dnews-files-2013-01-cow-in-Japan-jpgOne of abandoned cows in Fukushima Prefecture, April 2011          Photo Credit:  Voice of America, Steve Herman, Wikimedia Commons

In March of 2011, cattle were abandoned in the evacuated zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the earthquake and tsunami released the plant’s radioactive materials.

A research team led by Tohoku University engineer Tomokazu Fukuda examined 79 cattle and found traces of radioactive cesium, silver and tellurium.

The cattle’s fetuses and calves conceived after the disaster had radioactive materials concentrations up to 150% higher than the mature cattle’s readings.  The team found that radioactivity was most heavily concentrated in the muscles (aka meat) of the cattle.

The level of radioactivity differed according to what the cattle had been fed.  A group of cows kept in a pen and fed uncontaminated grass were less radioactive than those allowed to freely graze in the 20-kilometer area around the plant.

During some of the first tests of the atomic bomb at the Trinity site in New Mexico, cattle were accidentally exposed to radioactive fallout.  Scientists studied the cows to establish their ability to stand up to radiation.

A sad footnote to the radioactive cattle—a couple weeks ago, a fish caught near the Fukushima plant had over 2,500 times Japan’s legal limit for radiation in seafood.

Source:  Discovery, January 30, 2013  Drovers CattleNetwork, January 2013     Study published in PLOS ONE, January 2013


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