A Nuclear Overreaction?

Wednesday, NPR interviewed Dr. Robert J. Baker, biology professor at Texas Tech University. In 1994, Dr. Baker began a research study on the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster on the wildlife surrounding the nuclear plant. His team studied the genetic effects of radiation exposure on small mammals specifically.

They discovered that the 30-km zone, since being evacuated by all humans after the disaster, has become a wildlife preserve. Baker reported that mammalian populations were vibrant and species diversity did not appear to be reduced, in even the most radioactive environments. Baker also reported that during his visits large mammals appeared to be thriving such as wolves, moose, dear, wild boor and otters. He also said that diversity of flowers and other plants in the highly radioactive regions were impressive and equal to that observed in protected habitats outside the zone. Even the endangered black stork were more abundant in the 30-km zone than outside the area.

In studies of genetic effects on voles, small rodents from the area, he detected no birth defects or physical deformities from mutations.

In the NPR interview, Baker said the World Health Organization reports that 150,000 women who were pregnant at the time of the Chernobyl meltdown had elective abortions. However, the data for the children born to the women who did not have elective abortions who were pregnant during the same time period and in the same space did not show an elevated birth-defect rate.

Question: Do you feel the environment is more at risk from offshore drilling and burning fossil fuels, or running nuclear power plants?

Click to listen to the NPR Story

Blinky the Three Eyed Nuclear Fish from the Simpsons

Blinky the Three Eyed Nuclear Fish from the Simpsons

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5 thoughts on “A Nuclear Overreaction?

  1. David Blackburn

    Our experience with nuclear technology is definately still in it’s early stages. After the Japan disaster, I think we really need to look at all of our nuclear facilities and do what ever it takes to prevent anything close to this happening in America. If it takes shutting down power plants for a few years, than that’s what it takes. Safety should over ride all other criteria when it comes to technology.

  2. TJM

    As I listened to that report, I thought what a shame that NPR was about to be cut by the government. Insightfull usefull info beyond a one minute sound byte on network tv.
    It’s interesting to know that creatures beyond cockroaches can survive within an irriadiated environment. It wonder what the longterm affect would be on top-end predators. But I suppose with the current budget cutting mood of congress perhaps funding studies of that type are threatened also.

  3. Noah Graff Post author


    I agree with you that the government is a bunch of haters, who now look like idiots to many people, both democrat and republican.

    Truth is that the bulk of public radio wouldn’t be affected probably. Although the smaller local stations might be a little bit affected. The government only supplies 6% of the budget as it is. And many people at NPR actually say they would rather not be funded by the government anyway, so they don’t even have to worry about not ruffling feathers in Washington.

    That said, there are corporate sponsors like ADM, a very “pure” company who help fund NPR. I’m not sure if they still do, but it’s basically like normal advertisers just less annoying.

    Also, a pity to say it, but the Republican haters are correct somewhat, unfortunately, in their criticism of NPR as being run by Liberal Elitists. As you probably know, Schiller the head of NPR and I believe a different Schiller as well resigned after the sting operation, which made them look like some shady elitists. Check out the video below.

    But every media outlet is biased. And stories like this one are very thought provoking. Makes me more pro nuclear to be honest. Rather than relying on oil, which costs lots of money and blood, or can cause oil spills, and then hurts the atmosphere when it burns; or coal another fossil fuel that kills lots of miners, why not nuclear?

  4. Bruce Renwick

    I have always felt America should be far more invested in nuclear power…until now! After watching Japan, a very modern and technical society, spraying and dumping sea water on this facility in what seems to be a desperate and feeble attempt to keep the spent fuel rods cool it brings chills down my spine. Now the American government is telling there citiczens in Japan to stay back 50 miles from the damaged plant. This can only make one wonder “what it”. I pray for the Japanese, and I hope the rest of the world will look closely at there nuclear plants and come up with ways to be sure they are safe.

  5. Dan Vespa

    Here in Canada, those in the government who aren’t pro nuclear power, have jumped all over this saying we should pull back on nuclear power development after what happened Japan. Granted it was a terrible disaster but you have to keep in mind Japan is relatively small in land mass compared to Canada and is on a large fault line. You really need to keep this in perspective! BTW, love Blinky the fish!!


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