Fires Ravage Chernobyl’s Forests as Smoke Plume Sends Fallout over Canda, US

May 11th, 2015 - by admin & Optimal Prediction & RT News – 2015-05-11 02:11:58

Forest Fire Rages Near Chernobyl Nuclear Site

(April 29, 2015) — A forest fire broke out Tuesday near the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, scene of the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster in 1986, but posed no danger to the site, officials said.

“The fire is at a distance of 15 to 20 kilometers (9 to 12 miles) from Chernobyl,” Maya Rudenko, a spokeswoman for the plant, told AFP by telephone, adding there was “no problem” there. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov warned however that “the high flames and sudden gusts of wind mean there is a serious risk that the fire could spread.”

The area around Chernobyl was evacuated after the 1986 blast and the last reactor there shut down in 2000 but some personnel still operate in the exclusion zone, where work is underway to lay a new seal over the reactor site.

Avakov said the fire had spread over some 400 hectares near the plant, which lies around 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Around 200 firefighters with scores of vehicles were battling the inferno and aircraft were dumping water on the flames, the state emergency services said. They said the fire started shortly after noon (around 0915 GMT).

Chernobyl Trees Barely Decomposed
Radiation Level Unchanged

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk visited the area on Tuesday afternoon and met with emergency workers. “The situation is under control,” he told reporters at an air base where firefighting craft were taking off from. “Our emergency services are actively working to stop the fire spreading.”

A state nuclear inspection official told AFP that “the level of radiation at the Chernobyl plant has not changed”.

The fire comes just two days after Ukrainians marked 29 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The explosion of reactor number four on April 26, 1986, spewed poisonous radiation over large parts of Europe, particularly Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

The human toll of the disaster is still disputed. United Nations experts officially recognized 31 deaths among plant workers and firefighters directly linked to the blast. But environmental group Greenpeace has suggested there could be around 100,000 additional deaths from cancer caused by the disaster.

The Soviet authorities of the time dispatched hundreds of thousands of people to put out the fire and clean the site, without proper protection. They hastily laid over the reactor site a concrete cover dubbed “the sarcophagus”, which is now cracking and must be replaced.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday inspected ongoing work on a new 20,000-ton steel cover — a project estimated to cost more than two billion euros ($2.2 billion). It is financed by international donations managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

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 technical problems would delay it until late 2017.

Chernobyl Forest Fire Plume
Now on the US West Coast

Optimal Prediction

(May 8, 2015) — The forest fire near Chernobyl that broke out a week ago has spread radionuclides, notably plutonium, over eastern Europe, Asia, Alaska, and is now moving in over the west coast of the US.

[An] image from the downloaded Windows HYSPLIT atmospheric dispersion model shows the spread of this plume, as of 2 PM Eastern time on May 7. This simulation uses actual winds, not predicted winds.

It has moved over southern Alaska, where it is currently raining, and northern B.C. Some tendrils have moved over NW Washington, Salinas CA, Fresno CA, Santa Barbara CA, and Las Vegas NV. For users of Google Earth or other visualization software, a KML file is available here.

As of Friday morning, the rain outside of Fresno has some measure of this smoke plume mixed in with it, and is falling as snow in the mountains to the northeast.

The plume should become entrained in a storm that is developing in this area. This image is a forecast for Saturday night. A snowstorm is moving over the Rockies, and the rain and snow will later move over the northern plains, the upper Great Lakes, into Canada.

See radiation levels:

‘Each Fire Around Chernobyl Re-mobilizes Poison’
RT News

(May 3, 2015) — As opposing views on the Chernobyl fires persist, nuclear waste expert Kevin Kamps believes the problem is now an international one, requiring multi-faceted efforts. The region is a tinderbox, as each fresh calamity rearranges the deadly poisons.

RT: How serious are the wildfires in effecting the radiation levels in the region?

Kevin Kamps: It is significant and it is not a one-time affair. There have been many fires over the years, and with climate change, with drought, with the death of the forest from the radioactivity in the first place, the fact that the litter, the leaves and the dead tress will not decay properly, again because of radioactivity.

This is a tinderbox and there is always potential for a catastrophic radioactive wildfire. Each of these fires is remobilizing poison, cesium 137 and strontium 90, plutonium of different isotopes into the air. So the firefighters are in harms’ way. Anyone down wind who breathes it, could ingest these poisons and that can result in cancer or other diseases.

RT: You have been in Chernobyl yourself. What was your impression and how is the area reacting to what had happened in the original disaster?

KK: I’ve flown to Ukraine and Belarus a number of times in the years and decades, all related to Chernobyl activities. And this is an ongoing catastrophe in so many ways. Every spring thaw, with the snow and the ice, the very water solvable cesium will wash into the waterways, the surface waters. It could contaminate drinking water supplies. So unfortunately the radioactive ecosystem, the radioactive environment that people live in is an ongoing risk.

RT: What you’re saying is contrary to what they’re saying. Their claim is there is no radiation threat. What do you make of that?

KK: First of all, you need very significant radiation detection equipment to know what is going on. And every different approach in trying to figure out what is happening in the environment requires different equipment, whether it is in the air, the water, or food supplies.

You have to have the right equipment to even know what is going on. Our senses aren’t really geared toward detecting radioactivity. Although it is very telling that the firefighters testified about tasting metal and feeling a tingling on their skin due to these radioactive fires. That is an indication of significantly high levels of radioactive contamination.

RT: Locals are claiming they didn’t have any evacuation instructions at all…

KK: This is an international issue and Ukraine should not be left alone with it. Because the risks are international down wind and down stream, resources should be made to deal with those threats. So certain areas of the forest may need clear cutting to prevent this from happening.

Certainly, firefighting equipment sufficient to meet this challenge has to be put in place. And of course the firefighters themselves need to have respiratory protection.

RT: Can these fires at the moment reignite the original levels of radiation?

KK: To give some idea, there have been scientific studies done by Timothy Mousseauat at the University of S. Carolina and a team of colleagues. Their determination is that the fires of 2002, 2008 and 2010, just three of these fires, excluding 1992 and 1996, have remobilized 8 percent of the original cesium 137 contamination back into the atmosphere, which is really significant because it was a such a large amount of contamination.

So for eight percent to go back up into the air just because of three of these fires, not to mention any of the others, is very significant indeed.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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