Thirty years after the nuclear devastation of Chernobyl radioactive reindeer still walk the toxic Norwegian tundra.
The Chernobyl disaster occurred after a nuclear reactor exploded at a power plant near Pripyat, Ukraine in 1986, and is regarded as the worst civilian nuclear event of all time. The explosion resulted in a massive radioactive blanket that covered the vast expanses of Europe and extended to the farthest reaches of northern parts of Norway, more than 2,000 kilometers away.
Effects from the explosion covered the world in varying concentrations of toxic materials that poured from the sky with rain and snow, spreading far from the initial disaster site. The radioactive caesium that fell across the landscape was absorbed by lichen, mushrooms, and other flora that serve as animal feedstuffs. Lichen and mushrooms are especially equipped at absorbing environmental toxins and are also the primary components of a reindeer’s diet in winter.
An analysis performed by the Norwegian Agricultural Authority nearly 20 years after the incident expressed the continued necessity of uncontaminated feed for the majority of livestock bound for slaughter.
A large reindeer population that persists around the village of Snasa in Norway serves as the life source of the indigenous Sami people. The free people live in the mountains far from the reaches of government authority and rely on selling reindeer meat for their livelihood.
The European Union enacted a limit of 600 becquerels of radiation per kilogram for animals bound for slaughter, ruling higher levels too toxic for human consumption. The Norwegian reindeer tested at 2,100 becquerels at their highest point, forcing the release of many animals back into the wild.
Today the reindeer still test positively for radiation and the Scandinavian landscape remains a poisoned tundra.