Sperm Bank Deposit At Home

Radiant wildlands.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

LATE IN THE SPRING of 2011, the pale grass blue butterflies seemed
no different. Flitting about the meadows of Fukushima Prefecture, their
satin wings shimmered as they moved among the notched leaves of
wood
sorrel

 see oxalis.


wood sorrel

indicates gladness. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 177]

See : Joy
 and
feathery
  
adj.
1. Covered with or consisting of feathers.

2. Resembling or suggestive of a feather, as in form or lightness.


feath
 
pampas grass
 any species of the genus Cortaderia, tall South American plants of the family Gramineae (grass family) cultivated in warm climates for ornament. The common pampas grass (C.
. When Joji Otaki began looking closely
at the delicate insects the size of a silver dollar, however, he was
struck by abnormal patterns in the dark dots on their wings. Then he
noticed dents in their eyes and strangely shaped wings and legs.

It was two months after the March 11, 2011 tsunami led to the
meltdown of three reactors at Japan’s Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The
cesium
  [Lat.,=bluish gray], a metallic chemical element; symbol Cs; at. no. 55; at. wt. 132.9054; m.p. 28.4&degC;; b.p. 669.3&degC;; sp. gr. 1.873 at 20&degC;; valence +1.
, plutonium, and other radioactive emissions had already
forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 residents caught
in the cloud

 of contamination from one of the worst environmental disasters in
history. Otaki, a professor at the
University of the Ryukyus
 
 in Okinawa,
was in the Abukuma Mountains west of the disaster site collecting
butterflies to study their response to the accident. The explosion at
the power plant had rained radioactive particles onto fields and forests
the butterflies share with warblers and flycatchers, deer and bear in
the rugged region north of Tokyo.

As Otaki and his research partners studied the Fukushima
butterflies, the aberrations they found took them by surprise.
Abnormalities in the first generation were within normal boundaries. But
when Otaki bred these butterflies in his laboratory.; mutations in the
offspring increased to 18 percent. That suggested inherited genetic
damage. Field samples collected in September 2011, representing the
fourth or fifth generation of butterflies since the disaster, had even
higher abnormality rates. The changes may not all have been caused by
radiation; Otaki had previously found evidence that temperature can
affect wing markings. But the deformities his team found in antennae,
legs, and other body parts are truly unusual, says
Hokkaido University

 entomologist Shin-ichi Akimoto, who is studying the impact of Fukushima
fallout on aphids. The abnormalities are troubling not only because
insects are commonly assumed to be more resistant to radiation than
humans, but also because they suggest the Fukushima nuclear disaster may
be changing individual species, even entire forests.

“There is no question that ecosystems as a whole are
suffering,” Otaki says. “There has been a sudden, large
change.”

How large and how long term are questions scientists are trying to
answer as they study the effects of nuclear contamination on
Fukushima’s forests. This is not the first landscape to provide
such a grim opportunity. The worst nuclear accident in history occurred
on April 26, 1986 when the Number 4 reactor at the VI Lenin Chernobyl
Nuclear Power Plant exploded. More than two decades of research in this
disaster-created outdoor laboratory, however, have failed to resolve
many questions about radiation’s effects on wildlife.

Now, as scientists move about these evacuated, largely forested
regions thousands of miles apart, some like Otaki are finding evidence
that even low levels of radiation can cause genetic damage that is
passed down to new generations. It’s a controversial conclusion
with an even more hotly disputed interpretation: As plants and animals
continue to live in these irradiated environments, forests themselves
may be evolving into different ecosystems.

The prospect of a permanently altered ecosystem is even more
disturbing because of the decades–perhaps centuries–these nuclear
forests will remain dangerous. Still beautiful in spite of the
contamination, they stare us in the face with the uncomfortable truth
that when our human adventures in high technology go awry and crash
through the natural world, we are utterly unable to control the
consequences. Nuclear forests may be the ultimate Anthropocene
environment.

BOTH THE CHERNOBYL AND Fukushima power plants were located in small
cities surrounded by farms and woodlands. When the disasters struck,
radioactive fallout hit trees, shrubs, and grasses. In Chernobyl as much
as 70 percent of the radionuclides fell on forests. Over time rain and
snow washed plutonium, radiocesium, and other radioactive particles onto
the forest floor. Plants and fungi soon began taking up these particles
and passing them on to the leaves, berries, and pollen that insects and
other animals eat. Traveling the very same biological pathways that
normally bring sustaining nutrients to forest life, the radionuclides
permeated entire ecosystems.

In Fukushima, many plants and animals are already highly
contaminated,
according to

prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of:

2. In keeping with:

3.
 government and independent tests. One wild
boar captured in December 2012 had 11,000 becquerels of radiocesium per
kilogram of flesh–more than 100 times the level permitted for human
consumption. Last spring, researchers found herons nesting in an area
where radioactive cesium in the soil measured more than 24,000
becquerels per kilogram. “We humans can do a lot to avoid exposure.
Animals can’t. They don’t know it’s dangerous,” says
Kiyomi Yokota, a naturalist who had devoted his life to exploring the
forests of Fukushima.

Even 27 years after Chernobyl’s No. 4 reactor explosion, much
of the 1,000-square-mile ”
Zone of Alienation
 The Zone of Alienation, which is variously referred to as The Chernobyl Zone, The 30 Kilometer Zone, The Zone of Exclusion,
” around the power
plant is considered far too hot to allow residents to return. As much as
96 percent of the radionuclides that did not blow sky high and spew
across the Soviet Union and northern Europe are still right there–in
the fungi, needles, branches, roots, and soil of the forests that now
cover almost three-fourths of the evacuated area. Instead of releasing
the radiation into the atmosphere and water systems, the Chernobyl
forests are holding it, a landscape-scale model of
phytoremediation
  
n.
The use of plants and trees to remove or neutralize contaminants, as in polluted soil or water.


  

See under bioremediation.
.

It may be decades more before it is safe for human
habitation

.

Ukrainian officials have enshrined this “barrier
function” of the contaminated forest in law, mandating that these
lands be managed to contain the radionuclides. Japan, meanwhile, is
leaning toward very different policies that would attempt to remove some
of the contaminants from forests by cutting down trees, scraping up
forest litter, and burying or burning the debris. The enormity of that
task, however, means that Fukushima’s forests will likely end up
holding fallout for many years.

The upshot for plants and wildlife is prolonged exposure to nuclear
contaminants, with impacts that begin in the microscopic world of
individual cells. As radionuclides decay, they emit energy. That energy
can damage any part of a cell. If it damages
DNA
 see nucleic acid.


DNA
 or deoxyribonucleic acid

One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes.
, the result can be
cancer. If the damaged DNA is in sperm or egg cells, the changes can be
passed to offspring and cause inherited deformities or illnesses. More
radiation means a higher chance that these changes will occur.
Scientists agree that high levels of radiation can cause fatal damage to
living organisms, including humans. The debate surrounding Chernobyl,
and now Fukushima, is over the effects of extended exposure to low
levels of radiation.

Some scientists have disputed the causal link between the mutations
Otaki found in pale grass blue butterflies and the radiation they were
exposed to, but the results do not Surprise Timothy Mousseau, a research
biologist at
University of South Carolina
   
. A decade of field work in
Chernobyl, and more recently in Fukushima, have convinced him that
protracted exposure to radiation can have severe genetic consequences
for organisms living in these contaminated environments.

On an early October afternoon, Mousseau crouched on a crumbling
sidewalk in the middle of the ghost city of Pripyat patiently extracting
a
marsh tit

 from a mist net, one tiny toe at a time. Above the scientist
and his quarry, the cracked and peeling walls of apartment buildings
rose to 10 stories, their deserted balconies sporting poplar saplings
instead of deck chairs. The long-abandoned city was built by the Soviets
to house the families of workers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Marsh tits are fairly tolerant of radiation, but other birds are
not, Mousseau says. Since he and his colleagues began studying 14
different species of birds found in Chernobyl, they have documented
reduced numbers and decreased longevity, smaller brains in some birds,
and as many as 40 percent of male birds without sperm. They have also
found that barn swallows living in areas surrounding Chernobyl have
genetic damage that appears to be increasing with subsequent
generations. Mutation rates in young swallows are between two to 10
times higher than their parents, according to one study: Chronic
exposure to radioactive contaminants 27 years after the accident
continues to cause tumors and mutations in breeding swallows, Mousseau
says. He has found no evidence that species are evolving in ways that
protect them from radiation.

Ominous as these results are, Mousseau does not predict an eventual
science fiction world of three-eyed rabbits and headless horses.
Instead, he believes irradiated forests will simply become less vibrant
versions of their former selves. “The net effect will be fewer
offspring and smaller populations until some species just
disappear,” he says.

Like Otaki, Mousseau was initially surprised by his findings. He
assumed that natural selection would weed out abnormal individuals as
time passed. “The irony is that because the radiation levels are
low and nonlethal, organisms survive long enough to reproduce and thus
transmit the mutations from one generation to the next,” Mousseau
says.

Other scientists have documented genetic changes in the cells of
Scots pines, the dominant Chernobyl forest tree. Higher levels of
exposure
stunted growth

 and led to oddly
bushy
  
adj. bush·i·er, bush·i·est
1. Overgrown with bushes.

2. Thick and shaggy:
 trees. Vasyl Yoschenko,
head of radioecological monitoring at the Ukraine Institute of
Agricultural Radiology, says that could benefit more radiation-tolerant
species with significant forest-wide impacts: “If the Scots pine
disappears, this will be a different ecosystem,” he says. Even one
generation of weakened Scots pines would have cascading consequences.
When pines produce less pollen, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators
suffer. Reduced
pollination
 transfer of pollen from the male reproductive organ (stamen or staminate cone) to the female reproductive organ (pistil or pistillate cone) of the same or of another flower or cone.
 affects fruit trees, which in turn affects
birds. Few studies have tracked these chain reactions. “It’s
not something you see quickly, and for that reason the research is
difficult,” Otaki says. Mousseau is more direct about the potential
impacts: “It’s very likely that these Chernobyl and Fukushima
areas will be permanently affected unless we come up with some magical
way to remove and eliminate the radioactive material.”

MANY SCIENTISTS REJECT these conclusions. Numerous laboratory and
field studies around Chernobyl have failed to document elevated rates of
mutations or reduced survival rates among animals in higher radiation
zones. As proof, some researchers tout the abundance of mammals–moose,
roe deer, otters, and wild boar proliferating in the evacuation zone
despite the radiation. Removing humans from the landscape is an
ecological benefit of the accident, says Robert Baker, a biology
professor at Texas Tech University.

Baker’s research, first published in 1996, found no tumors in
any of the 400 bank voles he studied from the Chernobyl region, despite
radiation exposure of many generations during all stages of their life
cycles. In a 2009 project with several colleagues, Baker found voles in
radioactive sites genetically similar to those elsewhere in Ukraine. He
says the results suggest that genetic changes in radioactive regions of
Ukraine are probably a function of natural geographic variation.

Although Baker and Mousseau disagree about the effect of radiation
on forest species, both have called for more research. The largest body
of evidence on inherited mutations comes from multigenerational studies
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
atomic bomb
 or  weapon deriving its explosive force from the release of atomic energy through the fission (splitting) of heavy nuclei (see nuclear energy). The first atomic bomb was produced at the Los Alamos, N.Mex.
 survivors. It is inconclusive: A
higher incidence of inherited deformities and disease has been neither
confirmed nor definitively disproven in the children of survivors. Field
research in Chernobyl, which got a late start due to Soviet politics,
remains much less systematic than the atom bomb studies. And so far only
a handful of biologists have launched field studies in Fukushima. Otaki
believes the reason for that is partly political. “People are
trying to forget what happened,” he says. As a result, funding for
research like his is hard to come by. Baker hopes that will change.
“Perhaps the accident in Japan will serve to highlight again the
undeniable fact that our scientific grasp of radiation risk to the
environment is surprisingly limited,” he says.

Pale grass blue butterflies still flutter in the Fukushima
countryside, unaware they may be flirting with danger. Barn swallows
dart around the forests of Chernobyl oblivious of the contamination they
are carrying. For the hundreds of thousands of people forced to leave
their homes in Japan, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, the radiation
cycling from soil to treetop is an
unnerving
  
tr.v. un·nerved, un·nerv·ing, un·nerves
1. To deprive of fortitude, strength, or firmness of purpose.

2. To make nervous or upset.
 
omnipresence

See also Ubiquity.

Allah

supreme being and pervasive spirit of the universe. [Islam: Leach, 36]

Big Brother

all-seeing leader watches every move. [Br. Lit.: 1984]

eye

God sees all things in all places.
. The forests
they knew and depended upon now threaten instead of soothe, hiding
unknowns where they once nurtured a community.

Kiyomi Yokota, the Fukushima naturalist, rarely takes his daughters
to play in the woods as he did before the accident. The stress of making
sure his three-year-old never touches the dirt or licks her fingers is
simply too exhausting. “Just like that, everything changed,”
he says. Amid the stress is a sadness fueled by the knowledge that the
changes are human caused, that they are irrevocable, and that they will
last long after those responsible for the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl
and Fukushima have passed away.

Winifred Bird writes about the environment from Nagano, Japan. Jane
Braxton Little is a science writer based in California’s
Sierra
Nevada

 , chief mountain range of S Spain, in Granada prov., running from east to west for c.60 mi (100 km), parallel to the Mediterranean Sea.
. A grant from the Society of Environmental Journalists covered
the travel costs for this story.

FOREVER IS A LONG TIME

Even when nuclear power plants perform as designed, they present a
problem: What to do with the radioactive wastes? Some types of spent
fuel will be dangerous for 240,000 years, others for more than 2 million
years. Taking responsibility for these contaminants stretches the
proverbial seven generations of sustainability to 11,000 human
generations–an inconceivable time span.

So far the nuclear industry has not come up with a safe solution.
Engineers have considered a range of possibilities that verge on science
fiction at one extreme and
reckless abandon

 at the other. The industry
has considered sending radioactive waste into outer space–an option it
considers attractive because it removes it from our environment. The
risks, however, are potentially catastrophic: If the vessel carrying the
waste has an accident, it could spread radioactive material into the
atmosphere. Then there’s the Antarctica solution–placing
radioactive wastes on ice sheets where their own heat would bury them.
But international treaties ban such activity and the notion of violating
the planet’s last pristine continent has put a damper on the
scheme.

There have been discussions about burying nuclear waste in the sea
floor. One option involves encasing spent fuel in concrete and dropping
it in torpedoes designed to penetrate it into the ocean bed. Even more
audacious is the proposal to deposit radioactive waste in a subduction
zone, where plate tectonics would slowly carry it downward into
Earth’s mantle. Violating international oceanic agreements is just
one of the reasons these approaches are not being seriously considered.
Another is the fear of leaks and the resultant widespread contamination.

The current focus is on burying radioactive wastes underground.
Finland is in the process of constructing the first of these deep
geological repositories–a 1,710-foot-deep facility called Onkalo, which
means “cavity” in Finnish. Engineered to last 100,000 years,
the facility is supposed to be large enough to accept
boron
  [New Gr. from borax], chemical element; symbol B; at. no. 5; at. wt. 10.81; m.p. about 2,300&degC;; sublimation point about 2,550&degC;; sp. gr. 2.3 at 25&degC;; valence +3.
 steel
canisters of spent fuel for up to 100 years, when the cavity will be
backfilled and sealed. Canister burial will begin in 2020.

The United States has also been pursuing deep burial. In 2002
Congress designated Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a repository for
spent fuel and other radioactive wastes. By then planners had already
constructed a five-mile-long tunnel and a series of cathedral-like
chambers to experiment with various storage designs. The 0bama
administration quashed the controversial project in 2010, leaving the
country without a long-term storage site. The 65,000 tons of
spent
nuclear fuel

 from the 104 nuclear power plants in the US are currently
stored onsite–80 percent in water-filled pools, which are considered
less safe than the steel casks that store the remaining 20 percent.

In addition to the technical challenges, nuclear power presents a
political dilemma. No nation has lasted for 1,000 years, much less the
240,000 years plutonium will remain dangerous. Who will oversee
radioactive waste when the governments of the 31 countries now producing
it have crumbled? And how will these toxic repositories be identified
when current languages are obsolete and the metal warning signs have
rusted away?

The nuclear power industry faces an uncertain future unless it can
successfully address waste management, says Allison
Macfarlane

, chair of
the US
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
 (NRC), an independent U.S. government commission, created by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 and charged with licensing and regulating civilian use of nuclear energy to protect the public and the environment.
. The post-Fukushima world demands
redefining a successful nuclear power program to include not only the
safe production of electricity but also the secure and sustainable
lifecycle of nuclear power–from uranium mining to the disposal of spent
fuel. If this cannot be achieved, Macfarlane says, “then the public
in many countries will reject nuclear as an energy choice.”

–JANE BRAXTON LITTLE