Wildfire burns within 10 miles of Chernobyl nuclear reactor

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Map of fire near Chernobyl
Map of fire near Chernobyl 4-28-2015. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite. NASA image. (click to enlarge)

A wildfire is burning within about 10 miles (16 kilometers) of the Chernobyl nuclear plant that melted down in the Ukraine in 1986. According to NASA imagery, the fire appears to be well within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, also known as the 30 Kilometer Zone, or the Chernobyl Zone of Alienation. The area is still heavily contaminated with nuclear radiation and for years officials have been contemplating how to mitigate the potential for a fire in the dead forest, killed by the melt-down, which would release radioactive particles into the smoke and be carried downwind, perhaps for very long distances.

An article at RTnews reports that the Ukraine Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the fire has burned about 400 hectares (988 acres).

Our extremely rough estimate of the size of the fire based on the satellite imagery is that it has burned about 9,000 acres. When the photo was taken the smoke was being pushed north, at about 90 degrees to the path that would take it closer to the disabled nuclear plant, east of the fire.

Excerpts from the article:

“The forest fire situation around the Chernobyl power plant has worsened,” a statement on Avakov’s Facebook page says.

“The forest fire is heading in the direction of Chernobyl’s installations. Treetop flames and strong gusts of wind have created a real danger of the fire spreading to an area within 20 kilometers of the power plant.

Police and National Guard units are on high alert. Ukraine’s Prime Minister personally went to the affected area to oversee the firefighting. He says the situation is under control, “but this is the biggest fire since 1992.”

The potential danger in this fire comes from the radioactive contaminants the burning plants have absorbed, ecologist Dmitry Shevchenko told RT. “A lot of radionuclides have accumulated in the soil, the trees and other plants. And of course when something like a fire happens, together with the smoke, the radionuclides can travel great distances.”

We have written numerous times about the challenges presented by the contaminated vegetation near Chernobyl. Articles tagged Chernobyl.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

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