Chernobyl Forest Fires Burning Dangerously Close To Nuclear Reactor
Published in May 2020 / Updated in Feb 2021
Chernobyl fires have ravaged most parts of the exclusion zone, causing a spike in radiation levels in the area.
Fortunately, firefighters said they managed to put out the fires. Officials deployed more than 100 firefighters backed by helicopters and planes to extinguish the blaze.
The fire caused radiation fears in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, located about 60 miles south of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Kyiv is home to almost three million people.
While radiation levels from the fires spiked 16 times higher, it’s still much lower than the radiation given off by the 1986 explosion. However, the rise in radiation still poses a risk to the country’s residents.
When the reactor exploded (1986), it sent a cloud of radioactive fallout across Europe. And the areas immediately around the plant were affected the worst.
The current blaze has engulfed over 8,600 acres. The New York Times reported that authorities deployed around 100 fire engines and several helicopters to the site.
People are banned from living within 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the power station.
But a village called Poliske is situated inside the exclusion zone, and it houses around 20 residents.
Following the fires spreading to the surrounding areas, police have now evacuated the residents from the village.
Police have also arrested a suspect believed to have caused the blaze, a 27-year-old man from the area, The Guardian reported.
The man reportedly told officers he had set grass and rubbish on fire “for fun.” After he had lit the fires, the wind had picked up, and he was unable to extinguish them.
Experts have been warning about the dangers of forest fires around Chernobyl for several years now.
The officials are calling for stronger restrictions for accessing the area and harsher fines for those who attempt arson.
With or without direct human activities, fires like this are common in the region surrounding the former disaster site.
The rise in temperatures caused by climate change means the vegetation is drying out.
Also, decay rates appear to be lower. This may be due to radiation killing insects and microorganisms that’d assist in the breakdown of old organic matter.
Chernobyl has seen no industrial activity for the past 20 years.
After the 1986 disaster, three reactors at Chernobyl continued to generate electricity until the power station finally closed in 2000.
Since then, Soviet authorities have evacuated hundreds of thousands of people from a vast area around the plant.