Radioactive reindeer surprise Norwegian scientists

Oslo -- Maybe one of them will sprout a bright red nose. Norwegian reindeer are more radioactive than they have been in recent years, possibly owing to their mushroom snacks, researchers said. Lavrans Skuterud, a scientist at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, said reindeer at Vaga reinlag AS, in the central Norwegian Jotunheimen mountainous area, were found in September to have nearly eight times the amount of radioactive substance Caesium-137
in their bodies as was measured around the same time in 2012. "This year is extreme," Skuterud told The Local. Skuterud said gypsy mushrooms, a popular food source for the reindeer as well as for humans, have been known to store high amounts of radioactive material. "This year, there has been extreme amounts of mushroom. In addition, the mushroom season has lasted for a long time. And the mushroom has grown very high up on the mountains," he said. Skuterud said the findings were surprising as the source of the Caesium-137, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, is approaching its 30th anniversary. He said the radioactive substance has a 30-year half-life, meaning half of the dust that crossed over to Norway from the disaster will be gone by 2016. "The level of [radioactivity] in the environment still decreases faster than this. Some of it is washed out and most of it is bound to the soil. Only a small part of it is in circulation throughout the food chain. When we watch the values in the grazing animals in autumn, it bounces up and down, and it seems to be everlasting. But the winter values in reindeer luckily show a stable decrease," he said.