Friday, 1 May 2015

Forest fire threatens Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear zone

Date: 29-Apr-15
Country: UKRAINE
Author: Natalia Zinets and Alessandra Prentice

Forest fire threatens Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear zone Photo: Andrew
An aerial view through a window of a helicopter shows fire and smoke from
buildings of an abandoned village are on fire in northern Ukraine, April
28, 2015.
Photo: Andrew Kravchenko/Pool

Emergency services were battling on Tuesday to prevent Ukraine's largest
forest fire since 1992 from spreading towards the abandoned Chernobyl
nuclear power plant, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said.

Earlier, the interior ministry had warned that high winds were blowing the
fire in northern Ukraine towards Chernobyl, where in 1986 a reactor fire
led to the world's worst nuclear disaster.

A 30 km (18.6 miles) exclusion zone remains in place around the plant,
which remains contaminated by radioactive particles.

"The situation is being controlled, but this is the biggest fire since
1992. We've not had this scale of fire," Ukraine's Interfax news agency
reported Yatseniuk as telling journalists.

"It is around 20 kilometers (from the fire) to the plant. Our emergency
services are actively working there to prevent the fire spreading
further," he said.

In February, international experts warned that a large amount of dangerous
isotopes remained in the forests near Chernobyl, which could be spread by
forest fires.

"Wildfires ... pose a high risk of redistributing radioactivity,"
according to a paper published in Ecological Monographs, titled 'Fire
evolution in the radioactive forests of Ukraine and Belarus: future risks
for the population and the environment.'

Chernobyl's Reactor 4, the epicenter of the 1986 blast, is covered with a
concrete casement that the Ukrainian authorities plan to replace by 2016.

To read the Ecological Monographs paper: here

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan, Larry King)