The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

How to Spin a radioactive bird during Chernobyl rememberance day using Google and



Op Ed Arclight

Dated 28 April 2014

Posted to

Concerning the article authored by Science Daily;
Chernobyl’s birds adapting to ionizing radiation

The article begins with Summary:

“Birds in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl are adapting to — and may
even be benefiting from — long-term exposure to radiation, ecologists
have found. The study is the first evidence that wild animals adapt to
ionizing radiation, and the first to show that birds which produce most
pheomelanin, a pigment in feathers, have greatest problems coping with
radiation exposure.”

This is a fair comment from Dr Galvan also.

One could claim that the readers attention span will pick up on the
this paragraph but if they read further key words such as “We found the
opposite” in paragraph 2. Once again a fair quote to the facts.

Then “limited to humans, two bird species and one species of fish” and “Laboratory experiments have shown that humans and other animals can adapt to radiation” at the 4th paragraph.

on the 5th paragraph a quick admission of harm to humans.. but this phrase
is inserted ” this limited data”

On the 8th paragraph a very interesting comment on a new Novel way to analyse data and one that should be used in humans instead of the statistical averages used by UNSCEAR and the ICRP..

“The method focuses the analysis on individual birds instead of species averages, making it a much more sensitive way to analyze biochemical responses to radiation.

The author of the Science Daily article (not named) seemed to put the copy together in such a way as for it to give the positive aspects of the report in regard to the effects of ionising radiation whilst the more negative aspects are not clearly defined for the reader. Adding the studies briefly quoted in the main report by Galvan et al.

Also as social media catches the top of articles and many people scan quickly to get the general idea as opposed to reading the whole article thoroughly, one might get the impression that studies showing deleterious effects on humans are old whilst the new studies actually show benefit.

The negative effects on humans are mentioned briefly and there is no mention of effects that Chernobyl Children International have found on the ground and still ongoing. I also find that the article being brought out on the eve of the disaster was in bad taste but also quite clever as the google search engines that are highly filtered in countries like Ireland would pick this up instead of this;

or indeed this;

Of course these brief references (from the full report by Galvan et al.)to the new found positive effects on humans, are correct and have even been supported by Dr Chris Busby but they are taken out of context in my opinion. I contacted Tim Mousseau and he very kindly wrote back to me a clarification of the study. I tried to find Dr Ismael Galvans email and Dr Anders Moller very kindly sent it to me but not before I got Dr Timothy Mousseau`s comprehensive and clearly put reply first;

(WARNING : Creationist need to close their eyes now! )

Dear Sean

Hopefully there will be some more comprehensive coverage of this latest
paper that includes some discussion of the broader picture that includes
the context for how such “positive” responses have evolved and how they
are not unexpected given the intensity of “unnatural” selection (i.e.
Negative effects) imposed by the radioactive contaminants in the area.

Let me start by saying the Dr. Galvan is a very bright and hard working
young biologist whose scientific credentials are impeccable, in fact
beyond excellent. Through his hard work he has managed to find these novel
and potentially very important responses in natural populations that have
never been seen before. His credentials are beyond reproach in every way
and we are very grateful for his very significant contributions to this
evolving study of wildlife in Chernobyl and Fukushima. My only regret is
that we don’t have the resources to find more creative, bright, hard
working young biologists like him to help us with these studies.

Below are some quotes that I am sharing related to the current study on
adaptation that puts things into an evolutionary context:

“Our previous studies in Chernobyl show a wide array of negative
consequences of exposure to radiation for most species. However, the
species that are remaining appear to have either evolved or are
pre-adapted to the contaminants through increased allocation of
antioxidants as a defence against the radiation. Some of these birds even
show reduced levels of genetic damage in areas of intermediate
contamination perhaps reflecting an effect of acclimation to the
radiation. It remains to be shown experimentally whether all birds show
such a response, or just the ones that are surviving under these hazardous

“These observations do not suggest that these birds are not negatively
impacted overall – our previous studies show significant increases in
cataracts, tumors, reduced fertility, and smaller brain sizes, even in
these birds that show some level of adaptation. However, the “unnatural
selection” imposed by radiation appears to favor individuals with the
ability to allocate antioxidants towards protection from ionizing
radiation, and this is not surprising given the strength of the negative
effects in the hottest parts of the Chernobyl Zone.

“Comparisons between Fukushima and Chernobyl suggest that 20+ years of
selection has led to smaller negative impacts on population growth rates
in Chernobyl than for the same birds in Fukushima four months after the
disaster further supporting the hypothesis that natural selection has
favored individuals that have allocated antioxidants towards the defence
of cellular damage caused by ionizing radiation.

“This latest paper may be a little confusing to some as it appears to
contradict some of our previous findings. However, these two messages are
not contradictory and positive and negative responses are not mutually
exclusive when it comes to evolution by natural selection in the face of
environmental stress. These latest observations simply suggest that
evolution is proceeding as expected, all the more so given the intensity
of selection we have previously documented. Negative fitness consequences
of the radiation provide the evolutionary “pressure” for organisms to
evolve adaptations in the face of this stress.”

In short, “positive” (as in adaptive) responses are an expected outcome of
the negative pressures exerted by the elevated radiation levels in these
regions. Given all that we know about evolution, it would be surprising if
we didn’t see adaptations arising in this way.
I hope this is helpful?
Best wishes,


Dr. Timothy Mousseau
Professor of Biological Sciences
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29209


April 28, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. > Dear Sean


    > The problem with adaptation to changing conditions (eg. changes in

    > level of ionising radiation) is that it will take several generations.

    > So it does not help much with dealing with sudden changes (eg. that

    > caused by

    > Fukushima)


    > Another problem with trying to extrapolate from birds to humans, is

    > that birds can go through several generations in a few years whereas

    > humans only go through one generation on average about every 25 years.

    > So any helpful adaptation in humans by natural selection will take

    > perhaps hundreds of years to spread through the species in the

    > affected area, whereas it may only take tens of years for birds. Also

    > humans move around a lot so that fresh unadapted people will move into

    > the affected area and slow down the process of adaptation by natural

    > selection. Meanwhile all those without the genetic make up to

    > withstand the new adverse conditions will be disadvantaged and tend to

    > be selectively disadvantaged (eg. die young, be ill and unattractive, be
    infertile) in the fight to survive and have offspring.


    > So it might be argued the fact of adaptation to radiation levels in

    > humans, if it is a fact, is very cold comfort indeed. That our

    > distant descendants may be able to cope with levels of radiation that

    > we find intolerable does not do us or a large proportion of our less

    > distant ancestors any good whatever!


    > David Polden (UK CND).

    Hi David

    can i post this on the comments ? and yes you are right and make an
    excellent point here. I think that the point Tim is trying to make when he
    talks of the negative effects are as you describe clearly.. his other
    major point is the sample and studies are very limited.. the interesting
    point that is mentioned and i highlight is the “novel way ” they do the
    study by actually gathering data by measuring the individuals birds as
    opposed to statistics analysis with the use of various averages that can
    easily be manipulated .. this novel approach should be used in humans too,
    instead of computerised stats loved by richard wakeford and his nuke puke
    ICRP and UNSCEAR buddies.. actually i think i will post my reply to you
    as well to highlight this.. :: nothing wasted around apart from the
    local druggies !!

    regards sean

    Comment by arclight2011part2 | April 28, 2014 | Reply

  2. […] effects of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Timothy Mousseau clarifies this complicated issue. Much publicity has appeared about how birds have adapted to ionising radiation. Mousseau explains […]

    Pingback by The past week in nuclear news | Nuclear Australia | May 2, 2014 | Reply

  3. 10.5. Conclusion

    In 1986 in the contaminated territories, an
    enormous amount of many different radionuclides
    was absorbed by animals through food,
    water, and air. Levels of incorporated radionuclides
    were sometimes hundreds of times higher
    than precatastrophe ones. Now, 23 years after
    the catastrophe, the levels of incorporated radionuclides
    in some areas of Europe remain
    dangerous for mammals, birds, amphibians,
    and fish. This first radioactive shock together with
    chronic low-dose contamination has resulted
    in morphologic, physiologic, and genetic
    disorders in all of the animals studied—
    mammals, birds, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.
    “Chernobyl” populations exhibit a wide
    variety of morphological deformities that are
    not found in normal populations of domestic
    animals, even beetles, living in the contaminated

    Some bird species may persist in the 30-km
    Chernobyl zone only via immigration from
    uncontaminated areas. Despite reports of a
    “healthy” Chernobyl environment for rare
    species of birds and mammals, their existence
    there is likely the result of immigration and not
    from locally sustained populations.

    Mutation rates in animal populations in contaminated
    territories are significantly higher.
    There is transgenerational accumulation of genomic
    instability in animal populations, manifested
    as adverse cellular and systemic effects.
    These long-term effects may be even more
    detrimental because the genomes of animals
    in subsequent generations are more sensitive
    to the impact of very low doses of radiation
    (Goncharova, 2005).

    Since the catastrophe, long-term observations
    of both wild and experimental animal
    populations in the heavily contaminated areas
    show serious increases in morbidity and mortality
    that bear striking resemblance to changes in
    the public health of humans—increasing tumor
    rates, immunodeficiencies, decreasing life expectancy,
    early aging, changes in blood formation,
    malformations, and other compromises to

    pg 273, “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment”
    by Alexey Yablokov, Vasily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko
    NY Academy of Sciences, Volume 1181, 2009.
    5,000 Slavic language studies reviews, over 1,400 cited.
    hard copy now available at Greko Printing P:734.453.0341;

    Comment by damchodronma | December 1, 2014 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: