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FEATURE ARTICLE

Growing Up with Chernobyl

Working in a radioactive zone, two scientists learn tough lessons about politics, bias and the challenges of doing good science

Robert Chesser, Robert Baker

Figure 5. Mice serve as experimental models to ascertain the effects of a radioactive environmentClick to Enlarge Image

Although it has been two decades since the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the biological effects of the radiation released are still being debated. The authors share lessons learned about radiation effects--and about doing science under the hot lights of international environmental politics--over the 15 years that they have been studying how this radiation has affected the wildlife inhabiting the evacuated zone directly around the power plant. At one point they concluded that certain rodents suffered significant genetic rearrangements, but more recent assessments suggest that these animals have not experienced mutations that can be attributed to the nuclear accident. The removal of people has allowed the zone around the reactor to become something of an unintended wildlife preserve.

 


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