MINSK – Radiation levels in Belarus have not been affected by fires raging across peat bogs contaminated by fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, officials in the ex-Soviet country said on Monday. “Because of the dryness and high winds the fire has spread over a large area,” a duty officer at Belarus’s civil defence headquarters told Reuters.
He added that about 1,000 firefighters were battling flames on about 1,400 hectares (3,500 acres) of peat bog.
He said areas near the border with Ukraine, poisoned by the fire and explosion at Chernobyl, were burning in three places.
But he said readings showed no increased radiation in the sparsely populated area and that there were no fires inside the 30 km (19 mile) exclusion zone around the plant.
Fears of a new accident at the plant were triggered on Friday by smoky haze in Ukraine’s capital Kiev. A reactor at Chernobyl caught fire and exploded in 1986 in the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster.
The U.S.-funded, non-governmental Ukrainian Land and Resource Management Centre said satellite images of the smoke in Kiev showed it came mostly from fires in Belarus.
Leonid Tabachny, head of Ukraine’s emergency ministry department for radiation protection, reiterated earlier assurances that radiation levels in Ukraine had not been affected and the sky was clear in the capital on Monday.
“The increase in carbon dioxide gas is more toxic than whatever radioactivity may have been carried on soot particles,” he said.