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article imageWild boars in German forests still suffering effects of Chernobyl

By Karen Graham     Sep 2, 2014 in Environment
It has been almost 30 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and its effects are still being felt as far away as Germany. Many wild boars roaming the bucolic countryside of Saxony, some 700 miles away from Chernobyl are still radioactive.
Wild boars still roam the forests of Germany, and in fact, their numbers have been increasing in recent years. Most citizens consider the boars as nothing more than pests, but hunters still prize the boar, and boar meat is a highly-prized and expensive delicacy.
Germans have been aware of wild boars testing high for levels of radioactive caesium-137 for a number of years. In 2010, it was found that a large percentage of the wild boars were still testing positive for radioactivity, and this was costing the German government a goodly sum of money.
The Environmental Ministry had to pay out $555,000 in compensation to hunters in 2009 because the meat was too contaminated to be sold for human consumption. This amount was four times higher than the compensation paid out to hunters in 2007. It was determined that the higher compensation being paid out was due to the increase in the boar population.
Further studies showed that warmer winters are to blame, allowing for greater corn crops as well as more wild plants being available in the forests. During the 2008/2009 hunting season, a record number of boar were shot, almost 650,000 compared to 287,000 a year previously.
Wild boars are particularly susceptible to radiation contamination because of their dietary habits. They love rooting in the soil for mushrooms and truffles, which are very efficient at absorbing radiation particles. It is generally thought that radiation in most plants will continue to decline, but for mushrooms and truffles, it will remain the same or even increase for a number of years to come.
Since 2012 the Saxony government has required hunters to have the wild boars they killed tested for radiation contamination. Out of 752 boars killed in this one region, 297 tested positive for high levels of caesium-137. That's more than one-out-of-three carcasses exceeding the safe limit of 600 becquerels per kg of body weight. All infected carcasses have to be destroyed.
Environment ministry spokesman Frank Meyer told NBC News, "You should not expect that wild boars in the southern Vogtland region are now glowing in the dark, but regulations in Germany and the European Union are very strict." Caesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years, and is more of a problem because of its high water-solubility.
The high water-solubility of caesium-137 allows it to easily move and spread in the environment. Caesium-137 is still the principal source of radiation around the "zone of alienation" at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine. For Germany, at the time of the explosion in 1986, about 500 grams of caesium-137 was deposited over all of Germany. Today, 28 years later, some of it is still present.
More about chernobyl nuclear disaster, Germany, Wild boars, Radioactive, caesium137
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