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Power Biotech Science

Wildlife Returning To Chernobyl 337

Posted by kdawson
from the far-from-a-dead-zone dept.
The wilderness is encroaching over abandoned towns in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. One of the elderly residents who refused to evacuate the contaminated area says packs of wolves have eaten two of her dogs, and wild boar trample through her cornfield. Scientist are divided as to whether or not the animals are flourishing in the highly radioactive environment: "Robert J. Baker of Texas Tech University says the mice and other rodents he has studied at Chernobyl since the early 1990s have shown remarkable tolerance for elevated radiation levels. But Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina, a biologist who studies barn swallows at Chernobyl, says that while wild animals have settled in the area, they have struggled to build new populations."
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Wildlife Returning To Chernobyl

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  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:00AM (#19437429)
    wild animals have settled in the area, they have struggled to build new populations

    It's hard to attract females when you have 2 beaks, 3 hooves and only 1 eye.

  • Ob (Score:3, Funny)

    by A.Chwunbee (838021) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:01AM (#19437437)
    I for on am welcomming our're new three-headed frog overloads!
  • by packetmon (977047) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:03AM (#19437483) Homepage
    Packs of wolves have eaten two of her dogs, the 73-year-old says, and wild boar trample through her cornfield. And she says fox, rabbits and snakes infest the meadows near her tumbledown cottage. ... Then we have... Others say animals may be filtering into the zone, but they appear to suffer malformations and other ills.. Inference: She saw what she thought was a pack of wolves when in fact it was a three headed wolf.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Percy: "Only this morning in the courtyard I saw a horse with two heads, and two bodies"
      Blackadder: "Could it have been...two horses perhaps?"
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by TheBeowulf (916247)
      Oh, you mean Fluffy?

      --
      Beats me how you ever even know about Fluffy! - Hagrid
  • by ravenshrike (808508) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:04AM (#19437499)
    I could've sworn there was an article on this in some magazine several years ago.
  • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by spungo (729241) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:04AM (#19437507)
    Finally a town I can look normal in!
  • Returning only now? (Score:5, Informative)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:04AM (#19437509)
    No: it was full of wildlife for years now.

    And yes, the DNA of most animals in the area is pretty effed up, but surprisingly most of them appear healthy and reproduce normally. Only goes to show how much redundancy and resilience is built into the DNA / replicating mechanisms we use.

    Truth is, even with a sufficient number of a-bombs accross the world, we'll have a very hard time wijping all of humanity and wild life. Life's a tough mother f*cker, hard to destroy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ngarrang (1023425)

      No: it was full of wildlife for years now.

      And yes, the DNA of most animals in the area is pretty effed up, but surprisingly most of them appear healthy and reproduce normally. Only goes to show how much redundancy and resilience is built into the DNA / replicating mechanisms we use.

      Truth is, even with a sufficient number of a-bombs accross the world, we'll have a very hard time wijping all of humanity and wild life. Life's a tough mother f*cker, hard to destroy.

      I believe the word "adaptation" would describe this well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Trigun (685027)
      Truth is, even with a sufficient number of a-bombs accross the world, we'll have a very hard time wijping all of humanity and wild life. Life's a tough mother f*cker, hard to destroy.

      I'll take that bet, sir.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        ahh. You must be part of the white house.
    • by Aladrin (926209) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:23AM (#19437943)
      Noooo, God reached down his noodly appendage and made them healthy!

      You thought I was going to say something else, didn't you? ;)
    • by guruevi (827432)
      Life's a tough mother f*cker, hard to destroy.

      Kinda like weeds?

      And yes, this has been known since the early '90's, wildlife actually never totally disappeared and yes, one generation was screwed up with cancers and freaks but the next generations seem to have overcome that.
    • Reproduction normal? (Score:5, Informative)

      by mdsolar (1045926) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:43AM (#19438329) Homepage Journal
      The article reports that one third of nestlings are malformed. What we have is a fairly natural cut: If the offspring is viable, it will end up being observed as behaving normally, it if is not then it won't be observed since it will be dead from, say, having the wrong shaped beak for its niche. It will be absent from counting surveys, making them biased. Most mutations are harmful so they do not survive. But, so long as less corrupted genetic material can migrate in, you'll get a superfical appearance of normalcy.

      The reason for preserving wilderness is to preserve biodiversity which is essential to maintaining a strong ecosystem. This accidental wilderness has many counts against it in that context.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by X0563511 (793323) *
        However at the same time there is a small potential for beneficial mutation to result, and as the successful pool is smaller the chances of such a mutation to propagate are a bit higher.
        • by Artifakt (700173) on Friday June 08, 2007 @01:30PM (#19440339)
          A higher mutation rate doesn't lead to an increased chance of a significant improvement in a species propagating. In sexual species in particular, a higher mutation rate will actually decrease the general evolution rates, either for a species to show a successful adaptation or for it to split off a new species. All the vast complexity of life we see around us results from the mechanisms of heredity developing newer and better ways of reducing copying errors. Even Nucleated cells themselves are an error reduction mechanism - put the genes in the middle behind extra barriers, so fewer chemicals can penetrate to affect the DNA. Sexual reproduction itself is another error reduction mechanism - combine copies from multiple sources and supress (many of) the defective ones. DNA itself won out over RNA as an encoding system because it had a much better copying error rate - and now only a few very primitive organisms remain that use RNA for encoding instead of just as a messenger molecule.
                  This is part of the standard theory as taught in real genetics courses to potential professional Biologists. Just about everyone else who thinks they support evolution has been miss-taught in high school biology or 'evolutionary biology for non scientists' type classes. Nothing personal, but it sounds like you got one of those sloppy pop courses.
      • by suv4x4 (956391) on Friday June 08, 2007 @12:53PM (#19439687)
        But, so long as less corrupted genetic material can migrate in, you'll get a superfical appearance of normalcy.

        You know, if the animals live to leave offspring, it's not superficial appearance of normalcy, it's normalcy, never mind all the curruption going under.

        The purpose of an animal, is, after all, precisely this.

        As about 1/3 of offspring being malformed, this is far from bad for the wildlife. If 1/2 was, they'd do fine, hell, if 3/4 were, they'd do fine. Even if none of them had mutation, most of the animal offspring would die in infancy for plenty of other reasons (like natural predators).
        • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:33PM (#19441623)

          As about 1/3 of offspring being malformed, this is far from bad for the wildlife.
          This is observed malformation; there's no mention of internal examinations or spontaneous abortions or eggs that don't hatch. I live on the edge of a forest and I see about 100 birds a day; none of these is visibly malformed.

          The article says radiation levels are 10 to 100 times normal background. This range is probably beneficial for humans and most other animals. Living there probably isn't bad from the standpoint of background radiation; but I wouldn't want to eat food grown there or live in a house without a dust filter.

          Things are getting better there faster than predicted, and if careful study is done we'll have more data for the theory of hormesis with respect to radiation.

  • Same as in Bikini (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mangu (126918) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:04AM (#19437517)
    The Bikini atoll was also evacuated of people and set off-limits to fishing after the nuclear weapons tests the US did there in the 1950s. Today Bikini has the most abundant wildlife in the Pacific.
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:09AM (#19437633) Homepage Journal
      In Florida Avon Park Bombing Range is also full of wildlife as is the Savannah River site in South Carolina.
      Bombing and radiation is better for wildlife than sub divisions.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jae471 (1102461)
        As is the Korean DMZ from what I've read.
      • by Dystopian Rebel (714995) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:17AM (#19437795) Journal

        Bombing and radiation is better for wildlife than sub divisions.
        At last a solution for California that we can all accept.
      • Amazing how well nature does when you remove humanity from the equation, isn't it?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Maxo-Texas (864189)
          Most of the problems of the world can be traced to the fact that we have 6 billion humans instead of 1 billion humans. If there were only a billion of us, the world would be an abundant paradise.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by zippthorne (748122)
            What are you.. a Bond villain? If you're going to start making statements like that, then you'll note that when the world actually had only a billion people, people were saying it should have less than 100 million.
          • by rleibman (622895) on Friday June 08, 2007 @12:41PM (#19439463) Homepage
            Most of the problems of the world can be traced to the fact that we have 6 billion humans instead of 1 billion humans. If there were only a billion of us, the world would be an abundant paradise.

            Are you volunteering to get off?
            • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday June 08, 2007 @12:59PM (#19439791)
              In a sense... yes.

              I bred at less than my replacement level. If everyone in the word were to follow that tendency, we would be able to half the population by roughly 2050 and half it again in the 20 years after that so by 2100 the population would be roughly 1.5 billion. The chinese made some of these extremely hard choices with regard to overbreeding and overpopulation and have benefited from doing so.

              The problem is that ignorant poor people and some religious people are going to breed us to the point where things are unpleasant all the time at the best or downright ugly and murderous at the worst.

              Overbreeding would be no problem if the overbreeders and their descendants were limited to a fixed plot of land. That way the descendants of people with sustainable breeding habits could live in a paradise while the overbreeders lived in hell on earth, died of starvation, and killed each other over precious water and living space.

              But no-- their descendants would feel they had a right to spread equally into everyone else's land. Thus spreading the consequences of their poor breeding choices.

              You can buy all the CFC's you want, conserve til you bleed, eat only grains (because meat is so inefficient) and eventually that will all be pointless unless a lot of humans die fast from something. Too many humans is the fundamental problem-- not global warming, not limited oil, not limited food, not limited water.

              If we do not address this fundamental problem- then everything else we do is similar to ignoring the huge hungry rampaging elephant in the room while we keep replacing the carpet and drapes.
              • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:10PM (#19441119) Homepage Journal
                Except that the US isn't suffering from over population. That is what drives me nuts. There are places in Australia where rabbits are destroying the habitat because of massive over population. Killing off a few in Texas just isn't going to help. Killing hundreds or thousands in Texas isn't going to help. The Population of the US is pretty much flat and soon to be slightly declining once the Baby boomer's start to die off. In Europe and Japan you are seeing the same thing or a strong decline. That will do nothing to really help since the over population problem is other locations.
                I am all for people having only enough children that they can raise. I am all for adoption as well if you want a very large family. But this "I only had a replacement" thing is just posturing.
              • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:11PM (#19441141) Homepage

                I bred at less than my replacement level. If everyone in the word were to follow that tendency...

                But they won't, and so all you accomplished is selecting yourself out of the gene pool.

                We have a ton of resources on the planet. Supporting more humans with the resources that we have is a reasonably easy problem technologically. Yes, we have a high population compared to what a species without agriculture (and modern agriculture) could do, but we have those things. The earth could handle a bunch more population, but the trends indicate that human population growth is slowing quickly enough that it won't be a real issue.

                The appropriate tactic here isn't to have less kids, it's to have as many kids as you think you can reasonably educate. The only way we'll be able to keep quality of life up as a species is to have as high a percentage of well educated people as possible - that way there will be people around to suggest and implement rational solutions to problems.

                • by apt142 (574425) on Friday June 08, 2007 @04:01PM (#19443209) Homepage Journal
                  The fascinating thing about technologically advanced regions is that the reproductive rates are much lower than low tech areas. This is because in technologically advanced cultures children have a higher cost/benefit ratio than in lower techs. Lower techs need the children to tend the field, watch the sheep, etc. etc. Where as higher techs need to spend money to educate and groom their children into productive roles.

                  I find this particularly neat in that the easiest deterent of overpopulation is perhaps technological proliferation.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        The long established sub division I live in PA is starting to see some flirtations with top predators like bears. I hear some mountain lions may also be on the prowl.

        Our Delaware River that been an industrial wasteland is starting to see some interesting fish migrations again.

        Eliminating the poisons and raw sewage of our industrial past is clearly part of the solution, but there is more suburban sprawl here than ever and nature seems to adapt just fine.

        When subdivisions have been around as long as rain fore
      • by kalirion (728907)
        Reminds me of Asimov's Robots and Empire where it is speculated that the reason there is such a great biodiversity on Earth (compared to other live-supporting planets) is the higher than normal radiation.
    • by witte (681163)
      better for wildlife, because radiation keeps all those pesky polluting humans away ?
      • better for wildlife, because radiation keeps all those pesky polluting humans away ?

        There's pretty good evidence to suggest that wild animals are actually doing quite well BECAUSE of pesky polluting humans. Seagulls, raccoons, deer, bears, etc. (note: scavengers, herbivore & omnivore) are living off of our agriculture & food waste, and their populations are growing. Take a ride through Michigan, and you'll see dozens of dead deer and/or raccoons on the side of the road. This is getting to be a more common site. Not good for the individual animals, but pretty good evidence of incre

  • Movies (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lovedumplingx (245300) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:05AM (#19437521)
    If movies have taught me anything it's that this is the start of the downfall of man.

    In a few years we'll be herded into wooden pens by mounted apes and then experimented on.

    Oh the folly of it all!!!
  • by Danathar (267989) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:06AM (#19437543) Journal
    It's an interesting article, but it mainly talks only about mammals and occasionally vegetation. The effect of radiation on high reproduction insects would be far more interesting.
  • Photos (Score:5, Funny)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:06AM (#19437563)
    Any photos of giant insects or ninja turtles? At least maybe a cross between a spider and a man?

    Damn. Radiation in real life is BORING.
  • by Slaimus (697294) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:06AM (#19437565)
    Given the choice of sharing the environment with humans or radiation, animals would much rather have the radiation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Akaihiryuu (786040)
      It's hard for even high radiation levels to kill *everything*. Life adapts and survives. Radiation is far less damaging to wildlife than human presence is.
  • by greginnj (891863) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:08AM (#19437593) Homepage Journal
    Are these bionic AMD-64 running mutant radioactive wildlife critters, or something?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mstahl (701501)

      Nuclear power plants are hardware. Big, dangerous, fancy hardware.

  • Correct me where I'm wrong here, but I believe animal bodies have developed some pretty good ways of dealing with radiation over the eons. I know my skin does a fair job of managing UV radiation - though I will probably be darkening it when the therapy is available.

    I wonder, has the antioxidant level in the plant life been measured? How much research is there in regards to long-term, lower-dose radiation exposure not just to individual organisms, but to ecosystems. Ecosystems are like massive organisms themselves.

    I would think that selective pressures are probably biting at the bit to get working on increasing tolerance in populations inhabiting these no-man-lands.
  • If you only need a couple of years to become old enough to breed and do so, then you're more likely to live long enough to reproduce in pretty much any situation. Nature abhors a vacuum...
  • by Known Nutter (988758) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:11AM (#19437673)
    ...or looking for an intriguing read on a Friday morning, this young lady Elena describes her motorcycle ride to and through the so called Chernobyl "dead zone" [kiddofspeed.com], with pictures. Interesting read.
  • Are there any scientists/historians out there who can comment on whether the radioisotopes involved are the types that would work their way up the food chain? It seems this would make a big difference in which critters thrived and which ones couldn't make it...
  • Hardware? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:14AM (#19437733) Journal
    O.K., we have a game story about odd moments in games filed under "Politics" instead of "Games" and an environmental story filed under "Hardware" instead of "Science". Methinks maybe some /. editors have been spending a bit too much time in Chernobyl themselves, and it's had a deleterious affect on their "1337 categorization skillz".
    • Methinks maybe some /. editors have been spending a bit too much time in Chernobyl themselves, and it's had a deleterious affect on their "1337 categorization skillz".
      Nah. The categories just mutated.
    • by Richy_T (111409)
      O.K., we have a game story about odd moments in games filed under "Politics"

      I can't find this and it sounds interesting. Any chance you could provide a link?

      Thanks

      Rich
  • Hunting at Chernobyl (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mcsqueak (1043736)
    There is a fun little travel DVD called the "Vice guide to travel", put out by the folks who do Vice magazine. One of their little bits is that they go to Chernobyl and try to hunt radioactive boars with large guns. (another bit on the DVD was visiting the world's largest illegal arms market in Pakistan). It's worth renting... very fun little movie.
  • Darwin in Action (Score:4, Interesting)

    by queenb**ch (446380) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:17AM (#19437801) Homepage Journal
    They will either evolve to accomodate their new conditions or they will die. It will be interesting to see if we get new species evolving more rapidly there or if the existing populations just wither and die off. Frankly, I would suspect that most of the animals there have been driven out of habitat elsewhere. That's how Mother Nature works. The looser is always the one that migrates. I'm not complaining much because that's what drove apes out of the forest and on to the plains to become the first hominids.

    2 cents,

    QueenB.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by non (130182)
      The looser is always the one that migrates. I'm not complaining much because that's what drove apes out of the forest and on to the plains to become the first hominids.

      hmmm, are you sure you're not contradicting yourself? you're saying that are apes that migrated out of the forest, and the go on to say,

      The looser is always the one that migrates.

      which is a hypothesis that really doesn't have much validity. change, ie. evolution, almost never happens at the center of a population. at least not the kind of cha
  • by iamacat (583406) on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:18AM (#19437845)
    There are already bacteria living in active zones of nuclear reactors. Animals with fast reproductive cycle will likely adapt first, both because of faster evolution - especially in the face of accelerated mutations - and because they don't have to survive as long to produce offsprings. It's only a matter of decades before we catch 5 eared rabbits with ECC in their DNA in addition to RAID1 that we currently have.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Animats (122034)

      There are already bacteria living in active zones of nuclear reactors. ... ECC in their DNA in addition to RAID1 that we currently have.

      Those bacteria have quadruple-strand DNA. [wikipedia.org] and an extra error-correction loop.

  • by logicnazi (169418) <logicnazi@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:28AM (#19438015) Homepage
    The article seems to posit a false dichotomy between increased rates of cancer and deformity and a flourishing animal population. The usual mutation rate for most animals is pretty damn small. You could probably increase it 100 fold if not more and still maintain a large population of healthy breeding animals. Since animals, like humans, are naturally programed to prefer to breed with healthy members of their species there is no reason to think that the harmful mutations would 'take over' and cause the local animals to die out. Also just because more animals die of cancer doesn't mean they don't live long enough to successfully breed.

    I mean it should be a lot like inbreeding. Sure inbreeding increases the number of seriously fucked up members of the population significantly so you wouldn't want to do it with humans but it can also be used to help establish certain useful traits fairly quickly. The animals living in the Chernobyl area might have more deformed babies, and no doubt if they had to fairly compete with non-irradiated members of their kind they would be at a disadvantage, but the long term effect might just be to increase the rate at which they evolve.

    Of course you can't really decide this with a thought experiment but it is annoying that the article suggests increased deformity and cancer rates in individual animals is incompatible with overall health of the species/group.
    • by epine (68316)
      The scientists involved failed to note that the predator and prey populations are under equal hardship within this ecosystem. A mutation that might be absolutely lethal in to an individual sheep among a flock of healthy sheep pursued by a pack of healthy wolves is not necessarily such great survival hardship when every third sheep has a spare body part, and half the wolves have cleft palate or pit nipples.
  • by hellfire (86129) <deviladv @ g m a i l . c om> on Friday June 08, 2007 @11:38AM (#19438201) Homepage
    One of the elderly residents who refused to evacuate the contaminated area says packs of wolves have eaten two of her dogs, and wild boar trample through her cornfield. Scientist are divided as to whether or not the animals are flourishing in the highly radioactive environment

    Call me selfish or humanocentric, but I'd be very interested in a study on this person! That would be incredibly interesting. It's amazing to me that a person has subsisted in this area for all this time.
  • One book I picked up a couple of years ago was Robert Polidori's Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl, it documents though photos how nature is taking back the buildings and towns; and also includes shots from within the control room of the reactor.

    http://www.theglobalist.com/photo/Chernobyl/Polido ri.shtml [theglobalist.com]
  • Sorry. Someone had to put in an obscure pencil-and-paper RPG reference into this thread, or this wouldn't be Slashdot.

  • Mysterious coal deposits underneath compost piles, a crazy naked couple running around with the animals, and some doddering old man writing frantically into a journal.
  • Us Stalkers have known this for quite some time. Just be sure to throw some nuts and bolts around in front of you!
  • Many will die from radiation poisoning.

    Many contaminated animals will be sterile. Most of the mutated offspring will fail to survive to birth. Most of the rest will die before becoming fertile age. Most of the rest will be sterile. Most of the rest will repeat the process, leaving mutated genetic lines to expire quickly.

    But some tiny fraction might survive mutated but fit to the new environment. They will be horrible beasts unable to survive anywhere else.

    Until we contaminate the rest of the planet, which t
  • ...Tomacco! [wikipedia.org]

    Seriously, with the radiation there... it just... might... work!
  • I'm wild, I'm alive and I'm back!
  • Boars are stomping her corn cobs? Better toughen up lady, any day Monsanto will sue for infringing their holy patents on mutant crops. It's Greenpeace who really confuse me though, they're always on about biodiversity, then we get lots of new lifeforms in Chernobyls valley of the muties and they're cribbing more than ever. No pleasing some people.
  • So that's why all the videos I've seen of STALKER involve nothing more than shooting wild animals!!!
  • Interesting site. (Score:2, Informative)

    by MaWeiTao (908546)
    There's this website [kiddofspeed.com] where this woman chronicles her motorcycle rides through the area around Chernobyl. The last time I visited the site was several years ago; it appears she's returned since then. It's very fascinating, and without a doubt, eerie. If I remember correctly she mentions having spotted wildlife on a few occassions.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday June 08, 2007 @01:54PM (#19440801) Homepage
    Chernobyl isn't the radioactive wasteland that people seem to have the idea it is. Mostly this is a fantasy put over by a lot of raving anti-nuclear folks and a whole lot more uninformed but well-meaning people.

    No, the girl on the motorcycle is a hoax and her supposed ideas about how radioactive the ground is are utterly false.

    Please take a look at http://www.chernobyllegacy.com/index.php?cat=1 [chernobyllegacy.com] and other sources before being taken in by the fearmongering.

    There were a total of 46 people that died as a result of Cherynobyl. Somewhere in the low thousands have been treated for thyroid problems and some may in fact die from cancer due to exposure to the materials that were in the immediate area from the reactor fire. Nobody else is expected to die with a cause attributed to the reactor fire.

    People that have taken measuring instruments into the exclusion zone have reported a slightly elevated background radiation and that is all. It is like the difference between living in Italy vs. Norway where Norway gets more cosmic radiation as compared to Italy.

    If Chernobyl was anywhere near as bad as people here seem to think it was, Sweden would be a wasteland as well. It is where a lot of the fallout from the fire settled.
  • Why surpise? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by poszi (698272) on Friday June 08, 2007 @01:57PM (#19440855)
    It's been 21 years since the catastrophe. All the short-lived isotopes are long gone. Heck, most of the isotopes were gone after a few weeks. The radiation levels are currently quite low, up to 7 mSv/year [bbc.co.uk] in the less contaminated areas of the zone. It's only 2-3 times of the natural background in the USA. There are places, where natural radiation is much higher than that. I'm surprised anybody can be surprised the wildlife is soaring. Human (or rather human activity) is the biggest wildlife killer. Radiation in low levels is completely unimportant.

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