Chernobyl, Ukraine (nsnbc) – A forest and wildfire, reportedly spanning over some 5,000 – 10,000 hectares in the exclusion zone around Ukraine’s crippled Chernobyl nuclear power plant is being combated by Ukrainian emergency services. PM Yatzenyuk states that the “situation is under control”. Interior Minister Avakov states that the situation is worsening. Meanwhile, the burning of organic materials which have bio-accumulated radioactive isotopes since 1986 may cause a new wave of radioactive fallout.
A series of forest fires in the 30 kilometer or 18.6 mile exclusion zone around the ChernobylNPP that went through an explosion and a 30% meltdown caused by human error in 1986 continues raging on.
Ukrainian PM Arseny Yatzenyuk told Ukrainian and international media that emergency services and National Guard units have the situation under control.Locals report to nsnbc that the fires continue approaching the sarcophagus that was built around the defunct power plant and that the fires also continue to approach nuclear waste storage facilities in the“forbidden zone”.
While PM Yatzenyuk stated that the fires involve some 400 hectares, local residents informed nsnbc that the “fires” themselves may very well cover some 400 hectares, but that the fires are dispersed over some 10,000 hectares. Similar statements have been issued by the Russian chapter of Greenpeace.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, who is in charge of Ukraine’s National Guard, contradicted PM Yatzenyuk’s statement’s. On his Facebook page, Avakov stressed that the situation continues to worsen and that:
“The forest fire is heading in the direction of Chernobyl’s installations. Treetop flames and strong gusts of wind have created a real danger of the fire spreading to an area within 20 kilometers of the power plant. There are about 400 hectares [988 acres] of forests in the endangered area.”
Rumors, according to which the fires have been caused by arson could, at least thus far, not be independently verified.
New fallout / and cover-up of the risks to be expected.
The Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risks, Prof. Dr. Christopher Busby told the Russian State-run media Russia Today that:
“Some of the materials that were contaminating that area would have been incorporated into the woods. In other words, they land on the ground in 1986 and they get absorbed into the trees and all the biosphere. And when it burns, they just become re-suspended. It’s like Chernobyl all over again. All of that material that fell on the ground will now be burned up into the air and will become available for people to breathe.”
Dr. Christopher Busby’s concerns about the risk of a new wave of fallout due to the dispersion of radionuclides is supported by an environmental study concerning the bio-accumulation of radioactive isotopes in forests around the crippled Japanese Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The study concluded that the environment bio-accumulates hot particles in the fallen leaves, the forest soil as well as in the trees and other bio-mass.
Measurements taken in June 2012 showed that more than half of the sampled leaves contained 26.000 becquerel per kilogram.
Measurements taken one year later, in June 2013, showed that more than half of the leaves contained 42.000 bequerels per kilogram.
Soil samples, representing the surface earth up to a depth of ten centimeters, increased from about 721 to 3.000 bequerels.
Arguably, one can extrapolate from the Fukushima study that the burning trees and upper soil leads to the renewed release of a cohort of radioactive isotopes from the exclusion zone around the ChernobylNPP, with the fallout being carried downwind. Westerly winds were prevailing on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Ukrainian government decided to evacuate some residents due to the risk of the spread of the fires. So far, no decision has been made to evacuate downwind areas.
Experts in radiation health would normally advise populations downwind the fires to stay indoors, to take precautionary measures such as protecting their respiratory tracts, and to avoid the ingestion of e.g. vegetables until further notice to avoid the ingestion of hot particles. Particular caution is advisable during and after rainfall in the affected areas.
Author: Christof Lehmann
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