Apr 12, 2019 10:11 PM EDT
VIENNA, Austria -- For the first time in years, a group of international scientists is now looking into the presence of nuclear fallout on the ice surface of the glaciers across the Caucasus Mountains, Arctic, British Columbia, Antarctica, and Iceland Alps. In all 17 sites that the team surveyed, they have found residues of radioactive material. The concentrations of such materials are often ten times higher than the levels elsewhere.
"The levels of such materials are the highest levels that one can see from the area that is already outside of the nuclear explosion zones," said Caroline Clason, a researcher, and lecturer from the University of Plymouth.
When radioactive material is released, it goes into the atmosphere explodes there and falls back on earth in the form of acid rain. Some of which are absorbed by the various elements on the Earth's surface including the soil and plants. However, there are also cases when these chemicals fall as snow and settle on the ice surface. They form sediments that are relatively heavier than those that fall on the soil. Then, they are collected in the glaciers with more concentrated levels of nuclear residue.
"Radioactive materials can be very light, that's why when they are sent into the atmosphere, they can go the distance," she said in an interview.
By far, the Chernobyl disaster that happened in 1986 remains to be the most devastating accident to involve nuclear weapons. The release of radioactive materials including Caesium in the atmosphere caused widespread contamination. It caused acid rain across the northern part of Europe for weeks.
"When it falls like acid rain like the one that happened during the Chernobyl incident, it falls on the soil. What is not absorbed becomes runoff and then it can be considered something like a one-off event," she added. But when it falls as snow, it becomes solid ice for decades until the warming temperature melts it. Then, it goes downstream."
The environmental impact of such contamination has been shown in recent discoveries. For example, a dead wild boar in Sweden was tested and its body contained at least 10 times more Caesium than its safe levels.
Clason and her team of researchers also detected some fallout presences from the meltdown of Fukushima in 2011. However, they stressed that much of the particles from such plight are yet to collect as ice sediments.
While there remains to be little data available on how these materials can affect the ecological balance and potentially harm the human race, Clason said that these chemicals are "particularly dangerous."
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