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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Brown bear seen at otherwise deserted Chernobyl !!

We have read about ghost towns in novels – at least one exists in reality for 28 years now after that fateful day of 26th April 1986.  An explosion in the core dispersed large quantities of radioactive fuel and core materials into the atmosphere  and ignited the combustible graphite moderator. The burning graphite moderator increased the emission of radioactive particles, carried by the smoke, as the reactor had not been encased by any kind of hard containment vessel. The accident occurred during an experiment scheduled to test a potential safety emergency core cooling feature, which took place during a normal shutdown procedure.   That disaster  endangered hundreds of thousands of lives and contaminated pristine forests and farmland with deadly radiation – putting fear on humanity in many other projects.  The blast on April 26, 1986, spewed a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in the most heavily hit areas in Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia. A 19-mile area around the plant has been uninhabited except for occasional plant workers, and several hundred local people who returned to their homes despite official warnings.

Maria Yuryevna Sharapova – simply Sharapova from Russia is known for her beauty and for her playing skills.  Presently she is ranked World no. 3 and was in news this Wimbledon losing to little known Michelle Larcher de Brito  She is perhaps the highest earning women sportsperson and is playing in International Premier Tennis League now. 

The Apr 1986 disaster is – ‘Chernobyl disaster’  a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (then officially the Ukrainian SSR), which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities of the Soviet Union.  The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of cost and casualties, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011).  The disaster began during a systems test on Saturday, 26 April 1986 at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant, which is near the city of Pripyat and in proximity to the administrative border with Belarus and the Dnieper River. There was a sudden and unexpected power surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, an exponentially larger spike in power output occurred, which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of steam explosions. Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus have been burdened with the continuing and substantial decontamination and health care costs of the Chernobyl accident.
Time has effectively stood still in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat, which was evacuated in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear explosion. It is stated that at the time of the disaster during the Soviet era, about 49,000 people lived in Pripyat, located less than two miles from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. They left behind schools, homes, factories, parks and gyms that have remained largely undisturbed for the past 30 years.
abandoned and deserted Chernobyl

While one would only have read largely negative reports on the disaster, here is a different one, read in Mail Online of 1st Dec 2014……. It is about a Brown bear pictured in Chernobyl for first time in a century and it says – ‘ Nuclear disaster creates wildlife haven thanks to total absence of human life for 30 years’

A brown bear has been spotted in the disaster zone around the Chernobyl, the first time one has been seen in the area for 100 years. The bear was photographed by an automatic camera trap in the exclusion zone around the Ukrainian nuclear power plant, the scene of one of the world's worst nuclear accidents. Scientists are studying the area, evacuated since the reactor meltdown in 1986, to better understand the risks radioactivity poses to humans and wildlife. It is far from the first large mammal discovered to be stalking the 30km-radius Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Dr Gaschak's camera's have already spotted lynxes, grey wolves, wild boar, elk, horses and otters, among other animals, living in the deserted area.

Project leader Mike Wood from the University of Salford told BBC News: 'We are basically working on the assumption that as you move people out of the equation and human pressure and disturbance is removed, then any animals that have a corridor into the exclusion zone find they are suddenly away from the pressures and dangers presented by people.' More than 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes around the damaged Chernobyl power station after the April 1986 reactor explosion - the worst nuclear accident until the meltdown at Fukushima Daichi in 2011. The TREE research programme aims to 'reduce uncertainty in estimating the risk to humans and wildlife associated with exposure to radioactivity and to reduce unnecessary conservatism in risk calculations.' It combines controlled laboratory experiments with fieldwork, most of which is planned for the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The researchers will be focusing on three different areas of different levels of contamination to get a comprehensive overview of what species are found in the exclusion zone. At any one time 15 cameras will be operating in each area to catch a glimpse of the kinds of wildlife there. This first stage of the project will continue until late 2015. 'Once we have completed this particular stage of the study, looking at what animals are there and in what density, we are then going to be selecting one particular species to target for a trapping and collaring campaign,' Dr Wood told the BBC. 'We will be fitting collars with GPS to these animals, and also dose-measurement technology so that we are then able to track movement over the course of a year through the exclusion zone and get a real measurement of the exact radiation exposure that these animals get.'

If you are wondering why Maria Sharapova got a mention in this post -  since Feb 2007, she has been a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, concerned specifically with the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
2nd Dec 2014.

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