21 May 2009

Chernobyl still vexes British farmers

When on April 26th, 1986, reactor number four of the nuclear power plant near Chernobyl in the Ukraine exploded, radioactive dust quickly drifted across Europe. Reaching the British Isles within days, carried in fine rain, it seeped into the hills of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and there it remains. Hundreds of farms are still restricted in how they are allowed to use land and raise sheep. Radiocaesium-137 passes easily from soil to grass and accumulates in animals. Sheep grazed on upper pastures, where radioactivity levels are highest, have their heads painted red to identify them, and if a farmer wants to sell them for food, they must be scanned.

The number of farms requiring scanning steadily declines as the radioactivity fades, but the red-headed sheep will for a long time be reminders of the dangerous reach of nuclear power, even in its peaceful mode.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the information. I had no idea that the radioactivity affected the British isles that way.