Echo of Chornobyl disaster: 35 later

Author : Göteborgs-Posten Swedish newspaper

Source : Göteborgs-Posten

After Chornobyl disaster, most of Sweden was affected by radioactive fallout. Since then, the Swedish authorities have regularly taken careful measurements of their impact
10:10, 29 April 2021

Chornobyl nuclear power plant

Today, there are few signs of radiation exposure, but high doses of radioactive substances are still found in wild boar meat.

Related: Ukraine declassifies Soviet documents on Chornobyl disaster

On April 26, 1986, the fourth reactor of the nuclear power plant exploded in Chornobyl, and a cloud of radioactive particles hung over Europe. In Sweden, Västerbotten, western Norrland, and parts of Jämtland, Jewleborg and Uppland were particularly affected by radioactive fallout.

"This had a huge effect, not least psychological - people were terribly alarmed. Although the radiation itself, perhaps, was not so great. Its level differed from the usual, but not so much that it would noticeably affect people's health," says Pål Andersson, investigator for the Radiation Safety Authority.

35 years later, traces of the disaster can still be found in Sweden. But the regular collection of samples by the FDA and FDA, checking animals and food, shows that there are fewer and fewer. Now the influence of Chernobyl is most noticeable in wild boars, in whose meat a large amount of the radioactive substance cesium-137 accumulates.

"But the radiation is not so great that one can assume that it will seriously affect the boars," Pål Andersson says. He assesses the effect of radiation on animals and people in different ways.

“For humans, the effects of radiation are manifested in how it affects health and increases the risk of developing cancer at the individual level, which we strive to reduce as much as possible. When it comes to animals, we first look at the population in general, and in this case, the slight increase in cancer risk does not really matter."

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Barely noticeable level

Environmental samples are taken, for example, in water bodies, as well as in dairies. Previously, traces of iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137 were noted. Today, the latter is found first of all - it has a much longer half-life. However, measurements are now being taken mainly to ensure that the situation remains under control.

“We take measurements and see that everything is exactly as expected - nothing strange was found. After Chernobyl, we did not know how the situation would develop in the future and how quickly the concentration of radioactive substances would decrease. for a long time,” Pål Andersson assures.

Soon the radiation level will be difficult to measure at all. And this raises new questions.

“We cannot invest in this work an infinite amount of resources and purchase the most modern instruments only in order to ultimately measure nothing. Now we have just come to this question: how much more will we have to hone our measurement methods to determine the exact level of radiation, and when can we be satisfied that it is so low that we cannot find anything?”

Related: Chornobyl disaster: Its tragedy, myths and future

High availability

The Radiation Safety Authority constantly monitors the situation at nuclear power plants near Sweden: in Russia, Finland and Germany. But it's hard to say how big the risk of another disaster like Chornobyl is, says Jan Johansson of the Emergency Preparedness Division of the Radiation Safety Administration.

"Our preparation is based on the understanding that misfortune can happen and that the consequences can be huge. Here is such a simple line of reasoning. And how big the risk, we do not calculate. This knowledge will not bring us any benefit," he says and specifies that for 35 years, the security situation has improved much, as have the control procedures.

There are many different automated systems that measure radiation levels and let you know if the numbers turn out to be too high.

“An important difference from the Chernobyl era is that European cooperation is now much more developed. We exchange data in a completely different way than then. We have access to almost all measurements taken in Europe. So the current situation cannot be compared with the past,” Jan Johansson notes.

Stefan Bjarnefors

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