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« Unchaperoned views | Main | Sceptics' impact on climate science »

Wildlife thriving in Chernobyl

Pic Arctic Woof under CC licence some extent, concerns over global warming have arisen as a direct result of environmentalists' scaremongering over nuclear energy. How much lower would carbon dioxide emissions have been if the world had gone nuclear in the 1960s?

That environmentalists were scaremongering is confirmed by a new paper in Current Biology, which reports long-term survey data from the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Despite numerous earlier studies reporting that radiation levels in the 1600 square miles zone are above dangerous levels, nobody seems to have passed the news on to the wildlife:

...our long-term empirical data showed no evidence of a negative influence of radiation on mammal abundance. Relative abundances of elk, roe deer, red deer and wild boar within the Chernobyl exclusion zone are similar to those in four (uncontaminated) nature reserves in the region and wolf abundance is more than 7 times higher. Additionally, our earlier helicopter survey data show rising trends in elk, roe deer and wild boar abundances from one to ten years post-accident.

Imagine then a world in which the world had not been set back half a century by a monstrous regiment of hippies.

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Reader Comments (58)

I already posted about this on unthreaded.

So low level radiation is good after all. Who'd have thought it? Certainly not the greens like Friends of the Earth and those pushing the 'Linear No Threshold Model'. £billions have been wasted on protecting people against the known benefits of low level radiation. Chernobyl animals thrive in exclusion zone without humans

animal populations in the Chernobyl exclusion zone have unexpectedly soared 30 years after the world’s worst nuclear accident ..... Overall population numbers do not seem to be reduced in areas of higher radiation.

It is not unexpected to those who understand radiation hormesis.

We're not saying radiation is good for animals

Why not? What is wrong with telling the truth?

Note the following very important statement from the paper:

None of our three hypotheses postulating radiation damage to large mammal populations at Chernobyl were supported by the empirical evidence.

Sounds familiar!

Oct 6, 2015 at 9:57 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

LOL, that's not "wildlife" as we know it, it is mutant greenie who missed the bus home.

Oct 6, 2015 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

I'll bet those hogs are paying a PR team to hype up the radiation threat. They have never had it so good without those pesky humans.

Oct 6, 2015 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

Re the latest update on the LNT model. The model has always been in doubt. Note the following:

The LNT model was introduced as a concept to facilitate radiation protection. But the use of this model led to the claim that even the smallest dose (one electron traversing a cell) may initiate carcinogenesis—for instance, from diagnostic x-ray sources. This claim is highly hypothetical and has resulted in medical, economic, and other societal harm.

The French Academies report concluded that the LNT model and its use for assessing the risks associated with low doses are not based on scientific evidence.

The implementation of the hypothetical LNT model without any empirical evidence to support it, has cost society a fortune. Just like hypothetical AGW without any empirical evidence to support it, has cost society a fortune.

It is totally obvious that a fetus would never develop in its mother's womb if the LNT model were true, because it would be damaged beyond repair by the massive radiation from both its mother's body and from external radiation.

Oct 6, 2015 at 10:22 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

More camera-trap photos of a range of wildlife here:

Oct 6, 2015 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

People might be interested in the books by Wade Allison on nuclear power. His new book comes out in December.

Oct 6, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Thanks Jonathan.

Radiation and Reason, a carefully argued popular science book aimed at the pervasive (and unjustified) fear of radiation (and all things nuclear).
We've been fighting against the pervasive and unjustified radiation and anti-nuclear propaganda for as long as I can remember (50 years?)

Oct 6, 2015 at 10:42 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

DNA repair systems were, and are poorly understood. Speaking from memory, there are about 19 different systems recognized. More non-canonical DNA damage response 'systems' are regularly uncovered.

As always 'policy' lags behind science and is dictated by the most superstitious.

Oct 6, 2015 at 10:44 AM | Registered Commentershub

And from Wade Allison's new book 'Nuclear is for Life: A Cultural Revolution'

Is nuclear the answer to carbon-free energy? There is every reason to welcome it and none to reject it. Life has evolved protection against radiation, and high doses are used to cure cancer. Nuclear radiation is rarely life-threatening: for example, at Fukushima there was no radiation casualty at all. The evidence from such accidents, from medicine, from the physical and biological sciences - these all tell us that the increased use of nuclear should be safe and beneficial to life on an over-crowded planet. Current radiation regulations are not based on science: they come from 70 years of social reaction to a phobia. How did this happen, historically? This book provides explanations and answers to many questions. With an open informed culture, it concludes, nuclear energy could supply carbon-free electricity at low cost. Nuclear power should be freed from science-blind restrictions and so help save the planet as we know it.

Oct 6, 2015 at 10:44 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

There is no data to show that with more nuclear generation there would be less atmospheric CO2. CO2 output from natural emitters is far higher than our puny input. current levels can be considered as natural. Atmospheric CO2 levels are governed by temperature NOT the other way as assumed by alarmists.

Oct 6, 2015 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

It is not unreasonable to expect increased populations and diversity of wildlife in the absence of civilisation pressure. However this tells us nothing about the incidence of e.g. cancer or birth defects or about the longevity of individuals .

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterjd

Statements like this always give me pause:

How much lower would carbon dioxide emissions have been if the world had gone nuclear in the 1960s?
IMO they give a subconscious nod to the belief that any increase in CO2 is the cause of global warming (if such a thing exists). The unasked question has to be, would a world with lower carbon-dioxide levels be a better world?

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

rats , as humans, die from adminstering 10* the rda of dihydrogenmonoxide..

compared that to how resilient they are to radiation.

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterjoooooolia slingoooo

It's a sheer myth that nuclear energy was stopped by green campaigners. In the UK it was stopped by the Thatcher government after they opened up the books, saw how expensive it was and realised it was more of a liability than an asset. We only managed to sell the industry off by offering it at a ludicrously low price and forcing the taxpayer to pay for clean-ups. The market preferred gas & coal then and still does. As long as the gas flowed, nuclear would always be on the back burner and no government since the abolition of the CEGB has bothered about making a plan for when the gas ran out.

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Many years ago I remember finding research showing lower than normal cancer rates among people who received low radiation doses from Hiroshima-Nagasaki and (seperate paper) radiologists (I think British). I no longer work in a related field but I wionder if those claims ahave been substantiated. There is, I understand a plausible biological explanation.

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Borodin

Sreetcred makes me think this could inspire some pretty good fiction:

'Professor Jackson Jeepers, with a comfortable sinecure at a prestigious university, didn't want to go to Chernobyl. God knew he didn't want to go, his family warned him not to, he didn't even have a clear idea what good he could do once he got there, other than to hold a media event denouncing human activities and the harm they do to nature. No doubt in the back of his mind he thought: "If for some reason the radiation does poison me, maybe I'll gain super powers. Maybe I'll get to spend time with Jessica Alba or Halle Berry."

'Alas, the radiation--or something--did affect him, and he found himself turned into a wild boar, constantly pursued by wolves. What could he do? How could he get in touch with Jessica Alba? Follow his adventures as a slightly exotic mammal.'

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterLloyd R

Not only is the LNT model incorrect, it's positively damaging. because a low level of radiation is not only not damaging, it may be positively beneficial. See:

for instance...

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Harry, I read it as the Bish trying to show how the consequences of the greens' doom-mongering contributed to failure of another one of their doom-mongering projects. In other words, antinuclear Ken Rice from the 1970s and 1990s caused irreversible CO2 accumulations in 2015.

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:38 AM | Registered Commentershub

Most people believe that the benefits of better dental health outweigh the risk of ionizing radiation from x-rays.

Some people believe that the benefits of cheap, reliable, non-CO2 emitting electrical generation do not outweigh the risk of ionizing radiation from a well regulated nuclear power plant and its waste.

And then there is the proven risk of death, injury and property damage from natural gas.

The Cleveland East Ohio Gas Explosion occurred on the afternoon of Friday, October 20, 1944. The resulting gas leak, explosion and fires killed 130 people and destroyed a one square mile area on Cleveland, Ohio's east side.

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

I find it incredibly irritating that rather than rejoice in one less threat to humans, they celebrate the greater possibility of carbon free energy (which is useless and expensive).

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:43 AM | Registered CommenterDung

From today's Wall Street Journal (in part) ...

[ ... ] As I’ve said many times, it is inconsistent for someone to be concerned about cutting carbon pollution and not support existing nuclear power. I should know; I used to be against nuclear power but changed my stance after realizing that without it we will likely fall short of our carbon-pollution goals.

In 2014 existing nuclear power accounted for just under 20% of this country’s electricity supply but was responsible for nearly two-thirds of all the carbon-free electricity we generated. The bottom line is that maintaining and preserving existing nuclear energy in this country is vital to achieving our clean energy and carbon-pollution reduction goals, and to do so we must start to value the low-carbon benefits it offers today.

Carol M. Browner


Ms. Browner served as EPA administrator from 1993-2001.

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

...How much lower would carbon dioxide emissions have been if the world had gone nuclear in the 1960s?...

Human emissions would probably have been much lower. But total increase in CO2 would have been about the same, because most of it is natural, and the natural emissions seem to have been increasing.

However, none of this would be a problem, as CO2 has little if any effect on global temperature...

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

How much colder would we be if the world had gone nuclear in the 60s? Well, way lower if sensitivity to CO2 is high, only a little lower if sensitivity is low.

Oct 6, 2015 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Don't forget the video of a Chernobyl Fox making a sandwich has doing the rounds for a while. Not just any sandwich either. That fox could get a job working in McDonald's. The greenshirts might like to think that it has clearly been mutated by radiation, but that's only because they couldn't do the same.

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Similar concerns regarding LNT model use appear to exist around the toxicology of fine particulates...

"We review empirical data on PM2.5 and mortality risks (and their precursors, inflammatory responses) and conclude that the PM2.5 concentration-response relation may be J-shaped, rather than linear. This possibility implies that the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment may well have produced no (or negative) human health benefits, rather than the trillions of dollars worth of reduced mortalities ascribed to it by EPA; and that attempts to achieve further risk-reduction benefits by further reducing PM2.5 concentrations may be counterproductive."

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterVarco

Many years ago (probably c. 20+) I read an article on breast cancer cases for each of the Counties in America.
The data were plotted against natural background radiation in each corresponding County. The effect of radiation hormesis was clear - above a certain (low level) of exposure the effect of radiation on breast cancer was linear. Below this level, the rate per unit of radiation dropped until it reached a minimum. Further reduction (extrapolating back to zero) showed a rise again in the number of cases.

From this data it was clear (to me at least - a worker in the nuclear industry) that a small level of dose was net positive and the LNT only occurred beyond this level.

I wish I could find the paper ...

When I discussed this with our Health Physicists they were reluctant to accept the obvious. The reason they used was that the National Radiological Protection Board (NRBB) required them to use the more "conservative" LNT model because if Radiation Hormesis was true, we would have a built in extra margin of safety. If it was not true then we would be exposing the public and our workers to an increased risk if we were to relax our "at the boundary fence" emissions. A reasonable argument but no longer supported by the evidence which has accumulating for decades.

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan bates

How can they say that the radiation had done no harm? Just look at that gruesome picture of the cat.

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme


..How can they say that the radiation had done no harm? Just look at that gruesome picture of the cat....

Cat? That was one of the Chernobyl workers....

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

The standard metric back in the day - and probably even now - LD50 i.e. 50% mortality per dose was taught by some as a point on a linear scale.

We know that it's too crude in almost all real cases - but extrapolating from silly numbers is where the trouble starts eh? The failed medics an peculating penpushers in Public Health being past masters of the techniques involved.

Some of those jellyfish / rabbit hybrids would brighten up the forest a bit ?

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:37 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Dearieme: About that 'cat' (good one!) me it seems to be a canary - and as such is telling us the 'mine' is safe.

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

This link is relevant to the issue of radiation hormesis, describing the results when a large apartment complex in Taiwan was built with steel contaminated with cobalt 60.

In short, radically reduced incidence of cancer among the 10,000 irradiated residents.

Perhaps we should organise health tours to Chernobyl and Fukushima to partake of the (faintly glowing) waters

Oct 6, 2015 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Wilson

The results from these unique data will help society balance the negative impacts to wildlife from chronic radiation exposures against how “the removal of humans alleviates one of the more persistent and ever growing stresses experienced by natural ecosystems”

Seems to me from that concluding sentence that they still believe small doses of radiation are harmful - just less so than the presence of humans in the same environment. So a lot of you are being somewhat optimistic that common sense or humanism suddenly broke out in academia.

Oct 6, 2015 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Great summary of the disaster written by Zbigniew Jaworowski on the effects of radiation at the Chernobyl site.

Oct 6, 2015 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterpolski

Do birds have to go through radiation quarantine control before leaving Chernobyl, and can these birds be identified elsewhere?

Oct 6, 2015 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Definitely a moment to revisit the brilliant radiation dosage in banana equivalents chart. Pure genius!

Oct 6, 2015 at 2:12 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist


....and can these birds be identified elsewhere?

Only at night......saving CO2 by reducing the need for streetlighting.

Oct 6, 2015 at 2:14 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Alan Bates:

This is not a direct link to the reference you cite but says much the same ...

Third, the relationship between radiation dose and breast cancer risk can be described by a straight line which implies that no matter how low the dose, there is some small risk associated with the exposure. Fortunately, for a very small exposure [ ... ], the risk is essentially negligible and would not be related to detectable increases in breast cancer risk even if millions of women were studied.

[ ... ]

Keeping in mind that the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer varies by age at exposure and over time, 100 cGy received by young Western women has been reported in several studies to increase the risk of developing breast cancer by about 40% on average, that is to say, the associated “relative risk” would be 1.40. Thus, this level of exposure would not be sufficient to double a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer later in life (a relative risk of 2.0 indicates a doubling of risk and a dose of 100 cGy is below 2.0). There are several common conditions or life style factors that increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by about 40%, and these include never being pregnant or not having children (nulliparity), having a very early age at first menstrual period (under age 11 years at menarche), and having a very late age at menopause. Even higher risks are associated with having a family history of breast cancer, namely, having several first degree relatives with breast cancer, possessing a damaged or mutated “breast cancer” gene such as BRCA1, and having a prior history of breast cancer (developing a second breast cancer is related in part to the same factors associated with developing the initial cancer).

The whole piece is interesting and informative.

Oct 6, 2015 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

In the US, when they shut down the Rocky Flats nuclear site near Denver in 1989, wildlife populations exploded there, and it is now a wildlife refuge.

Oct 6, 2015 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurt


Of course it did, the humans left, see?

Oct 6, 2015 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

All of you LNT deniers are missing the point that all of these animals will be horribly canerous by the time they are 150 years old.

Oct 6, 2015 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

thinkingscientist, if radioactive birds, provide lighting when it is dark, the North Koreans have a legitimate reason for wanting to join the nuclear powers.

Oct 6, 2015 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

and then there is the saga of the taipei mid 80s cobalt contaminated concrete apartment developments.

the taipei authorities were miffed why people were so healthy (no cancers or reduced by 90% ) in some new residential projects. Untile they found out it was radiation...OOOOOOH big nono in that era as ALL self respecting "progressives" just, you know, "knew" that cannot be right.

if the stats dont fit your belief system you just change the stats if your a leftie..
or you fire the persons who came with the unhappy tidings (like elisabeth warren does)

is not since yesterday that scum lefties twist and mend the numbers, muzzle people, hush everything inconvenient under the rug!

chernobyll nobody found any of the predicted higher cancer rates across europe. why because the cancer rates FELL of course. is hard to find the data you believe in, when your beliefs are WRONG

Oct 6, 2015 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenusNotWarmerDueToCo2

This whole topic was covered ith similar conclusions by BBC Horizon in July 2006.

Oct 6, 2015 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterdidymous

Relative abundances of elk, roe deer, red deer and wild boar within the Chernobyl exclusion zone are similar to those in four (uncontaminated) nature reserves in the region and wolf abundance is more than 7 times higher.

Yes but they are suffering. Insert a picture of a malformed bunny here. /sarc

I'm expecting you can order some bear or boar in a Russian restaurant, but if they hate you the meat may have been smuggled from Chernobyl.

Oct 6, 2015 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterwert

@JamesG Oct 6, 2015 at 11:21 AM

The reason for the stupidly high costs of nuclear power plants id due to the LNT based regulations that were forced on the industry by the hippies of the 60s. Those regulations add years to the approval process and cost 10 to 20 times more than is necessary. They then add anything up to 50 times the real cost of the actual building of the plant.

Oct 6, 2015 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterivan

John Silver

Of course it did, the humans left, see?

It also seems that when we stop shooting Polar Bears their numbers increase too. Who knew?

There must be a grant and a paper or even a Shukla in this one for somebody. Science eh? Always something new to earn.

Oct 6, 2015 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

If we had spent a few billion on Thorium breeder research and a prototype in the 90s, we would probably have cheap, safe reactors by now.

Several Uranium breeders could be operating now too, to consume spent fuel (nuclear waste). The proliferation argument is bogus, unless it's in Iran.

Oct 6, 2015 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterEric Gisin

A way to gauge the benefit dividend of Chernobyl is to correlate cancers of obese with thin people.
Both got the same extra dose, but in one class of individuals more fat was hit and fewer malign cells..


Eric, we will be saying exact the same in 25y time.
The Scum Left in the establishment makes choices and sticks to them even if they are wrong.
For example Iran revolution is goooood because Cartah made that, so if there is a green revolution lefties wont help.
Iraq liberation was baaaad so the whole Iraq project was MADE to fail by walking over the corpses of many dead people. It HAD to fail, because lefty scum is NEVER wrong.
Same with nuclear , many people have pointed out the crony capitalism the over regulation the bad influence the old technology the lack of innovation: Lefty Scum WANTS it this way because they made a choice that nuclear is bad.It does not matter for the scum whether it is a wrong choice, their only interest in in keeping up appearances and show they are NEVER wriong.

Oct 7, 2015 at 12:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterVenusNotWarmerDueToCO2

Lawrence Solomon | September 24, 2010 10:08 PM ET

Will a gamma ray a day keep the doctor away?

Oct 7, 2015 at 1:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterclipe

"Pic Arctic Woof under CC licence"

This is not the pic you were looking for.

Oct 7, 2015 at 6:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

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