Wildfires in Ukraine Edge Nearer to Chernobyl, Posing Potential Radiation Risks

Activists say the chances of radiation problems increase as the fires get closer to Chernobyl.
Fabienne Lang
The photo credit line may appear like thisDmitriy Shibalov/Facebook

A large forest fire has been burning for the better part of a week in Northern Ukraine and is now only a kilometer away from Chernobyl's now unused nuclear power plant. As it nears the power plant the threat of radiation increases, said Greenpeace Russia on Monday. 

Satellite images show just how close the fires are getting to the disaster site of Chernobyl. Firefighters have been working around the clock to contain the flames, but will their efforts suffice?


The situation is "under control"

Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Service has stated it has the situation "under control," however, black flames kept billowing up into the sky just on Sunday as per Reuters' video footage. 

Wildfires in Ukraine Edge Nearer to Chernobyl, Posing Potential Radiation Risks
The exclusion zone and the fires, Source: Earth Observatory

The exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl's defunct nuclear power plant runs 30 km (19 miles) around the site and is covered with blackened, scorched and charred earth and tree stumps. The zone was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, which happened on April 26, 1986, as per the BBC

Greenpeace Russia has stated that the situation is much worse than what the authorities are sharing publicly and that the fires cover areas much larger than what is being shared. For instance, on April 4, Ukrainian authorities claimed that the blaze covered 20 hectares of land, however Greenpeace cited satellite images that showed around 12,000 hectares ablaze. These numbers only seem to be growing.

"According to satellite images taken on Monday, the area of the largest fire has reached 34,400 hectares,” Greenpeace said, adding that a second fire, stretching across 12,600 hectares, was just one kilometer away from the defunct plant.

According to Rashid Alimov, head of energy projects for Greenpeace Russia, the fires combined with wind could disperse radionuclides, which are atoms that emit radiation. Everyone is hoping for rain to dissipate the situation. 

As the fire nears the abandoned town of Pripyat, just two kilometers away from where "the most highly active radiation waste of the whole Chernobyl zone is located," Alimov warns of danger ahead. 

Police have stated that they believe a 27-year-old local resident was in charge of starting the fires. Confirmation of the suspect is still being checked.



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