Ukraine says forest fires near the Russian-controlled Chernobyl nuclear plant are raising radiation fears

American experts, using NASA satellite images, discovered three recent fires in the area. One is still isolated on an island along the Pripyat River, while the other has been burning for about a week about 20 miles west of the site.

Timothy Musso, a professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina, said in an email that the several-day fire was “significantly larger” and was probably fueled by “dead organic matter” from earlier fires in these forests and grasslands. Based on time-lapse satellite images, Musso said, “It appears that the scale of this fire has decreased significantly over the past week.”

Doug Morton, chief of the Biosphere Science Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in an email that a third, smaller fire was detected on Tuesday “that could continue to spread in forests along the southern extension of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.”

“Smoke from the three fires can be seen spreading south from the Chernobyl area” in NASA satellite images taken on Tuesday, he added.

The parliamentary update added that Ukrainian officials and firefighters could not carry out their usual duties in the region to extinguish the fires due to Russia’s control of the plant. He also warned that the fires are within a “radius of 10 km”. [6.2 miles] Significant radioactive waste and contamination can pose a “special hazard”.

Nuclear experts said the fires could also threaten important power transmission lines, which were recently repaired. “The facilities themselves’ biggest weakness is energy loss,” said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear energy safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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Forest fires Occurred before Near the defunct power station, Mashhad disaster 1986. Large amounts of radioactive material contaminated the ground around the Chernobyl nuclear site After the disaster, a nearby city was evacuated. Today, the “exclusion zone,” where radioactive contamination is highest, covers about 1,000 square miles around the site.

Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company Energoatom said on Monday that Russia had seized the area It means crews can no longer monitor radiation levels there. She said the forest fire service was not able to operate under Russian control.

Energoatom said, “There is no data on the current state of radioactive contamination of the exclusion zone environment, which makes it impossible to respond adequately to the threats,” said Energoatom, according to to Reuters. “Radiation levels in the exclusion zone and beyond, including not only Ukraine, but also other countries, can significantly worsen.”

Radiation levels in the Chernobyl region are within standards, Ukraine’s Minister of Natural Resources Ruslan Strelets said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has been trying in vain to negotiate a “framework” that would allow IAEA experts access to all Ukrainian nuclear facilities “to help maintain the safety and security of the sites”.

Scientists say Seasonal wildfires, which typically occur in the spring and summer, can release radiation that is trapped in the upper layers of soil around the nuclear site. The roots of the trees also absorbed radioactive cesium, Lyman said, which can be “liberated into a plume of smoke from the fires.”

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Publishing a research from the Center for Security Studies last year It found that smoke from wildfires can carry radioactive materials, representing “a cause of international concern”.

The research found that “such wildfires produce dangerous, uncontainable, airborne smoke, potentially carrying radioactive materials.” “Given the half-lives of some radioactive isotopes, this problem will not go away in the lifetime of all living generations,” she added.

With the onset of climate change, the study said, “nuclear wildfires are an urgent but under-discussed problem” that requires urgent attention.

“Fires are getting more and more frequent because the weather is drying up,” said Kate Brown, professor of the history of science at MIT. She added that dry weather had been “grossly noticeable” over the past decade.

President Biden first confirmed Russia’s use of a hypersonic missile in its invasion of Ukraine at a Business Roundtable event on March 21 (White House)

Monday the International Atomic Energy Agency He said That the “long-awaited” rotation of technical personnel at the Chernobyl plant site It was completed, allowing staff to return home for the first time since the site was occupied by Russian forces last month.

The Chernobyl area, one of the most radioactively polluted places in the world, has remained closed since 1986, although a few people still live in the area – mostly elderly Ukrainians who refused to evacuate or returned after the area was evacuated.

The building containing the explosive reactor from 1986 was covered in 2017 with a massive shield intended to contain the radiation still emitted from the plant. Robots inside the factory work to dismantle the destroyed reactor and collect radioactive waste. It is expected that it will take up to 2064 to complete dismantling the reactors safely.

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Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday in a call with reporters that there are no immediate safety risks posed by Ukraine’s nuclear reactors, which the international community continues to monitor.

“It’s really important to note that despite Russia’s reckless military activity, there was no near-term risk to public safety with respect to Ukraine’s nuclear facilities,” Granholm said. The containment structures of nuclear power plants are really very robust. They are built to withstand accidents, as well as external assaults. And it is clear that, along with the IAEA, we continue to monitor everything that happens.”

Maxine Gosselo contributed to this report.

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