The employees of the Faculty of Geography and the Faculty of Soil Science at Moscow State University studied the levels of heavy metals and radiation in agricultural products grown on the chernozems of Tula Oblast, within the so-called Plavsk Radioactive Spot. This area was affected by the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986.
"After the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the radiation levels are still increased on many agricultural lands. But is it worth abandoning them and not using them due to the existing radiophobia?" - commented a Senior Researcher at the Faculty of Geography of Lomonosov Moscow State University, project leader of the work related to the analysis the heavy metal content, Ivan Semenkov.
The scientists of Lomonosov Moscow State University found out whether the lands of the Plavsk Radioactive Spot can be used in agriculture without risk to human or animal health. In particular, they analyzed the arable layer of chernozems and four types of the most used plants: soybeans, wheat, goat's rue and smooth brome (the last two are eaten by livestock). The roots, aerial shoots and leaves, as well as seeds - wheat grains and soybeans – were examined.
"According to our data, despite the fact that the cesium-137 content in the chernozem of the Plavsk Radioactive Spot is persistently exceeding the norm, in plant products (soybeans, wheat, goat's rue and smooth brome) the levels of stable and radioactive pollutants (lead, manganese, arsenic, chromium, copper, vanadium , nickel, zinc, cesium-137 and others) do not exceed the standards," said Tatyana Paramonova, senior lecturer of the Faculty of Soil Science at Lomonosov Moscow State University, project leader of the work related to the analysis of radionuclide content.
In the studied crops, cesium-137 accumulates only in small amounts. According to the scientists, this is due to natural mechanisms: cesium is absorbed by the roots from the soil and is blocked, without moving further into the shoots and fruits. It was also found that the accumulation of heavy metals in soybeans, wheat, goat's rue and smooth brome does not differ from the accumulation in plants grown in other regions that are free from radiation.
The study of agricultural products within the Plavsk Radioactive Spot is carried out at the expense of state funding. In 2020-2021, the scientists plan to analyze other crops, such as corn and potatoes, for the content of heavy metals.
The construction of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant began in 1970; the city of Pripyat was built nearby for the personnel. The first reactor of the Plant was connected to the power system of the Soviet Union on September 27, 1977. Later, three more reactors were commissioned. The Plant produced 29 billion kilowatt-hours of energy annually.
On the night of April 26, 1986, the turbine generator was tested at the 4th reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It was planned to shutdown the reactor and measure the generator's performance. The reactor could not be safely shut down. An explosion occurred at the reactor, and then a fire. The accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was the largest disaster in the history of nuclear energy. There was a significant release of radioactive materials into the environment: on the territory of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Among the most affected Russian regions are Bryansk, Kaluga and Tula (in particular, the Plavsk Radioactive Spot is located there).