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Chernobyl Disaster Leaves Radioactive Wild Boars Roaming Germany

The explosion at the Ukrainian plant spread a radioactive cloud over Europe in 1986.
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MAINZ, Germany -- Nearly three decades after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, wild boars containing high levels of radiation have been found roaming the German countryside some 700 miles away. The explosion at the Ukrainian plant in 1986 spread a radioactive cloud over Europe. One in three boars tested in Germany’s eastern state of Saxony still exceed legal radioactive limits, officials say. "You should not expect that wild boars in the southern Vogtland region are now glowing in the dark, but regulations in Germany and the European Union are very strict," local environment ministry spokesman Frank Meyer told NBC News.

Between September 2012 and August 2013, 297 out of 752 boars exceeded legal limits of radiation -- particularly the hazardous isotope Caesium 137, which has a 30-year half-life and decays slowly. But to give an idea of how strict the regulations really are, experts say that a person would have to eat 13 kilograms of contaminated meat to get the same low-level radioactive effects of being on a transatlantic flight. Saxony boars are particularly affected because of heavy rain in the region directly after the disaster, and "their diet of mushrooms and other plants that store radiation," according to Klaus Richter from Saxony’s hunting association. Germany’s boar population has skyrocketed over the past 20 years. Since 2012, hunters in Saxony have been required by law to test every animal they shoot.

Image: Boars stroll near Munich, Germany, in 2010
Wild boars stroll at a forest in Eglharting near Munich, Germany, on Aug. 18, 2010.Matthias Schrader / AP, file


- Andy Eckardt