Monday, May 16, 2011

SURVEY - Chernobyl has not completed its work

"And Chernobyl smokes, For its burning fire ... And the eternal memory is sung by birds of God." Stepan Roudianskiy, 1857 After the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, April 26, 1986, much of the territory Polesie [region in northern Ukraine], rich in rivers and lakes became inhospitable for its inhabitants.

Major rivers such as Pripyat, the Ouj the Sakhan, the Braguinka the Glynnitsia pass through the exclusion zone, which extends the Kiev reservoir (with an area of approximately 23 square kilometers) for storing water required for cooling the plant. All these waters were heavily contaminated with radioactive elements.

Years after the accident, the third largest river basin in Europe after the Volga and the Danube, the Dnieper, continues to receive water laden with radionuclides. While there was often interested in radioactive pollution of soils, changes caused by radiation and their impact on agriculture, public opinion, however, is less aware of the consequences of this accident on Water, whether moving or still.

But during the summer of 1986, immediately after the disaster, scientists from the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic had conducted tests at the Kiev reservoir. They then received a very high dose of radiation. By mid-summer 1986, the activity of cesium-137 was between 200 and 30 000 becquerels per liter [by comparison, the maximum acceptable concentration recommended by Canada is 10 becquerel per liter].

The concentration of other radionuclides was 200 to 260 becquerels per liter. By absorbing the tremendous amount of radioactive material, the Kiev reservoir has played a vital role as a buffer and thus protected the downstream reservoirs, essential for the provision of drinking water and agricultural irrigation.

What about today, exactly twenty-five years after the accident? Based on the results of years of research by specialists from the Institute of Hydrobiology Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, we will try to review the radiological situation of the Kiev reservoir. It turns out that the aquatic ecosystem has been particularly affected during the two weeks following the explosion of the reactor of Chernobyl.

During this period, the beta radioactivity was 370 kilobecquerels per liter in the waters of the Pripyat. Inside the exclusion zone, they remain highly contaminated today. In the bed of rivers, the radionuclides decay, including strontium 90. The baseline for measuring the activity of strontium 90, is found in the waters of Lake Glyboké, 6.5 kilometers from Chernobyl.

In 1997, the activity of strontium-90 there was an average of about 100 becquerels per liter. In 2009, she was still at 98 per liter. In accordance with the standards established in 2006 by the National Commission for fight against radioactivity, the acceptable level of radioactivity is 2 becquerels per liter, which is also valid for cesium 137.

Glyboké the lake bottom is covered with mud with a density of contamination is as follows: strontium 90, 26 000 becquerels per square meter, cesium 137, approximately 5600 kilobecquerels. The lake is literally Glyboké sentenced to such an extent that its waters are considered by authorities as radioactive waste.

In the aquatic ecosystem, the radionuclides are continuously in biogeochemical migration. They accumulate in the bottom of water bodies. By breaking into the food chain, primarily cesium-137 accumulates in organisms of higher trophic level in some species of predatory fish such as catfish, perch and pike.

The acceptable level in fish is theoretically of 35 becquerels per kilo for strontium-90 and 150 Bq / kg for cesium 137. In 2010, in rudd, feeding mainly on plants, insects and worms, there were levels of strontium-90 is between 180 and 16 000 different sites: 180 near the water tank Chernobyl cooling, the statement comes just 16 000 Lake Glyboké.

For cesium 137 in the rudd, the figures are of 760 becquerels per kilogram in the Pripyat and reach 12,000 in Glyboké. Reeds must be contaminated by mass, it is said, be wary of rising waters. The aquatic ecosystem hidden processes of great complexity. The high level of radionuclide contamination is the source of a wide range of abnormalities that may seem imperceptible to the general public: Waning immunity, abnormalities of the reproductive system with the appearance of fish partially or completely sterile, morphological abnormalities , deterioration of the food chain and evolutionary.

In 2000, for the first time in Ukraine, it was reported a phenomenon of massive contamination of the reeds in the exclusion zone. Attacked by a parasite, Steneotarsonemus phragmitidis a mite [a family of mites], reeds contaminated deal with the infestation, have mutated and lost their ability to reproduce.

One might think that the contamination of wildlife and aquatic flora does not affect humans. But be aware that Ukraine's population is a major consumer of freshwater fish. Bream, roach, catfish and catfish are widely sold in markets, fresh or smoked. Therefore, the health impact of this pollution can not be neglected.

However, there is a distinction between the stagnant waters and rivers. With water flow, the renewal process radioecological runs much faster in the fast-flowing rivers, such as Pripyat. In 2010, the activity of radionuclides in water was 0.1 and 0.01 becquerels per liter. Contamination of fish in the river by strontium-90 was about 5 Bq / kg in perch and up to 171 becquerels per kilogram in the rudd; for cesium 137, 37 to 135 becquerels per kilo at the poles.

Return when the flora? The watershed of the Dnieper River was contaminated by radioactive particles in the air and the fallout of fission products of uranium, by the waters of the tributaries, but also by the flow of rainwater from contaminated areas . In the first months and years that followed the accident, the maximum concentration of cesium-137 in fish populations in this basin was between 30 and 6,000 becquerels per kilogram.

From 1989 to 2003, analysis has been a steady reduction of contamination in aquatic animal populations. In 2010, these figures are averaged to one hundredth of a becquerel per liter, or roughly the same level as before the accident. In contrast, upstream, where the funds are much more muddy and stagnant waters, the concentrations remained high, particularly in the case of cesium 137, which has an influence on the contamination of local aquatic wildlife.

Between 2003 and today the average activity of 137 Cs in fish did not exceed 50-70 becquerels per kilogram in lakes and ponds in this area, figures lower than the threshold allowed. But in some species, we measured an activity beyond the levels in question. Thus, in 2009, with pike, there were up to 165 becquerels per kilo in 2010 to 220 becquerels per kilogram in cyprinids.

In the Kiev reservoir, the radioactivity found in plants, molluscs and fish remains above the level before the disaster. The muddy bottom of some lakes are still considered as radioactive waste. However, due to the cessation of operation of the Chernobyl plant, the reservoir has lost its original purpose.

All industrial activities have ceased on the site, the reservoir is under threat of drying, and it runs the risk of severe contamination by air. How long this area will be drained she invaded by grasses and forests? The fauna and flora that will settle on this highly contaminated ecosystem will be affected by radioactivity levels well above normal.

Even today, it is difficult to imagine how the tragedy of Chernobyl continues to affect daily not only on the ecosystem of the poles but also the entire watershed of the Dnieper basin vital for modern Ukraine, for its agricultural and industrial activities, but especially for the health of its population.

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