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Radioactive snakes to detect radiation from Fukushima nuclear disaster

Japanese researchers are using snakes to monitor radiation levels around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The snakes are equipped with tracking devices and dosimeters to measure long-term radiation exposure to the nuclear plant that suffered three meltdowns in March 2011. The tsunami in Japan had caused more radiation released than in any other nuclear disaster, except Chernobyl, which had forced 150,000 people to flee.

This study was published in the Ichthyology and Herpetology journal. This is the first time snakes have been studied since it was done on mammals in the past. According to Hannah Gerke, one of the lead researchers, snakes are important to many ecosystems because they can be predators and prey. Her team has been able to monitor radiation levels that range from 134 to 137 radiocesium. This depends on the movement and location of the rat snakes captured for this experiment.

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Gerke pointed out that snakes inside the plant’s exclusion zone showed levels of radiocesium 22 times higher than snakes outside. It has been recommended that the people of Japan stay out of this zone since it may have harmful effects on them. Snakes have proven to be useful biomarkers since they are capable of traveling as close as 24 kilometers from nuclear plants.



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