Is The 1986 Chernobyl Accident Contaminating Vermont Fish?
Remember those radioactive fish found in Vermont last month? Well, there’s good news and bad news. First, the good news…sort...
Remember those radioactive fish found in Vermont last month? Well, there’s good news and bad news. First, the good news…sort of. Everyone assumed the source of radiation was a nearby nuclear power plant that for the past 38 years had evidently been leaking various nasty substances. Turns out, the nasty substances leaking from the power plant aren’t the same nasty substances being found in local fish. Uh…yay, I guess? Now the bad…
From this story on Takepart.com:
On Friday, the Vermont Department of Health confirmed that more fish in the Connecticut River have tested positive for a radioactive isotope linked to leukemia and other cancers, the Times Argus reports. It’s the second time since May that fish with traces of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 have been found, and here’s the catch: officials say it’s not related to the nearby nuclear power plant that runs the river’s water through its machinery as part of everyday operations. _The radioactive fish were first found at the end of May. At that time, the nearby nuclear plant, Vermont Yankee, was in the midst of a cleanup of another radioactive material called tritium. ABC News reported that tritium was said to be leaking from the 38-year-old plant. Tritium was found at levels unsafe for drinking water. Radioactive contamination was also found in nearby soil.
However, health officials say that the plant does not appear to be the cause of the radioactive fish. Research suggests that, though Vermont Yankee could leak strontium-90 and is currently being tested for it, the timing and levels of the isotope in the fish suggests these are just “background levels” that fish and other animals have been accruing for decades. Um… accruing from where, one might ask? Nuclear weapons tests and other fallout disasters, like Chernobyl, officials say. “Concentrations of Sr-90 detected in the inedible portions of these fish are in the range of what would be expected as a result of fallout from nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s, and the Chernobyl release in 1986,” reads a statement from the Vermont Health Department.
By inedible, officials mean that strontium-90 collects almost exclusively in fish bones, like calcium. Well… radioactive calcium. But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat the Connecticut River’s catch of the day. According to the ABC piece, strontium-90 has been collecting in all kinds of fish all over the globe. In terms of consumption, mercury is a much bigger concern. So while officials investigate whether Vermont Yankee is contributing to the accrual by leaking strontium-90 into the river, there’s no restriction yet on fishing in the Connecticut.
Meanwhile, if you eat fish, you’ve probably already been in close contact with trace elements of the isotope. So heed this tip for reducing radioactive exposure: don’t eat the bones.
So nuclear fallout from 1950s nuclear weapons testing is still affecting the environment today? What would Major Kong say?