26 years have gone by since the Chernobyl disaster but Norway continues to suffer the effects of and be vulnerable to nuclear fallout.
Whilst scientists have discovered the disaster could have affected then yet unborn children’s intelligence, Russia’s nuclear power plants near the common border with Finnmark, northern Norway, have been found to be unprepared for natural disasters.
Norway is also at risk from accidents at nuclear-powered Russia’s Kola and St Petersburg reactors, as well as Murmansk’s Andreyeva Bay nuclear waste storage facility 45 kilometres from the Norwegian border. Last year’s Roslyakovo dry dock Delta-IV class ‘Yekaterinburg’ submarine fire was another pertinent reminder.
Norwegian food industry and politicians have expressed concerns over catastrophic effects following an explosion or fire at Britain’s Sellafield nuclear reprocessing facility, as well as the potential threat from France’s equivalent, La Hague.
Meanwhile, animals have been feeding off Norwegian radioactive-laced vegetation following Chernobyl’s reactor number four explosion on 26 April 1986. Worst affected were mountainous parts in the Midt-Norge region following the heavy rain showers.
Major quantities of meat had to be destroyed in the years following Chernobyl, with subsequent generations of mushroom and grass-loving sheep having been measured for radioactivity and treated using a method called “foddering down” ever since.
The process involves feeding the animals a controlled cesium-free diet, sometimes laced with a cesium binder (normally ferrocyanides of iron, also known as Prussian blue) six weeks prior to slaughtering. Chernobyl has cost Norway over 650 million kroner so far.
Today, reports have surfaced that some sheep in certain parts of Norway contain 4,000 Becquerel per kilo of meat, almost six times higher than recommended by Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) officials.
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s Magnar Grudt tells NRK, “It’s way above the allowed limit for meat trading. 600 Becquerel per kilo is the maximum permitted for sheep.”
Levels have not changed for the past few years and other parts of Norway also still feeling the Chernobyl effects. 14 of 23 municipalities in the county of Nord-Trøndelag currently contain animals that will have to undergo “foddering down” after the end of this year’s grazing season in the autumn.
Food Safety Authority officials underline the meat is perfectly eatable without risk to members of the public following this process, but Magnar Grudt exclaims, “We were given measuring equipment in 1987 and learnt how to us it.”
“Nonetheless, we never thought we would still be measuring radioactivity in sheep today. It’s unthinkable.”