Lapland reindeer herders still carrying radiation from Cold War nuclear tests via YLE

The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority is measuring radiation among people in Ivalo, northern Lapland this week. Measurements have been taken there since the 1960s, which is when radiation figures skyrocketed due to Soviet and US nuclear testing.


According to watchdog Stuk, Soviet nuclear bomb tests over Novaja Zemlja in the Arctic Ocean – some 1,000 kilometres from Ivalo – raised the radiation in the city a thousandfold compared with long-term levels.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute published its latest radiation report in 2011, fifty years after the Soviet tests.

Stuke laboratory head Maarit Muikku says that nuclear testing by the United States during the Cold War also released cesium into the stratosphere, from where they have descended to Finnish Lapland and other areas.

The highest average levels of cesium-137 in humans in Inari and Utsjoki – 45,000 becquerels – were recorded in the mid-60s. By comparison, the figures from 2011 have a mid range of about 1,100 becqurels; but that is still ten times higher than the rest of Finland’s population.

From moss to reindeer to person

Reindeer herder Taneli Magga has been involved in the measurements since their inception, first as a school boy in Inari in 1961.

“The levels have gone down every time I’ve been involved. This last time cesium levels had fallen by 200 becquerels in six years,” says Magga.


Research in Finland and Norway has shown that Sámi herders have much less cancer than the rest of the country.

Finland’s Skolt Sámi minority suffers from higher rates of stomach cancer than the rest of the country’s populace, according to a dissertation in 2015. The reasons for the prevalence have not been studied.

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