Reindeer in Norway. Foto: Heiko Junge/ scanpix
Much higher levels of radioactivity than normal have been found among Norway's grazing animals, especially its reindeer population, a study revealed on Monday.
Almost 30 years after the nuclear plant explosion in Chernobyl, this autumn, more radioactivity has been measured in Norwegian grazing animals than has been noted in many years.
Lavrans Skuterud, a scientist at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Statens strålevern), said: “This year is extreme.”
In September, 8200 becquerel per kilo of the radioactive substance Caesium-137 was measured in reindeer from Våga reinlag AS, in Jotunheimen, central Norway.
In comparison, the highest amount at the same place was 1500 becquerel among the reindeer in September 2012.
The research also measured radioactivity in Norwegian sheep this year.
Both in Valdres in southwest Norway and Gudbrandsdalen in southeast Norway, 4500 becquerel per kilo meat from sheep was measured at most.
600 becquerel per kilo is the safe limit allowed for sheep meat to be sold for human consumption.
The Radiation Protection scientist is quite certain about the cause.
Lavrans Skuterud said: “This year, there has been extreme amounts of mushroom. In addition, the mushroom season has lasted for a long time. And the mushroom has grown very high up on the mountains.”
Especially the gypsy mushroom (Cortinarius Caperatus) has been a problem. This is a good food mushroom, both for people and animals. But it has one bad trait: It can absorb a lot of radioactivity.
Skuterud is still surprised by the high levels this year.
He reminds that: “The Chernobyl accident happened in 1986. It is nearly 30 years ago.”
The nuclear reactor of Chernobyl was made to be cheap and effective in its operation, but was regrettably also basically unstable, and one day in spring of 1986, everything went wrong.
Caesium-137 has a physical half-life of 30 years. This means that in two years, half of the radioactive dust that came in over Norway after the dramatic spring night in 1986, will be gone.
Skuterud explained: “The level of [radioactivity] in the environment still decreases faster than this. Some of it is washed out and most of it is bound to the soil. Only a small part of it is in circulation throughout the food chain. When we watch the values in the grazing animals in autumn, it bounces up and down, and it seems to be everlasting. But the winter values in reindeer luckily show a stable decrease.”