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Scandinavian farmers still impacted by radioactive fallout from Chernobyl nuclear disaster

Chernobyl: 33 Years On, Radioactive Fallout Still Impacts Scandinavian Farmershttps://www.forbes.com/sites/davidnikel/2019/06/08/chernobyl-33-years-on-radiation-still-impacts-scandinavian-farmers/#390eeebd949f, David Nike 8 June 19

The smash-hit HBO series ‘Chernobyl’ has introduced an entire new generation to the nuclear disaster that shook the world in 1986. Initially covered up by Soviet authorities, the disaster only came to light when nuclear power stations in Sweden – hundreds of miles away – detected high levels of radiation and began to ask questions. 33 years later, radiation remains a problem in both Sweden and Norway especially for farmers.

“Who would have thought that a small northern Norwegian mountain village could be hit by a nuclear accident in Europe. Overnight we were powerless. The Chernobyl accident shows that our food production is vulnerable. It’s scary,” sheep farmer Laila Hoff from Hattfjelldal told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK. She said all meat had to be destroyed in the first year following the accident. But even now in 2019, animals in 37 Norwegian municipalities are subject to radiation testing and control before they can be slaughtered. One leading researcher says it will take “decades” for the controls to no longer be necessary.

How Chernobyl hit farming in Norway and Sweden

The radioactive substance cesium-137 takes many years to break down with an estimated half-life of 30 years. It still exists in the earth in the areas affected by the Chernobyl accident, including large parts of Norway and Sweden. The substance is taken up from the soil by plants and fungi, which in turn are eaten by sheep, reindeer and other grazing animals.

In the wake of the 1986 accident, cesium-137 spread over much of northern and central Scandinavia. The weather conditions were such that Norway and Sweden were two of the countries worst hit outside the Soviet Union. In Sweden, the areas around Uppsala, Gävle and Västerbotten were hardest hit, while in Norway the area between Trondheim and Bodø along with mountainous areas further south suffered, mainly because of rainfall.

The radiation impacted vegetation to varying degrees, but also led to radioactivity in grazing animals, primarily sheep and reindeer. In reindeer calf meat, up to 40,000 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) were measured, with up to 10,000 Bq/kg in sheep meat. Norwegian authorities set the highest acceptable level in meat at just 60 Bq/kg, which led to the widespread feeding of animals with non-contaminated feed. This process of feeding livestock from contaminated pastures with non-radioactive feed for a period to reduce radioactivity in meat or milk is known as nedfôring.

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June 10, 2019 - Posted by | environment, Sweden

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