- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
If someone were to ask you, “What’s the very last thing this world needs more of right now?”, you might say, “Oh, I don’t know, but off the top of my head, maybe radioactive boars?”
In that case, we’ve got some bad news for you.
First, in February, came reports of radioactive boars roaming through the Czech Republic. The boars eat mushrooms made toxic from the radioactive metal cesium-137, which made its way into Czech soil from the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 30 years ago. The boars eat wild mushrooms in winter. Boar meat is then used in goulash.
Happily, radioactive meat is banned from circulation. Unhappily, because cesium-137 has a half life of 30 years, the boars are likely to be radioactive for a while — and almost half of the animals inspected from 2014 to 2016 were affected. You don’t need to hold off on the goulash, though — radioactive meat is not served, and you would need to eat it numerous times a week for numerous months to get sick.
Then, on Thursday, the New York Times helpfully noted the presence of radioactive boars in Japan. These boars were rendered toxic not from Chernobyl, but Fukushima, where another nuclear meltdown took place six years ago. Those who evacuated at the time are now being told to return to their abandoned homes — except they can’t do that so easily, because hundreds of toxic wild boar are roaming through the area, and officials are having a tough time clearing them out. (They’re aggressive little devils, as a rule.)
In Japan, as in the Czech Republic, boar is a delicacy, but not when the boars show levels of cesium-137 that are 300 times higher than the safe level. Also, as the boars have been wild boars for six years, they are likely to attack humans who are, say, returning to reclaim their abandoned homes. Also, this whole endeavor has seen hunters kill 800 wild boars so far.
So, a couple of takeaways. Nuclear meltdowns have consequences miles away from where they occur, and decades after they conclude. But we already suspected that.
More importantly, just because things are going off the rails, don’t think for a second they can’t get any worse.
Photo credit: SWEN PFOERTNER/AFP/Getty Images