Radiation levels surge around Chernobyl after Russia gains control

With staff at the plant being held as hostages.
Ameya Paleja
The site of the Chernobyl power plant, now under Russian control.DeSid/iStock

On the first day of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian troops also attacked the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and have managed to capture it. Radiation levels emanating from the site have since increased, Associated Press reported.

In 1986, Chernobyl, then part of Soviet Russia, became home to the world's worst nuclear disaster after an explosion in Reactor No. 4 at the power plant. 30 people had died as a result of the explosion while countless others have been affected by the radiation that leaked from the site.

After the Soviet Union split, Chernobyl came under the control of the Ukrainian government that evacuated over 135,000 people from the area and demarcated a 19-mile (30 km) exclusion zone around the site, CNN reported. A dome was also constructed over Reactor No.4 immediately after the incident to contain the radioactive material and had been supervised by Ukrainian officials ever since.

Russian strikes at Chernobyl

In the early hours of its multi-pronged invasion, the Russian Air Force also attacked the site following which ground troops entered the Ukrainian territory from the northern border that it shares with Belarus and attacked the site. Later in the day, the Ukrainian presidency confirmed that the control of the plant was lost, which presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told CNN happened after a "fierce battle."

CNN also reported that staff at the plant were being held as hostages. Calling the hostage situation, "unlawful and dangerous," the White House has requested the release of personnel while warning that the situation could "upend routine civil efforts to maintain the nuclear waste facilities."

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had warned about Russian intent to capture the site on Twitter.

Associated Press reported that it is likely that the aerial attacks may have damaged the dome meant to contain the radioactive content. According to a Twitter user, radiation levels have already increased in the area.

The levels mentioned in the readings are definitely higher than the recorded previously and way more than the 2,000 nSV/h an individual is exposed to during a commercial flight, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The currently reported levels may not be dangerous to people in the area but are definitely eyebrow-raising. 

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