By Diana Zhang
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened on April 26, 1986. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant had exploded. The workers didn’t follow the technical specifications and the reactor was also flawed. That combination caused the disaster. The contamination from the disaster made an area that humans aren’t supposed to be in, which spreads from Ukraine to Belarus and is 1,004 square miles. Since then, the structures and roads were covered in plant life and abandoned with people coming only to work and study radiation on plant life and wildlife.
Three decades later, the year of 2016, there are higher concentrations of wildlife found in the Chernobyl zone. There are grey wolves, raccoon dogs, Przewalski’s horses, etc. This is from the lack of human activity in the area after everyone evacuated. The lack of human activity allows the plant life and wildlife to grow without disturbance, and the radiation levels also decreased during the three decade period because of radioactive decay.
Many say that the radiation may be good for the wildlife because there are little to no humans in this zone; long exposure to radiation can cause health effects like low red and white blood cell counts, higher frequency of tumors (area of abnormal tissue growth), physical deformities (like weird shaping beaks found among birds, missing limbs, etc). Ionizing radiation (turning substances into ions by removing a couple of electrons) that can break strands of DNA in extremely high doses, higher doses than the ones in the forest area of the Chernobyl disaster, can cause sickness or death. For example, the Red Forrest got its name from the levels of radiation, which turned Scottish pines to red and killed them.
Recently, scientists found that some birds like chaffinches may have adapted to the radiation by producing higher levels of antioxidants which protects the bird. According to Dr. Mousseau, “Chronic exposure to radiation appears to be some kind of ‘unnatural selection’ driving evolutionary change.” In other words, the birds evolved to adapt to the radiation.
They are now building a huge shelter over the nuclear factory to prevent any more radioactive dust from spreading and then cleaning up the material to make the area livable again. It would take about $1,500,000,000 to build the arch and it would be 250 feet in length and 800 feet wide. It would take 100 or more years to clean up. With even less radiation in the areas, the animals that haven’t adapted to the radiation could survive.