Why plants in Chernobyl didn't get cancer after the 1986 nuclear meltdown

Chernobyl may be synonymous with death and destruction, but scientists now believe that the nuclear meltdown at the failed power plant may actually have been a blessing to nature in the area.

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Far from being a nuclear wasteland, the 1,000 square mile (2,600 km²) exclusion zone around Chernobyl has become a refuge for flora and fauna – precisely because people were forced to flee.

Plantlife in particular has benefited from its unique ability to withstand the cancerous side effects of radioactive precipitation, with trees, shrubs and flowers largely unaffected by the disaster.

Even in the most radiated areas, experts say vegetation only started to recover three years after the 1986 disaster.

Wolves, bears and bears have reportedly also made a comeback in the lush forests in the region around the destroyed nuclear power plant.

In an in-depth article for The conversation Stuart Thompson, associate professor of bio-biochemistry at the University of Westminster, explains why plants are able to resist radiation – and why wildlife thrive well.

& # 39; In a sense, the Chernobyl disaster reveals the true extent of our environmental impact on the planet & # 39 ;, he writes.

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& # 39; No matter how harmful it was, the nuclear accident was much less destructive to the local ecosystem than we are. By driving away from the area, we have created space for nature to return.

& # 39; Now the ecosystem is essentially one of Europe & # 39; s largest nature reserves and supports more life than before, even if each individual cycle of that life takes a little less. & # 39;

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Chernobyl may be synonymous with death and destruction, but scientists now believe that the nuclear meltdown at the failed power plant may actually have been a blessing to nature in the area. Pictured: Chernobyl nuclear power plant a few weeks after the disaster

Chernobyl may be synonymous with death and destruction, but scientists now believe that the nuclear meltdown at the failed power plant may actually have been a blessing to nature in the area. Pictured: Chernobyl nuclear power plant a few weeks after the disaster

Even in the most radiated areas, experts say vegetation only started to recover three years after the 1986 disaster. Shown: an aerial photo of the area around the exploded core

Even in the most radiated areas, experts say vegetation only started to recover three years after the 1986 disaster. Shown: an aerial photo of the area around the exploded core

Even in the most radiated areas, experts say vegetation only started to recover three years after the 1986 disaster. Shown: an aerial photo of the area around the exploded core

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When human cells are hit by the high energy particles and the waves emitted by unstable and decayed nuclear material, their cell structure is destroyed and chemical reactions take place that damage the machinery in the cells.

DNA is particularly vulnerable to the damage caused by these radioactive particles because other parts of the cells can be replaced, but the genetic code in each cannot be.

At high doses, DNA is completely confused and cells die quickly, causing the symptoms that are characteristic of radiation poisoning.

These include weakness, fatigue, fainting, and confusion; bleeding from the nose, mouth, gums and rectum; inflammation, bruising, burns and open sores on the skin; dehydration; diarrhea; fever and hair loss.

In animals this is usually fatal. The rigid mechanisms with which animal cells work require all components to work correctly. This is not the case in plants.

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In the most polluted areas around Chernobyl, people, other mammals, and birds are said to have been killed many times by the radiation released during the disaster, according to Dr. Thompson.

Exposure to low levels of radiation does not cause immediate health effects, but mutations caused by cell damage increase the risk of cancer throughout their lives.

Far from being a nuclear wasteland, the 1,000 square mile (2,600 km²) exclusion zone around Chernobyl has become a refuge for flora and fauna - precisely because people were forced to flee. Pictured: A visitor checks radiation levels via a dosimeter (Geiger counter) at the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the abandoned city of Pripyat

Far from being a nuclear wasteland, the 1,000 square mile (2,600 km²) exclusion zone around Chernobyl has become a refuge for flora and fauna - precisely because people were forced to flee. Pictured: A visitor checks radiation levels via a dosimeter (Geiger counter) at the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the abandoned city of Pripyat

Far from being a nuclear wasteland, the 1,000 square mile (2,600 km²) exclusion zone around Chernobyl has become a refuge for flora and fauna – precisely because people were forced to flee. Pictured: A visitor checks radiation levels via a dosimeter (Geiger counter) at the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the abandoned city of Pripyat

Plantlife in particular has benefited from its unique ability to withstand the cancerous side effects of radioactive precipitation, with trees, shrubs and flowers largely unaffected by the disaster. Pictured: the elephant's foot of the Chernobyl disaster, a solid mass made of molten nuclear fuel mixed with concrete, sand and core sealing material

Plantlife in particular has benefited from its unique ability to withstand the cancerous side effects of radioactive precipitation, with trees, shrubs and flowers largely unaffected by the disaster. Pictured: the elephant's foot of the Chernobyl disaster, a solid mass made of molten nuclear fuel mixed with concrete, sand and core sealing material

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Plantlife in particular has benefited from its unique ability to withstand the cancerous side effects of radioactive precipitation, with trees, shrubs and flowers largely unaffected by the disaster. Pictured: the elephant's foot of the Chernobyl disaster, a solid mass made of molten nuclear fuel mixed with concrete, sand and core sealing material

WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE NUCLEAR ARROW IN CHERNOBYL IN 1986?

On April 26, 1986, a power plant on the outskirts of Pripyat suffered a major accident in which one of the reactors caught fire and exploded, with radioactive material dispersed into the environment.

More than 160,000 residents of the city and surrounding areas had to be evacuated and unable to return, making the former Soviet site a radioactive ghost town.

Last year, scientists from Nasa sent eight fungal species from the Chernobyl exclusion zone (shown in red) to the space where they were placed aboard the international space station

Last year, scientists from Nasa sent eight fungal species from the Chernobyl exclusion zone (shown in red) to the space where they were placed aboard the international space station

A map of the Chernobyl exclusion zone is shown above. The & # 39; ghost town & # 39; van Pripyat is close to the site of the disaster

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The exclusion zone, which covers a significant area in Ukraine and part of the border with Belarus, will remain in force for generations until the radiation levels fall to a safe level.

The region becomes a & # 39; dead zone & # 39; named because of the extensive radiation that persists.

However, the proliferation of wildlife in the area is contradictory and many argue that the region should be transferred to the animals that have settled in the area – creating a radioactive nature reserve.

Estimates of how many people are affected by cancers caused by Chernobyl radioactive precipitation vary and are difficult to calculate, especially given the reluctance of the Russian state to properly document the disaster.

Some experts say that 53,000 and 27,000 are reasonable estimates of the number of cancers and cancer deaths that can be attributed to the accident, with the exception of thyroid cancer.

Plants are much more flexible in their approach and can respond more organically, largely out of necessity due to the fact that they cannot move from where they were rowed.

Plant cells are adaptive and change the way they work, depending on the environment in which they are located.

That may mean that they grow larger or dig deeper into their roots, depending on chemical hints they receive about their environment from what Thomson's & # 39; wood wide web & # 39; calls.

They also take into account the amount of light, water and nutrients they absorb, as well as the ambient temperature of their climate.

Unlike animal cells, they are also more able to make new cells of whatever type that are needed to function and they can more easily replace dead cells.

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This means that the damage caused by radiation can be better resisted and repaired.

Tumors that grow in plants also cannot spread to other regions, unlike humans, thanks to the rigid walls that surround plant cells.

In addition to the built-in resistance to radiation, the plant life around Chernobyl also seems to build on ancient mechanisms in their genetic past to protect their DNA.

In the most polluted areas around Chernobyl, people, other mammals and birds are said to have been killed many times by the radiation released during the disaster. Pictured: a wood owl leaves a chimney in the 19-mile (30 km) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Kazhushki, Belarus, March 16, 2016

In the most polluted areas around Chernobyl, people, other mammals and birds are said to have been killed many times by the radiation released during the disaster. Pictured: a wood owl leaves a chimney in the 19-mile (30 km) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Kazhushki, Belarus, March 16, 2016

In the most polluted areas around Chernobyl, people, other mammals and birds are said to have been killed many times by the radiation released during the disaster. Pictured: a wood owl leaves a chimney in the 19-mile (30 km) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Kazhushki, Belarus, March 16, 2016

More than 100,000 people had to leave the area permanently, making native animals the only residents of a cross-border & # 39; exclusion zone & # 39; about the size of Luxembourg. Pictured: A radiation sign is seen in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus
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More than 100,000 people had to leave the area permanently, making native animals the only residents of a cross-border & # 39; exclusion zone & # 39; about the size of Luxembourg. Pictured: A radiation sign is seen in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus

More than 100,000 people had to leave the area permanently, making native animals the only residents of a cross-border & # 39; exclusion zone & # 39; about the size of Luxembourg. Pictured: A radiation sign is seen in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus

Estimates of how many people are affected by cancers caused by Chernobyl radioactive precipitation vary and are difficult to calculate, especially given the reluctance of the Russian state to properly document the disaster. Wolves (pictured), bears and bears have reportedly also made a comeback in the lush forests in the region around the destroyed nuclear power plant

Estimates of how many people are affected by cancers caused by Chernobyl radioactive precipitation vary and are difficult to calculate, especially given the reluctance of the Russian state to properly document the disaster. Wolves (pictured), bears and bears have reportedly also made a comeback in the lush forests in the region around the destroyed nuclear power plant

Estimates of how many people are affected by cancers caused by Chernobyl radioactive precipitation vary and are difficult to calculate, especially given the reluctance of the Russian state to properly document the disaster. Wolves (pictured), bears and bears have reportedly also made a comeback in the lush forests in the region around the destroyed nuclear power plant

Some experts say that 53,000 and 27,000 are reasonable estimates of the number of cancers and cancer deaths that can be attributed to the accident, with the exception of thyroid cancer. Pictured: a yellow bunting sits on the remains of a house in the 19-mile (30 km) exclusion zone around Chernobyl in the abandoned village of Orevichi, Belarus, March 12, 2016

Some experts say that 53,000 and 27,000 are reasonable estimates of the number of cancers and cancer deaths that can be attributed to the accident, with the exception of thyroid cancer. Pictured: a yellow bunting sits on the remains of a house in the 19-mile (30 km) exclusion zone around Chernobyl in the abandoned village of Orevichi, Belarus, March 12, 2016

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Some experts say that 53,000 and 27,000 are reasonable estimates of the number of cancers and cancer deaths that can be attributed to the accident, with the exception of thyroid cancer. Pictured: a yellow bunting sits on the remains of a house in the 19-mile (30 km) exclusion zone around Chernobyl in the abandoned village of Orevichi, Belarus, March 12, 2016

In the early eons of life on Earth, the radiation levels in the natural environment were much higher and plants were forced to adapt to survive.

Experts believe that the disaster may have led to a resurgence of these early survival mechanisms in the local flora.

In the conversation, Dr. Thompson wrote: & # 39; Life is now flourishing around Chernobyl. Populations of many plant and animal species are actually larger than they were before the disaster.

& # 39; Given the tragic loss and shortening of human lives associated with Chernobyl, this revival of nature may surprise you.

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& # 39; Radiation has demonstrably harmful effects on plant life and can shorten the lives of individual plants and animals. But if life support resources are abundant, the supply and the burdens are not deadly, then life will flourish.

& # 39; Critical is that the load caused by radiation in Chernobyl is less severe than the benefits of people leaving the area. & # 39;

WHAT IS THE EXCEPTIONAL ZONE OF CHERNOBYL?

In 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat, the former Soviet Union, leaked radioactive material into the area.

The explosion was caused by a fire in one of the nuclear reactors and the environment was evacuated as a result.

Approximately 116,000 people were evacuated permanently from the exclusion zone around the power plant, with villages and towns still to be destroyed.

While radiation levels in the region are still considered too high for people to return, wildlife has returned to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) of 1,600 square miles (4,300 square km) and it is flourishing.

While the radiation levels in the region are still considered too high for people to return, animals such as wolves (photos) have returned to the area and are flourishing

While the radiation levels in the region are still considered too high for people to return, animals such as wolves (photos) have returned to the area and are flourishing

While the radiation levels in the region are still considered too high for people to return, animals such as wolves (photos) have returned to the area and are flourishing

Many argue that the region should be transferred to the animals that have settled in the area – creating a radioactive nature reserve.

Research into the animals and plants in the Chernobyl area now provides clues as to what the world would look like if people suddenly disappeared.

Scientists monitor the health of plants and animals in the exclusion area to see how they respond to chronic radiation exposure.

Camera traps set up by researchers have captured a stunning number of local wildlife, including wolves, lynx, mice, bears, deer, horses, and many others as they roam the area.

It shows that the area, three decades after the disaster, is by no means wasteland. Instead, life flourishes there.

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