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A group of scientists published an “overview and assessment of major nuclear threats arising from Russian military occupation of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone (ChEZ)” in the latest issue of atw – International Journal for Nuclear Power.

The good news is that no major radioactive contamination has been recorded so far. The bad news is that it was just luck and next time we can be less lucky.  

“Although all modelling results suggest the Ukrainian regulatory limit for 137Cs air pollutions of 0.800 mBq/m3 have not been exceeded, significantly more undue consequences could have occurred particularly… in the case of fires affecting waste dumps and/or waste storages. In the worst case, forest fires could directly impact the nuclear facilities at ChNPP (Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant). It could result in practically unpredictable consequences”, scientists report.

Forest fires have been a problem for Chernobyl zone already.  You may see how it looked two years ago:

Fires in Chernobyl zone in 2020

Now vegetation season begins and it mitigates this risk.

However, if war activities will resume in the area it can damage New Safe Confinement that confines the remains of the number 4 reactor unit. It could have grave consequences:

Significant radioactive releases, similar to those after the 1986 accident, could occur from the instantaneous loss of negative pressure within either of the shelters due to shelling, explosions, or another event, such as an aircraft crash. Moreover, broken parts could fall on the original shelter and cause its collapse due to its limited stability.

Irrespective of high fissile materials amounts, criticality accidents are excluded reliably by ensuring sufficient spacing between SNF assemblies.

However, in the case of shelling or explosions, this condition cannot be guaranteed. It could result in an unplanned configuration/spacing of the assemblies with unpredictable consequences. If the SNFSF-1 or SNFSF-2 storage facilities are affected by explosive events from artillery shelling or missile strikes, the consequences might even exceed the those of the original reactor unit four accident, as the inventory of fissile materials in these facilities is several orders of magnitude higher”, – the authors cautioned.

That would affects those who live near Chernobyl Plant and who will have to inhale dust with radio nucleotides. Comparison with the original reactor unit four accident is not quite correct. In 1986 short-lived radio nucleotides were the main contaminants. Now only long-lived radio nucleotides remain inside of New Safe Confinement, they are less dangerous.

The only danger is radioactive dust and it could be a problem for Kiev and for the region near Chernobyl Plant, I guess.

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10 thoughts on “Threats of radioactive contamination in Chernobyl zone and Ukraine

  1. A nightmare everyone is having…I hope that somehow this area remains unscathed.

      1. Yes, that’s what I meant. I believe many (maybe most) people in the world have the nightmare of what this would mean to the people of Ukraine. I was alive when Chernobyl happened. It was heartbreaking to watch from our part of the globe.

      2. It ruined health of many people here, including my grandparents. But I don’t think it’s a serious threat now. Media tend to overestimate such dangers, well-known example of it is Gulf war and oil fields fires. The didn’t actually make in a global ecological disaster, like some experts predicted..

      3. Josephine pointed out the access to information now that was simply not available back then. As for oil field fires, methods of extraction, etc., My family has lived near such things. There are heavy implications and research coming out now that point out the detrimental effects on people’s health. There is always a health toll to pay when humanity engages in destruction based on greed. Stay safe. We are thinking of you.

  2. I remember when Chernobyl blew. I was in Paris at the time, and my kids were back in England staying with friends. It was on the news in France but not in the UK. A radioactive cloud drifted over the north of England and rained down on people. I had to call my friend and tell them to get the kids inside out of the rain. The land in the high parts of west and north Yorkshire were contaminated, and the grass kept renewing the radioactivity for years. The sheep on the farms there could not be sold for meat, and only used for wool for quite a few years after that.

    1. It’s strange that it was not on news in the UK. In Soviet Union silencing was a conscious policy, at least in the beginning of the disaster. That’s why a lot of people were exposed during May holidays. Authorities even didn’t cancel May Day demonstration in Kiev. If people would simply stay at home, it could save their health.

  3. Back then, a lot of things were often kept silent out of the news. These days it is almost impossible to do that now that we have internet and social media. I remember hearing about the children out on the streets in Kyiv – my sister in law (sadly now deceased) was Ukrainian, and I remember the panic over the children being exposed with the rain in Kyiv during the celebrations. A charity started in Ireland to bring the Ukrainian kids over to Ireland each summer to give their bodies help, treatment and a clean environment to help them recover. They did that for quite a few years with the kids. Such a tragic event.

    1. I may have heard of this initiative. I remember that some children regularly traveled to Europe in order to improve the health.

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