of several reactor types was launched with the goal of demonstrating that uranium-233 derived from thorium would be a safe and economical source of electricity. Projects demonstrating the potential viability of slow-neutron “breeder” reactors using uranium-233 were established, most notably the Elk River Reactor in Minnesota, the Molten Salt Reactor at ORNL, and the Light Water Breeder Reactor at Shippingport, Pennsylvania. By 1977, however, pursuit of the thorium fuel cycle was effectively abandoned.

    • Because thorium-232 is not fissile it requires significant amounts of fissile materials (ie plutonium-239 or uranium-235) to generate the neutrons necessary for transmute some of the thorium to uranium-233 – a fissile material that has a critical mass comparable to Pu. Unlike Pu, U-233 does not require implosion engineering to set it off, and can more readily be used in an improvised nuclear device. Several U.S. nuclear weapons were successfully tested using U-233.

    • The main reasons interest waned in the use of uranium-233 for weapons were its radiological hazards and related costs. Of particular concern is exposure to uranium-232, which is co-produced and is 60 million times more radioactive than uranium-238. The uranium-232 contaminant level, however, is not considered to be an adequate barrier to prevent a terrorist from making an improvised nuclear device. According to researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory: “…if a diverter was motivated by foreign nationalistic purposes, personnel exposure would be of no concerns since exposure even that these
    levels would not result in immediate death.”

    • Another factor that may have influenced the decision to abandon the thorium fuel cycle is that thorium itself is more radioactive than uranium and thus requires additional precautions. The surface dose rate from a 55 gallon drum of thorium oxide is approximately 60 mR/hr — about 13 times higher than from a similar-sized drum of uranium. A worker spending time inside a thorium storage facility could expect to encounter dose rates of 60–100 mR/hr. In a little over six working days, such an employee could reach the maximum annual U.S. occupational exposure limit of 5 rem.

    • A molten salt reactor was developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the late 1960’s to demonstrate the potential for “breeding” U-233. It was abandoned and is costing the U.S. taxpayer ~$100 million to clean up the mess from this project.

    • After several failed attempts to establish a thorium fuel cycle, the commercial nuclear industry also walked away from thorium fuels. For instance: The first commercial nuclear plant to utilize thorium was Indian Point Unit I, a pressurized water reactor that began operation in 1962. However, the cost of recovering uranium-233 from this reactor was described as a “financial disaster. Less than one percent of the irradiated thorium was converted to uranium-233.The utility switched to uranium fuel. The Peach Bottom I Unit, a prototype 40 megawatt high-temperature gas-cooled reactor used thorium fuel. It operated from 1967 to 1974. The reactor was closed after experiencing a high
    rate of fuel element failures, causing significant down-time. The Fort St. Vrain plant was a high-temperature-gas-cooled 330 megawatt reactor using thorium
    and uranium-235 fuels which operated from 1979 to 1989. Hundreds of events
    involving equipment failure, gas leaks, fuel failures, cracked piping and graphite, and human error led to its closure.

    • Despite the claim that the US is pursing development of thorium fuel, in 2005, the U.S. Congress ordered the Energy Department to dispose of its remaining U-233 as waste, and ordered the Defense Department to dispose of its strategic stockpile of thorium. The cost for disposal of the remaining U-233 is ~$500 million. To get around paying this high cost, the DOE is seeking to dump about 101 kg of U-233 mixed with 796 kg of U-235 in a shallow landfill in Nevada in violation of international safeguard standards and norms.

    Robert Alvarez, Institute for Policy Studies, February 2014

  7. Riesling – “Jim22: the mushrooms are contaminated by radioactive particles from Chernobyl, which blew with the wind over to Norway and settled into the ground that the wild mushrooms grow on. The deer eat the mushrooms. Since it was a good mushroom season this year, they ate more mushrooms than usual.”

    From the actual article…
    ” The Radiation Protection scientist is quite certain about the cause.

    Lavrans Skuterud said: “This year, there has been extreme amounts of mushroom. In addition, the mushroom season has lasted for a long time. And the mushroom has grown very high up on the mountains.”
    Especially the gypsy mushroom (Cortinarius Caperatus) has been a problem. This is a good food mushroom, both for people and animals. But it has one bad trait: It can absorb a lot of radioactivity.

    Skuterud is still surprised by the high levels this year.

    He reminds that: “The Chernobyl accident happened in 1986. It is nearly 30 years ago.””

    So he is quite certain but surprised by the high levels. Hmm… Still wondering how he is quite certain that the radiation can from Chernobyl and not natural sources.

  8. Darren, You pretty much have to be in the 30% tax bracket to be able to afford the installation. The tax credits help. There is a plan where you install the panels, feed excess power back to the grid, and payments to the power company don’t go down. The payments remain the same with the excess payment goes to paying for the solar installation.

    1. Bettykath, You are correct about the 30% issue as it is not of any benefit for many homeowners. We have an incentive program here were the utility must buyback the excess power at the retail rate, not the wholesale rate so that has the effect of being 1:1 for the consumer but how long that will last is difficult to say because the for-profit power utilities don’t seem to like it so there is a legislative risk involved.

  9. Darren:

    I have my heard set on getting a solar array at some point, but I’ve been disappointed in the cost, too. And some of them have a quite toxic manufacturing process. And, of course, the more customers go solar and go off the grid, even partially, the more money the electric companies lose. And then you get measures where solar panel owners are still charged.

    I hope they get this worked out, soon.

  10. bettykath – “Nuclear is one of the most expensive forms of energy when waste disposal and leak cleanup is factored in. Oil is also very expensive in the same way. Many of the nuclear power plants in the US are in various states of disrepair but the dangers are “mitigated”. One that I know about, the core has several thru-cracks, it would take much of a seismic activity to shift the plates such that the rods cannot be lowered to shut down the reactor. The reactor is still on-line.

    If the money being spent on “clean” coal reactors was instead spent of solar, we’d be able to reduce our dependence of fossils fuels immensely.”

    Really? What’s your source for nuclear being the most expensive?
    Doing a quick scan from this it’s tough to see where that is true.

    How many nuclear plants are, “in various states of disrepair but the dangers are “mitigated”.” What plant has thru-cracks? Why the secrecy?

    Lastly, have you looked into LFTR technology? Do you understand that using outdated reactor design to stop future reactor designs is silly. How many Model-A’s are still on the road? Not many because the car evolved over time. First the anti-nuke crowd does whatever it can to block development of new plants then they turn around and use old plants to show the “issues” with the technology.

  11. Jim22: the mushrooms are contaminated by radioactive particles from Chernobyl, which blew with the wind over to Norway and settled into the ground that the wild mushrooms grow on. The deer eat the mushrooms. Since it was a good mushroom season this year, they ate more mushrooms than usual.

    1. Riesling – evidently eating more mushrooms means the deer will glow brighter. 😉

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