The mutations by the Chernobyl accident in animals and humans have been investigated since the incident occurred in 1986. This nuclear accident is considered the most serious in history, along with the happened in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011. It is, undoubtedly one of the greatest environmental disasters in history.
The accident happened at the Vladimir Illich Lenin nuclear power plant. In a simulation of a power outage, the core of nuclear reactor number 4 overheated. This overheating ended up causing an explosion of the hydrogen that accumulated inside.
The reactor was being experimented with to see if enough electricity could be generated from its turbines, so that in the event of failure, the cooling pumps would run until the secondary generators started.
The amount of toxins released into the atmosphere was about 500 times greater than that released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. This caused international alarm, as radiation levels were detected in more than 13 countries in Central and Eastern Europe .
Chernobyl accident decontamination process
Following the accident at Chernobyl reactor number 4, the massive process for decontamination, containment and mitigation of the area and its surroundings began.
About 600,000 people participated in the decontamination process. A radius of 30 km around the nuclear power plant was created to isolate it, and it is still in force today. This zone is known as the zone of alienation.
The alienation zone was made to create a radius for the evacuation of the population and establish a perimeter so that people did not enter the contaminated zone.
This territory is heavily contaminated not only by the radioactive dust that arose at the time of the accident, but also by the burial of contaminated materials by those in charge of cleaning the area. Many of these burials still remain to be located.
The Chernobyl plant suffered its final closure in December 2000. To close the plant and protect the waste that is still inside it, a sarcophagus was created. This is a steel structure that protects the enclosure and contains radioactive contamination.
In 2016, when the catastrophe was 30 years old, a new sarcophagus was created, which was called the New Safe Sarcophagus. It is one of the largest structures built so far.
It is built with cranes that are remotely controlled, to dismantle the old structure over time. It is estimated that this structure will have a useful life of more than one hundred years.
Mutations in humans
Initially, more than 200 people were hospitalized at the time of the accident, of which more than 30 died due to overexposure to radioactive materials.
The first deaths that were registered by the Chernobyl accident were mostly personnel from the plant itself and firefighters who tried to stop the disaster. More than 130,000 people were evacuated from the area.
With the contamination released by the accident, it is estimated that, in the next 70 years, the cancer rate will increase by 2%, for the population that was exposed to smoke with radioactive components from the explosion and its combustion.
Children who were in the zone of alienation were exposed to high doses of radiation from the ingestion of locally produced milk. And several studies have shown that childhood thyroid cancer cases have increased in the countries surrounding the disaster zone.
After the accident, the cases of children born with Down syndrome also increased and many fetuses suffered from neural tube defects. The incidence of neural tube defects increased the cases of children born with spina bifida, encephalocele and, in extreme cases, anencephaly.
In 1988 the first scientific evidence was published linking malformations with radioactive fallout. Chromosomal aberrations began to be detected, that is, mutations and alterations in the number of genes or in their order within the chromosomes.
Through subsequent reports, it was concluded that the chromosomal aberrations found in neighboring countries were due to the degree of exposure of the toxic cloud and that the incidence of aberrations is based on a simple dose-response relationship .
Mutations in animals
The accident not only caused problems for humans, but all the animals and plants in the area were affected. When people began to be evacuated, the government also evacuated livestock from the affected area.
This evacuation of domestic animals, over the years has produced an increase in wild animals. The Zone of Alienation is now a natural paradise for radioactive animals that has doubled its population of wild horses, wolves and deer, among others. The animals are contaminated by radiation, and despite the fact that the diversity is lower, the number of specimens has progressively increased.
Not all are extravagant mutations of existing breeds, but they are small nuances that indicate the degree of contamination of these animals. Herbivores, which feed on plants and fungi found in the soil, are the most affected since their levels of contamination are higher.
They develop tumors and small mutations, and in the case of some species they develop abnormal behaviors. In the case of spiders, for example, they weave erratic webs and have more and different spots than others of the same genus in another location.
Despite the fact that habitation for humans is prohibited in the area, many endangered species have been included in the area to develop since there is no human impact. And despite the radiation in the area, the fauna seems to be growing and remains stable in Chernobyl.
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