Chernobyl nuclear radiation fears from smoke plumes after bushfires in exclusion zone

Chernobyl nuclear radiation fears from smoke plumes after bushfires in exclusion zone

29 April 2015

published bywww.news.com.au


Ukraine — RADIATION fears have spread faster than the wildfires potentially carrying them around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine.

Despite fears, Ukrainian authorities insist there has been no change in background radiation levels in the Ukrainian capital as a result of night-time fires in woodlands in the exclusion zone around the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The emergency services agency said in a statement that isotope levels in surface soil and water were within ‘the norm’.

Authorities in neighbouring Belarus, which lies adjacent to the exclusion zone, said it too had detected no change in radiation in its southern regions.

Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, lies less than 100 kilometres downriver from the zone around Chernobyl, which was heavily contaminated by radiation from the 1986 reactor explosion and fire.

A 30-kilometer zone around the plant is off-limits to most people except for workers constructing a new shelter to cover the destroyed reactor’s building, and to visitors on short trips.

Authorities said Tuesday evening’s fire swept through 400 hectares of the woodland.

Yury Golikov, head of the information department at the Belarus state centre for radiation pollution, said a blaze at least half the size of that seen in 1986 would be required to lead to a change in background radiation levels.

The news comes as international donors agreed to pay an extra 180 million euros ($250 million au) to fund a new cover for the disused Chernobyl nuclear power plant at a conference in London on Wednesday.

“Chernobyl pledging event raises 180 million euros to close funding gap,” the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which is managing the talks, said in a statement.

The main share — 165 million euros — was pledged by members of the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialised nations and the European Commission.

The money comes on top of 350 million euros ($487 million au) promised by the EBRD in November and the bank said the funding gap for the new project had now been reduced to 85 million euros.

Work is ongoing on a new 20,000-tonne steel cover at Ukraine’s Chernobyl plant — scene of the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster in 1986 — a project estimated to cost 2.15 billion euros ($2.99 billion au).

The structure will contain technology that will act beneath the cover to decontaminate the area once the steel layer is in place.

Officials say the new cover will last for 100 years.

The work is being done by Novarka, a joint venture by French companies Vinci and Bouygues.

The project had been scheduled for completion by the end of this year but the EBRD said last year that technical problems would delay it until late 2017.

The explosion of Chernobyl reactor number four on April 26, 1986, spewed poisonous radiation over large parts of Europe, particularly Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

At the site of the plant itself, around 100 kilometres from Kiev, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko laid a wreath at a monument to the victims on the anniversary on Sunday.


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