Growing up with Chernobyl

Ronald K. Chesser, Robert J. Baker

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

27 Scopus citations


Chernobyl is known the world over as the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history. Nevertheless, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone still offers a unique outdoor laboratory to examine the fate and the effects of a radioactive environment. Some experiences in the form of brief lessons about radioecology and the politics of scientific research have been discussed. The beautiful theory has involved little rodents, voles of the genus Microtus. The predominant radionuclides remaining in Chernobyl are strontium-90 and cesium-137. The radiation an animal receives depends on its relative exposure to these radioisotopes. Ecotoxicologists must consider the historical influences to identify the true effects of a contaminating agent. A brief retraction in the 6 November 1997 issue of Nature has been published because the more accurate method failed to find an elevated mutation rate. The best approach is a blind analysis with no knowledge of whether the samples come from the experimental or the control groups. A scientist's conclusions help to guide public policy, write regulations and develop new technologies. Good science must fit within an existing framework of policy and strategic plans or it will be very difficult to finance.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Specialist publicationAmerican Scientist
StatePublished - 2006


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