The Answer Ain’t Nuclear

Photo of the Chernobyl dead zone by Elena Filatova, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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A lot of people, and many countries, think we can solve our emissions problems by adopting more nuclear power. Fast and easy, right?

More like slow and deadly. With a capital C.

“C” for Chernobyl: site of the worst nuclear accident in history nearly a quarter of a century ago. That wretched city inadvertently became the perfect Frankenstein laboratory for studying the long-term behavior of radiation in the wild.

Guess what? Wild radiation doesn’t act like a domesticated beast whatsoever.

Despite the passage of 23 years, normalcy is not returning to Chernobyl nearly as fast as predicted, according to Wired Science, reporting from the AGU meeting in San Francisco.

Specifically, the cesium 137 in Chernobyl’s soils isn’t decaying as fast as its 30-year half-life. Or as fast as we once thought it might based on theoretically accelerated dispersal rates in the wild. The ecological half-life of strontium is proving shorter than its physical half-life, with natural dispersion diluting the radioactive material faster. But not so for cesium.

Nastiest of all, no one knows why.

And so the idea that Ukraine could repopulate the Chernobyl dead zone in “only” 180 to 320 years is proving pure fantasy. And since the physical properties of cesium haven’t changed, researchers suspect an environmental explanation. Is new cesium blowing across the soil from hotter locations closer to the accident? Is it migrating through the soil from deep in the ground? Or, WTF, you can almost hear the researchers saying.

Nuclear power a solution? Nuclear power needs a solution.
 

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Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

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