Moscow has condemned Britain’s plans to build new military bases in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, saying Russia is prepared to take retaliatory measures if its own interests or those of its allies are threatened.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph in December 2018 that Britain could establish the new military bases “within the next couple of years” after the country leaves the European Union.
Williamson said the expansion would be part of a strategy for Britain to become a “true global player” after Brexit.
He did not specify where the bases might be built. But the newspaper reported that options included Singapore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson.
Speaking on Jan. 11, 2019, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Maria Zakharova said Williamson’s comments were baffling and warned that such plans could destabilize world affairs.
“Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world…statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counterproductive, destabilizing, and possibly of a provocational nature,” she was quoted as saying by TASS.
Russia has military bases in several former Soviet countries. It also operates military facilities in Syria and Vietnam.
The destroyer’s crew is credited with saving the vessel after that devastating accident. Now, Navy officials say the Fitz is marking “a significant step in her return to warfighting readiness.”
The ship has spent two years undergoing repairs at the Huntington Ingalls Industries-Ingalls Shipbuilding’s Pascagoula shipyard. It will now carry out a series of demonstrations at sea that will test the ship’s navigation, electrical, combat, communications and propulsions systems.
“The underway reflects nearly two years’ worth of effort in restoring and modernizing one of the Navy’s most capable warships after it was damaged during a collision in 2017 that claimed the lives of seven Sailors,” a Naval Sea Systems Command news release states.
Once the evaluations are done, the destroyer will head back to the shipyard for more training and crew certifications. The Fitzgerald is scheduled to return to the fleet in the spring.
“We are excited to take the next step to get Fitzgerald back out to sea where the ship belongs,” Cmdr. Scott Wilbur, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “My crew is looking forward to moving onboard the ship and continuing our training to ensure we are ready to return to the fleet.”
The Fitzgerald was one of two destroyers damaged in separate fatal 2017 collisions in the Pacific. Ten sailors died when guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain collided with a civilian tanker near Singapore about two months after the Fitzgerald accident.
The tragic accidents sparked a host of changes to the way the Navy trains personnel to operate on ships, as well as to sleep schedules and other policies. The accidents also led to fierce criticism after reports found Navy leaders had ignored a host of warning signs in the months and years leading up to the collisions.
Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces Pacific Fleet, is scheduled to testify before members of the House this week on the state of Navy readiness in the Pacific.
The US Supreme Court has lifted an injunction against the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, allowing him to enforce his policy barring certain transgender troops from joining or staying in the military.
President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court in November 2018 to lift injunctions issued by federal court judges, which placed a hold on the policy’s implementation while a legal challenge continues in lower courts.
The conservative majority granted the president’s request on Jan. 22, 2019, essentially allowing the ban to be implemented while lower courts decide on its constitutionality. Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have kept the injunctions in place blocking the policy, Reuters reported.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Along with the request to lift injunctions, the Trump administration also asked the Supreme Court to bypass normal judicial proceedings by deciding the legal merits of the policy. The justices refused, allowing a California-based federal appeals court to issue a ruling.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you’re a fan of Watchmen and you’re worried about the upcoming series from HBO, rest assured: it is in the hands of a true fan as well.
Set in the same alternate history as the graphic novel, Damon Lindelof’s (Lost, Star Trek) series will take place in the modern day where superheroes are mistrusted and the vigilante Rorschach appears to have made quite the impact.
The teaser runs against the ‘tick tock’ of a timeline we can’t yet understand, but it sets a gritty and intense tone:
In anticipation of fan’s reactions (and also to address the reactions of original creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), Lindelof penned a lengthy (and amazing — seriously, read the whole thing) missive, which he shared on Instagram in 2018:
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjFsj6JHEdq/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Damon on Instagram: “Day 140.”
“We have no desire to ‘adapt’ the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created thirty years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted. They will, however be remixed.”
Lindelof goes on to assert that “Watchmen is canon. Just the way Mr. Moore wrote it, the way Mr. Gibbons drew it and the way the brilliant John Higgins colored it.” (By the way, the omission of an Oxford Comma here is just as Mr. Lindelof wrote in his letter, which I will discuss with him when I get the chance.)
That being said, he goes on to say that neither is this series a sequel. It will take place in the world the creators built, but it will be entirely its own — including a contemporary (albeit alternate) time period.
Rorschach isn’t the only character hinted at in the teaser. The ticking time clock itself harkens to Dr. Manhattan (whose father was a watchmaker) and the Doomsday Clocks that appear in the original graphic novels, counting down to catastrophe.
As for the rest, well, most of them are Oklahoma cops, who also wear masks.
The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, and Adelaide Clemens. Produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television, based on characters from DC. It is set to debut on HBO in the fall of 2019.
The McCurtain County VA Clinic and members of the local community gathered in Idabel, Oklahoma to celebrate World War II veteran Sydney Hunnicutt’s 102nd birthday.
“We truly care about the veterans in our community and we just want to make a difference,” said Lisa Morphew, registered nurse and clinic manager. “We love our veterans and want to show them that we’re here to help, whatever their needs are.”
VA clinic staff presented birthday cards and Jonathan Plasencia, associate director for the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, presented a gift bag to Hunnicutt on behalf of VA Voluntary Service.
Twelve of Hunnicutt’s family members were able to attend the party including several who were visiting from California. Dorothy Cash, Hunnicutt’s daughter, said she was grateful to the clinic and community who helped make the day special for her father.
Jonathan Plasencia shakes Sydney Hunnicutt’s hand.
“It means the world to us,” said Cash.
During World War II, Hunnicutt was drafted into the U.S. Army and deployed to the Philippines with the 63rd Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division. During the Battle of Luzon, Hunnicutt fought the Japanese and was shot in his left hand. He lost two fingers and was later awarded a Purple Heart.
“It’s an honor to be here today to celebrate a member of the Greatest Generation,” said Plasencia, who drove from the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee to celebrate Hunnicutt’s milestone. “Veterans have many options for their health care and when they place their trust in VA, that is a privilege we do not take lightly.”
“It couldn’t have been better,” said Hunnicutt, who turns 102 on July 13, 2019.
Clinic staff join Sydney Hunnicutt for his 102nd birthday celebration.
Hunnicutt has been a patient at the clinic since it opened in 2017, and Dr. Jose Gomez has served as his primary care physician.
“He is so happy,” said Cash. “Dr. Gomez has been the best.”
Dr. Gomez said it’s been a privilege to provide care for Hunnicutt.
“I want to thank him for his courage and for putting his life on the line for us to be able to have the freedoms that we have,” he said. “It’s an honor just to shake his hand.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) soldiers have their Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) gear tested by a Korean observer/controller at the Twin Bridges training area on Oct. 31, 1998. The ROKA forces will be using MILES for the first time against the 3rd Brigade, 2d Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Washington, during a simulated battle at Twin Bridges, located 25 minutes west of Tongduch'on, Republic of Korea, on Nov. 2, 1998, during the combined exercise Foal Eagle '98.
In October of 1983, a team of North Koreans bombed the Martyr’s Mausoleum in Yangon, Burma in an attempt to assassinate South Korean President Chun Doo-Hwan. The president survived, but 21 others were killed, including 17 South Koreans and important members of the South Korean government.
Although the South publicly denounced North Korea for its actions in the United Nations, privately, the country vowed revenge and began to train a team of special operators to infiltrate North Korea to inflict biblical retribution.
South Korea, one elderly veteran says, had been training commandos for such missions since the North attempted to assassinate the South’s president at the Blue House in 1968. That mission was called off, but the Republic of Korea trained thousands of secret specialists in case a mission was necessary.
In response to the Yangon Incident, the South Korean military decided to destroy some of North Korea’s most significant landmarks, like the Tower of the Juche Idea and the Pyongyang Central Broadcasting Tower.
Training began immediately after the future commandos were selected. But they weren’t picked from the regular army or even the South Korean Special Forces. They were recruited from the civilian population with the promise of overwhelming sums of money given to them or their families, should they not survive the mission. The South Koreans allegedly preferred to get young single men with no parents for the training.
For basic training, these civilians were forced to run at least 8 miles per hour while carrying 19-pound rucksacks and 3-pound weights on each ankle. The idea was to be able to stay ahead of North Korean special forces once their missions were complete. One trainee remembers his rucksack caused his back to bleed, created a giant blister, and soon turned his back into a giant callous.
The trainees also needed to learn how to charge through barbed wire and iron fences at top speed, search for booby traps and evade them, all so they could make it to the North through the demilitarized zone.
Once in North Korea, the operators would have to survive far from civilization, hiding out in the mountains and evading the Korean People’s Army. To do so, they learned to survive by eating rats and snakes in the south. Once in a major city, however, things could go wrong very fast.
The trainees learned to be North Korean soldiers, use North Korean weapons, and wear North Korean uniforms. Despite successive presidents calling off major retaliation against the North (including the bombings of prominent landmarks after the Yangon Incident), Southerners still made thousands of incursions across the DMZ.
In the days before satellite imaging, the only way to get intelligence and imagery across the border was to actually go there and snap photos. Retaliatory attacks were made, but if the North Koreans cared, they didn’t share it with the world.
Thousands of South Koreans were trained to go north, and thousands went. Thousands also did not return. Those who did were sworn to secrecy. What is known about the infiltrators only comes from the son of one of them, who overheard things his father would talk about while staring into space, drinking a soju.
For me, Memorial Day has always been about more than just picnics and barbecues. I have five members of my family buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The earliest served in the Spanish American War, and all the way to World War II. It’s important that their service be honored and remembered — especially on Memorial Day.
In early May 2011, I was looking for some way to give back to my country. I worked as a flower grower in Ecuador and I had an idea. Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. After the Civil War, people would go to cemeteries and decorate gravesites with flowers.
I met with two other Ecuador-based American flower growers, and together we were able to coordinate a massive donation of fresh flowers. I called up the administration at Arlington National Cemetery and said, ‘We’ve got 10,000 roses for you, for Memorial Day.'” And they happily accepted the offer.
Memorial Day Flowers Foundation at Fort Logan National Cemetery.
And that was how the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation had its start. Scouts and other volunteers place a flower in front of each headstone. Volunteers quietly read every headstone and note the dates and circumstances. This moment of reflection and remembrance is important. It’s a very personal tribute.
What began at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 2011 with 10,000 roses, has expanded to dozens of cemeteries around the country. Last year, the foundation distributed 400,000 flowers at 41 cemeteries and other Memorial Day observances around the country.
That expansion would not have been possible without volunteers and broad-based partnerships and support. These days, the foundation sources flowers from 80 to 90 farms, including farms in California, Colombia, Ecuador, and Ethiopia.
Since 2013, we have worked with local groups to organize floral tributes for Memorial Day at National Cemeteries and Veterans Cemeteries across the U.S.
Our growth would not have been possible without the guidance and involvement of the National Cemetery Administration. Cemetery directors find our efforts provide a way for the general public to connect with their mission to honor our late veterans and instill an appreciation for the sacrifices they make.
Memorial Day Flowers Foundation volunteers prepare roses at the Houston National Cemetery.
We also distribute bouquets of flowers to gold star families attending the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar over Memorial Day Weekend, organized by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
In 2019, more than 100 cemeteries are participating in the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation’s efforts around the country.
The numbers amaze me every time I look at them. Now we talk about tens of thousands of flowers. We still have a long way to go, before every veteran’s gravesite is recognized on Memorial Day, but we are well on our way to reaching that goal.
I also know the difference just one flower can make. One year, as we gave out flowers on Memorial Day, I handed a rose to an older woman. She thanked me and said, “His father brought me roses the day he was born.” Then she invited me to walk with her to visit her son’s gravesite. And as we stood there together in the hot sun and she told me her son’s story, I knew one flower could mean everything to one person
Placing a flower for Memorial Day to honor a fallen service member or veteran is a quiet tribute; a heartfelt reminder of just what flowers can mean to people — and what it means to honor the sacrifices of U.S. military members and their families. It brings together people from all walks of life to honor those who have served our country and it helps all of us learn more about our history.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The first time the F-15 Strike Eagle saw combat was in the skies over the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. Although the F-15 C and D were incredibly lethal in air-to-air combat, the F-15E was primarily used to take out mobile Scud missiles and surface-to-air missile sites. It was the F-15E’s only air-to-air kill during Desert Storm that would become the most memorable.
On Valentine’s Day 1991, the offensive part of the First Gulf War was in full swing. U.S. Air Force Captains Richard “TB” Bennett and Dan “Chewie” Bakke were pilot and weapons system officer, respectively, on a Scud patrol. AWACS ordered their F-15E to hit Mi-24 Hind Gunships that were close to a U.S. Special Forces operation.
Bakke told the author of “Debrief: A Complete History of U.S. Aerial Engagements” that the F-15E’s radar became “intermittent” when they moved to strike. The pilot couldn’t get a missile lock on the targets because one the Hinds began to accelerate so fast. Bakke switched his thinking to a ground attack.
Since he could only see the rotors using his LANTIRN pod (the ground targeting system used by the Strike Eagles) Bakke used a laser-guided, 2,000-pound GBU-10 bomb on the helicopter as it began to lift off. The bomb when through the rotors and the cockpit, its fuse delay exploding the munition underneath the Hind, completely disintegrating the helicopter. The other helicopters bolted after that and more U.S. air cover came in to protect the ground force.
After the Special Forces team was extracted, they confirmed the F-15E’s kill and sent Bennett and Bakke a “Thank You” via their headquarters based in Riyadh.
Following the rulebook isn’t always a necessity. Well, that’s how the Marine Corps infantry feels about doctrine, anyway. Sure, there are hundreds of people who put their great minds together to come up with standard procedures for everything relating to warfare, but even still, us grunts take those “procedures” as suggestions. Why? Simple. We recognize that what may work for one unit doesn’t work for everyone.
This is the case with the fire team billet of “automatic rifleman.” The position is supposed to be held by the team leader’s second in command, usually a trusted advisor who can help run the team. But, over the years, Marines thought of a better person to hold the billet: boots. New guys. The FNGs. While some higher-ups might see this as hazing, the down-and-dirty, crayon-eating grunts disagree.
We argue that being an automatic rifleman teaches you these valuable lessons:
Accuracy is key. Pay attention and you might even score higher on the next qualification range.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)
Some battalions have what’s called a “Squad-Level Advanced Marksmanship Course,” which is a fancy, Marine Corps way of saying, “automatic rifleman course.” That’s essentially what it is. But the focus is, as the name suggests, on marksmanship. Why? Because to be a good automatic rifleman, you must first be a good rifleman.
Learning how to engage accurately with an automatic weapon also teaches you how to be a substantially more effective rifleman. After all, you’re firing a high volume of bullets and, the more accurate you are, the more devastating to the enemy you are.
You’ll want to let the rounds fly, but each one is important. Always be mindful of that.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders)
It’s no secret that you get a lot of ammo as an automatic rifleman — around 18-22 magazines, to be exact, most of which you’ll be responsible for lugging around. But while learning about accuracy, you might also learn about conserving ammo.
The idea is this: You need to have enough ammo at the end of the fight to move on to the next fight. Especially if you’re the automatic rifleman, your fire team needs you.
This lesson of control can even help you as a leader, telling your automatic rifleman what you want them to do.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)
Quickly, you’ll learn that an automatic rifleman shouldn’t just unleash a barrage of bullets. You’ll learn when it’s appropriate to fire on full auto and when it’s appropriate to fire in 5-6 round bursts into large groups of enemies. This is important because, as you move up in rank and experience, you’ll be able to teach the next automatic rifleman about control.
This same control will help you with ammo conservation. More importantly, all these lessons will follow you into other fire team positions. In fact, if you become a squad leader, knowing how to use your automatic riflemen will be easier if you’ve been one.
Going to college is a huge step in every veteran’s life after they get out of the military. You just finished serving your country, now you can go to school full time and get it completely paid for – and get paid while you’re doing it.
We earned a pretty epic deal.
But the benefits of being a veteran don’t have to stop there. If you play your cards right, you can flex your “veteran” title and receive some less-than-official bonuses.
Check out these insightful ways to pull the veteran card in your school – but please use these tips for good and not evil.
1. Getting accepted
Colleges around the country tend to have a strict application process which weed out many student hopefuls. Having the government willing to pay your full tuition is a huge benefit in the school’s eyes — everyone likes to get paid.
It’s a fact.
It’s important that you fill out all the necessary paperwork in a timely order or risk sitting at home for a whole semester.
Please stop clapping like that — its only community college. (Image via Giphy)
2. Receiving extra time for homework and other projects
The majority of colleges have procedures in place for veterans who have “focus issues,” which is great. As long as you let your teachers and the school’s administration know you may have this issue because of your deployments, the more lee way you’re bound to get.
We know you do! (Image via Giphy)
3. Booking classes
Sometimes classes just fill up too quickly, and a veteran can’t register for one of the spots in time — we know it sucks.
Here’s what you do — tell whoever is in charge of booking the classes that you won’t get your monthly VA benefits unless you can get in, followed by the sweetest smile you can muster.
Even after decades of observations and a visit by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, Uranus held on to one critical secret — the composition of its clouds. Now, one of the key components of the planet’s clouds has finally been verified.
A global research team that includes Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has spectroscopically dissected the infrared light from Uranus captured by the 26.25-foot (8-meter) Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. They found hydrogen sulfide, the odiferous gas that most people avoid, in Uranus’ cloud tops. The long-sought evidence was published in the April 23, 2018, issue of the journal Nature Astronomy.
The detection of hydrogen sulfide high in Uranus’ cloud deck (and presumably Neptune’s) is a striking difference from the gas giant planets located closer to the Sun — Jupiter and Saturn — where ammonia is observed above the clouds, but no hydrogen sulfide. These differences in atmospheric composition shed light on questions about the planets’ formation and history.
“We’ve strongly suspected that hydrogen sulfide gas was influencing the millimeter and radio spectrum of Uranus for some time, but we were unable to attribute the absorption needed to identify it positively. Now, that part of the puzzle is falling into place as well,” Orton said.
The Gemini data, obtained with the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS), sampled reflected sunlight from a region immediately above the main visible cloud layer in Uranus’ atmosphere.
“While the lines we were trying to detect were just barely there, we were able to detect them unambiguously thanks to the sensitivity of NIFS on Gemini, combined with the exquisite conditions on Mauna Kea,” said lead author Patrick Irwin of the University of Oxford, U.K.
No worries, though, that the odor of hydrogen sulfide would overtake human senses. According to Irwin, “Suffocation and exposure in the negative 200 degrees Celsius [392 degrees Fahrenheit] atmosphere made of mostly hydrogen, helium, and methane would take its toll long before the smell.”
Read more on the news of Uranus’ atmosphere from Gemini Observatory here.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
On Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, U.S. airmen dropped the nuclear bombs Little Boy and Fat Man on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On April 26, 1986, the number four reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine exploded.
Today, over 1.6 million people live and seem to be thriving in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet the Chernobyl exclusion zone, a 30 square kilometer area surrounding the plant, remains relatively uninhabited. Here’s why.
Fat Man and Little Boy
Dropped by the Enola Gay on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, Little Boy was a uranium-fueled bomb about 10 feet long and just over two feet across, that held 140 pounds of uranium and weighed nearly 10,000 pounds.
When he exploded as planned nearly 2000 feet above Hiroshima, about two pounds of uranium underwent nuclear fission as it released nearly 16 kilotons of explosive force. Since Hiroshima was on a plain, Little Boy caused immense damage. Estimates vary but it is believed that approximately 70,000 people were killed and an equal number were injured on that day, and nearly 70% of the city’s buildings were destroyed. Since then, approximately 1,900 people, or about 0.5% of the post-bombing population, are believed to have died from cancers attributable to Little Boy’s radiation release.
A mock-up of the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima.
Squat and round, Fat Man, so named for its resemblance to Kasper Gutman from The Maltese Falcon, was dropped three days later on the city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.About two pounds of Fat Man’s 14 pounds of plutonium fissioned when it detonated about 1,650 feet above Nagasaki, releasing 21 kilotons of explosive force. Because the bomb exploded in a valley, much of the city was protected from the blast. Nonetheless, it is estimated that between 45,000 and 70,000 died immediately, and another 75,000 were injured. No data on subsequent cancer deaths attributable to radiation exposure from the bomb is readily available.
The design of the reactors at Chernobyl was significantly flawed. First, it had a “built-in instability.” When it came, this instability created a vicious cycle, where the coolant would decrease while the reactions (and heat) increased; with less and less coolant, it became increasingly difficult to control the reactions. Second, rather than having a top-notch containment structure consisting of a steel liner plate and post-tensioning and conventional steel reinforced concrete, at Chernobyl they only used heavy concrete.
On April 26, 1986, engineers wanted to run a test of how long electrical turbines powered by the reactor would continue operating when the reactor was no longer producing power. To get the experiment to work, they had to disable many of the reactor’s safety systems. This included turning off most automatic safety controls and removing ever more control rods (which absorb neutrons and limit the reaction). In fact by the end of the test, only 6 of the reactor’s 205 control rods remained in the fuel.
As they ran the experiment, less cooling water entered the reactor, and what was there began to turn to steam. As less coolant was available, the reaction increased to dangerous levels. To counteract this, the operators tried to reinsert the remaining control rods. Sadly, the rods also had a design flaw in the graphite tips. This resulted in the displacement of the coolant before the reaction could be brought under control. In a nutshell, as these tips displaced the coolant, within seconds the reaction actually increased drastically due to the heat, creating even more steam, and thus getting rid of more coolant.
This might have not been so bad had the control rods been able to be inserted fully to perform their function of absorbing neutrons and thus slowing the reaction, except the heat became so intense, that some of the graphite rods fractured, jamming the rods at about one third of the way in.
A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.
So, in the end, when the nearly 200 graphite tips were inserted into the fuel, reactivity increased rapidly, rather than slowed as was supposed to happen, and the whole thing blew up. It is estimated that about seven to ten tons of nuclear fuel were released and at least 28 people died directly as a result of the explosion.
It is further estimated that over 90,000 square miles of land was seriously contaminated with the worst effects being felt in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. However, radiation quickly spread in the wind and affected wide swaths of the northern hemisphere and Europe, including England, Scotland and Wales.
Hard data on the number of people who died as a result of the radioactive release are difficult to find. It is known that of the 100 people exposed to super high radiation levels immediately after the accident, 47 are now deceased. Additionally, it has been reported that thyroid disease skyrocketed in those countries closest to Chernobyl; by 2005, 7,000 cases of thyroid cancer were recorded in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
Most experts agree that the areas in the 30 kilometer Chernobyl exclusion zone are terribly contaminated with radioactive isotopes like caesium-137, strontium-90 and iodine-131, and, therefore, are unsafe for human habitation. Yet neither Nagasaki nor Hiroshima suffer these conditions. This difference is attributable to three factors: (1) the Chernobyl reactor had a lot more nuclear fuel; (2) that was much more efficiently used in reactions; and (3) the whole mess exploded at ground level. Consider:
Little Boy had around 140 pounds of uranium, Fat Man contained about 14 pounds of plutonium and reactor number four had about 180 tons of nuclear fuel.
Only about two pounds of Little Boy’s uranium actually reacted. Likewise only about two pounds Fat Man’s plutonium underwent nuclear fission. However, at Chernobyl, at least seven tons of nuclear fuel escaped into the atmosphere; in addition, because the nuclear fuel melted, volatile radioisotopes were released including 100% of its xenon and krypton, 50% of its radioactive iodine and between 20-40% of its cesium.
Both Fat Man and Little Boy were detonated in mid-air, hundreds of feet above the Earth’s surface. As a result, the radioactive debris was taken aloft and dispersed by the mushroom cloud rather than being drilled into the earth. On the other hand, when reactor number four melted down at ground level, the soil underwent neutron activation, where the already active neutrons in the burning fuel reacted with the soil causing it to become radioactive.
Lately, some weird reports have been coming from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – wild animals have returned, and, for the most part, they seem fine. Moose, deer, beaver, wild boar, otter, badger, horses, elk, ducks, swans, storks and more are now being hunted by bears, lynx and packs of wolves, all of which look physically normal (but test high for radioactive contamination). In fact, even early effects of mutations in plants, including malformations and even glowing are now mostly limited to the five most-contaminated places.
Although not everyone is ready to agree that Chernobyl is proof that nature can heal herself, scientists agree that studying the unique ecosystem, and how certain species appear to be thriving, has produced data that will ultimately help our understanding of long term radiation effects. For example, wheat seeds taken from the site shortly after the accident produced mutations that continue to this day, yet soybeans grown near the reactor in 2009 seem to have adapted to the higher radiation. Similarly, migrant birds, like barn swallows, seem to struggle more with the radiation in the zone than resident species. As one expert explained, they’re studying the zone’s flora and fauna to learn the answer to a simple question: “Are we more like barn swallows or soybeans?“
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.