Iodine, Strontium, Cesium, Plutonium, Krypton, and Xenon from nuclear accidents might have an impact on soil, vegetables, grain, milk, meat, and eggs. For soil, contamination would not be an immediate concern but proper management procedures can reduce problems. For vegetables, the greatest amount of contamination reaches vegetables directly from rainfall on leaves. For grains, the milling and polishing process will reduce the amount of contamination and grains will have lower concentrations of calcium and potassium than stems and leaves. For milk, dairy cows should be removed and fed with uncontaminated feed and water, and milk should be tested. For meat and meat products, bones should be removed because strontium is concentrated in bones, and most of the cesium can be removed by extracting water. For eggs, most chickens are raised in in-house facilities and the airborne contamination and feed are noteworthy.
More recommendation measures and guidance can be found in the Protective Action Guide in U.S (1977, 1982, and 1986) and Radiological Emergency Response Plan.
For aquatic animals, according to the research on the Chernobyl accident “radioecological conditions in the water bodies under investigation were in a state of non-equilibrium over a long period of time.” “Reduction in the 137Cs concentration proceeded slowly in most of the aquatic ecosystems. The effect of trophic levels which consisted of increased accumulation of radiocaesium by predatory fish was observed in various parts of the contaminated area.” Read more here.
According to the research on the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, biotic and abiotic factors affecting radionuclide accumulation in fish are clearly dependent on the ecosystem -- and they differ between lakes and rivers. Considering lakes and rivers separately when looking at the effects of radioactive contamination will lead to better and more accurate environmental risk management. Read more here.
In February, shipments of black rockfish were halted after one sample caught near Fukushima contained cesium far in excess of acceptable levels. Read more here.
More facts about animals in Chernobyl here.
In the past, radioactive material has been dumped or discharged into the oceans by incidents from released radioactive waste from nuclear plants or nuclear-powered facilities. And in 2011, radioactively contaminated water from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was pouring directly into the ocean.
“Studies from previous releases of nuclear material in the Irish, Kara and Barents Seas, as well as in the Pacific Ocean, show that such radioactive material does travel with ocean currents, is deposited in marine sediment, and does climb the marine food web. In the Irish Sea — where the British Nuclear Fuels plant at Sellafield in the northwestern United Kingdom released radioactive material over many decades, beginning in the 1950s — studies have found radioactive cesium and plutonium concentrating significantly in seals and porpoises that ate contaminated fish. Other studies have shown that radioactive material from Sellafield and from the nuclear reprocessing plant at Cap de la Hague in France have been transported to the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. A study published in 2003 found that a substantial part of the world’s radioactive contamination is in the marine environment.”
“But what impact this radioactive contamination has on marine life and humans is still unclear. Even the mass dumping of nuclear material by the Soviets in the Arctic has not been definitively shown to have caused widespread harm to marine life. That may be because containment vessels around some of the dumped reactors are preventing the escape of radiation. A lack of comprehensive studies by the Russians in the areas where nuclear waste was dumped also has hampered understanding. Two events in the early 1990s — a die-off of seals in the Barents Sea and the White Sea from blood cancer, and the deaths of millions of starfish, shellfish, seals, and porpoises in the White Sea — have been variously attributed by Russian scientists to pollution or nuclear contamination.”
“The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has reported that seawater containing radioactive iodine-131 at 5 million times the legal limit has been detected near the plant. According to the Japanese news service, NHK, a recent sample also contained 1.1 million times the legal level of radioactive cesium-137.”
Read more: Radioactivity in the Ocean: Diluted, But Far from Harmless.