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Radioactive snakes monitoring the impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

By Team YourCoimbatore on 6th November 2021
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Japanese researchers use snakes to monitor radiation levels around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Following the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan, all reactors at the Tai-Ichi nuclear power plant were shut down. Failure of the cooling systems in the No. 1 furnace resulted in an increase in temperature and an explosion. Inside the reactor, elements such as cesium 137 and iodine 131, the raw materials needed for nuclear fission, were found.

In addition, about 150,000 people living in the vicinity of 20 km from the Tai Ichi nuclear power plant were evacuated, considering the risk of radiation exposure due to the discharge of nuclear wastewater. At the time, the radiation levels were three times higher than the legal levels set by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. Therefore, scientists who have conducted research in this regard have fitted surveillance devices and dosimeters to snakes to understand the long-term radiation exposure in a nuclear reactor.

The study was published in the journal Ichthyology and Herpetology. Previous research on mammals is now being carried out on snakes. “Snakes are important in ecosystems because they are both predator and prey,” said Hannah Kerke, one of the researchers. His team was able to monitor radiation levels ranging from 134 to 137 radiocesium. It is noteworthy that this depends on the movement and location of the rats and snakes captured for this experiment. However, Kerke said snakes within the plant’s exclusion zone showed 22 times more radioactive levels than those outside.

Logeshwaran J

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