AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel. Source: 1001suns.com
The 25th Anniversary of Chernobyl has passed but the problems remain. In our five Previous Posts [see March and April listings], we have documented some of them in considerable detail. Now a new one has emerged. According to Patrick Evans in The Guardian [26th April]:
‘A consortium of Ukrainian and international scientists is making an urgent call for a $13.5m (£8.28m) programme to prevent potentially catastrophic wildfires inside the exclusion zone (CEZ) surrounding Chernobyl’s ruined nuclear plant.’
There have been 1,000 fires in the 18-mile of radius ring of the CEZ since 1992. Forest accounts for 60% of the CEZ’s 260,000 hectares (642,000 acres). These trees lock up radioactive particles which are held mainly in the needles and bark of Scots Pines. If there is a catastrophic fire, radionuclides could be dispersed over a wide area.
The Generalist flagged up this issue in a Previous Post [NUCLEAR FIRES: RUSSIA AND USA].
Patrick Landmann/Getty Images
A technician checks a spot with a Geiger counter in a forest that burned in 1992. The wildfire released radioactive particles into the air that were deposited there during the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl. Experts worry nearby forest, which is becoming overgrown, could again be ripe for a blaze.
"The forests have been crowded and untended, and they could very well go up in a catastrophic fire similar to our Western fires," says Chad Oliver, a forestry professor at Yale University who has visited the forest.
"The problem with a catastrophic fire is that they even create their own weather patterns, so you get some very tremendous dispersion of smoke."
"The worst concern is the firefighters going in there would be inhaling quite concentrated radioactive smoke," Oliver says.
He says firefighting equipment at the site is antiquated, and roads are poor, but Ukraine has been getting help from the U.S. Forest Service.
Teams from the Service are advising Ukraine on how to lower the hazards posed by overgrown or downed trees, as well as studying wind and weather patterns in case another conflagration hits Chernobyl.