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30 years on, Ukraine mourns victims of Chernobyl

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CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE – Ukrainians held candlelit vigils Tuesday to mark 30 years since the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl spewed radiation across Europe and left several thousand people dead or dying.

Church bells rang and mourners laid flowers at Chernobyl’s memorial square as the clock turned 1:23 a.m. — the moment the plant’s reactor number four exploded and changed the fate of a generation living across the former Soviet Union.

“There was crying and screaming,” local pensioner Maria Urupa told AFP as she recalled the terror that struck locals as they watched poisonous clouds of radiation waft in from the plant.

At least 30 people were killed on site and several thousand more are feared to have died from radiation in what Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said appears to have been the world’s largest man-made catastrophe.

The exact number of dead remains a subject of intense debate because the Soviet authorities kept most of the information about the disaster hidden.

More than 200 tons of uranium remain inside the crippled reactor that spattered radiation across three quarters of Europe after a botched safety test.

Lingering fears of new leaks occurring should the aging structure covering the toxins crack have prompted a global push to fund the construction of a giant new arch that should keep the site safe for generations.

The U.N. watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency used the anniversary to warn against “complacency” in nuclear safety.

The “key lesson” from both Chernobyl and the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 was that “safety can never be taken for granted,” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said.

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But Poroshenko said his country “will not be able to stop using atomic power” as it tries to wean itself off its energy dependence on its former master Russia.

Poroshenko also warned that Russia’s alleged support for a pro-Moscow insurgency in the east was threatening a repeat of the Chernobyl catastrophe — because Ukraine has its largest nuclear plant on the very edge of the war zone.

AFP

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Over 70% of deep-sea fish of Atlantic Ocean have ingested plastic : Study

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Fragments of plastic are found throughout the world, from nearly every continent to nearly every body of water. But, researchers recently have found 73 percent of Northwest Atlantic deep-sea fish are also eating it — the highest reported frequency of plastic-eating fish in the world.

Plastic particles were found in some of the most remote parts of the Atlantic Ocean with almost three quarters of a sample of more than 230 deep-water fish collected by NUI Galway scientists having ingested plastic particles.

The contamination level among the fish species, located in the northwest Atlantic thousands of kilometres from land and 600m down in the ocean, is one of the highest reported frequencies of microplastic occurrence in fish worldwide, according to the study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

The NUIG scientists, as part of the study, participated in a transatlantic crossing onboard the marine institute’s Celtic Explorer vessel.

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PhD candidate and lead author Alina Wieczorek said, “Deep-water fish migrate to the surface at night to feed on plankton [microscopic animals] and this is likely when they are exposed to the microplastics.”

During this research cruise they took dead deep-sea fish from midwater trawls such as the spotted lanternfish, rakery beaconlamp, stout saw-palate and scaly dragonfish.

Microplastics are small plastic fragments that commonly originate from the breakdown of larger plastic items entering the ocean. Other sources may be waste water effluents carrying plastic fibres from clothing and microbeads from personal care products. Due to their low density, most of these microplastics float at the sea surface.

The fish ranged in size from the smallest species the Glacier Lantern at 3.5cm to the largest species, the stout saw-palate at 59cm.

Agencies

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