Friday, September 23, 2016

Fate of tainted Fukushima cows takes scientific twist

In an abandoned Japanese village, cows grazing in lush green fields begin to gather when they hear the familiar noise of the ranch owner’s mini-pickup. This isn’t feeding time, though. Instead, the animals are about to be measured for how they’re affected by living in radiation — radioactivity that is 15 times the safe benchmark. For these cows’ pasture sits in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, a name now synonymous with nuclear disaster. The area was once a haven for agriculture with more than 3,500 cattle and other livestock. Ranchers who refused a government order to kill their cows continue to feed and tend about 200 of them. The herds won’t be used as food; now science is their mission. Researchers visit every three months to test livestock living within a 20-km (12-mile) radius of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, where three reactors had core meltdowns after the facility was swamped by a tsunami in March 2011. It is the first-ever study of the impact on large mammals of extended exposure to low-level radiation...more

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