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Forests Around Chernobyl Aren't Decaying Properly 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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Forests Around Chernobyl Aren't Decaying Properly

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  • Solution... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mark_osmd ( 812581 ) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @03:54PM (#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... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @04:02PM (#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:Fire = Good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @04:17PM (#46494411) Journal

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

  • by cosmin_c ( 3381765 ) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @04:52PM (#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.
  • Re:Fire = Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @04:57PM (#46494631) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by tp1024 ( 2409684 ) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @05:00PM (#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:Fire = Good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macpacheco ( 1764378 ) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @05:23PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Saturday March 15, 2014 @07:37PM (#46495449) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @09:03PM (#46495821) Journal

    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:Solution... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @11:49PM (#46496467) Homepage

    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)

  • Re:Solution... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ToddInSF ( 765534 ) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @02:17PM (#46499641) Journal
    Lets say there is a fire, the radioactive, dead plants burn, some of the radiation is diluted from the area, over time wouldn't that process cause plant and microbial life to eventually replenish itself in the area ?

    Seems to me the natural process of living systems is to do exactly this, get the things that hamper living systems dilute enough to re-establish living systems...

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982