Forest fires in the areas near Chernobyl, contaminated by the 1986 accident, are encircling the former power plant, and are burning in the highly contaminated exclusion zone. Fires can contribute to the release of radioactive material trapped via tree roots in the upper soil layers surrounding the nuclear site.
At the moment the radioactivity levels are still normal, but could rise in a short time. The Russian Army does not allow entry to either Ukrainian firefighters or technicians from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The latest satellite images from NASA have identified three recent fires.
The smallest is spreading along the southern strip of the exclusion zone. Another is isolated on a spit of land between the waters of the Pripyat River, while the last one has flared up for almost two weeks, 32 kilometers west of the former power plant.
Dozens of fires in Chernobyl and danger of radioactive pollution
The crews, according to Energoatom, the Ukrainian state-owned nuclear company, have failed to monitor radioactivity levels since Monday 22 March. Furthermore, if the flames were to come within a radius of 10 kilometers from the nuclear waste they could represent a particular danger.
In fact, since the 1986 accident, the land around the former power plant has been contaminated by numerous radiation. Today the most polluted area occupies more than 2,600 square kilometers. The area around Chernobyl was closed after the 1986 nuclear accident and is one of the most radioactive places in the world.
Two explosions at the plant blew up the 1,800-tonne roof, resulting in a fallout of radioactive material over an area of 2,600 square km. The area was considered uninhabitable by man for the next 24,000 years. The reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl plant and its immediate vicinity have been enveloped, since 2019, by the New Safe Confinement, in order to contain the radiation emitted by the material of the plant and the reactor core.
A radioactive waste storage facility is being built near Chernobyl, manufactured by Nukem Technologies. It is not clear what the current state of play is. The New Safe Confinement was built 180 meters from the reactor and is the largest mobile land structure ever built in the world.
The sarcophagus was designed to last a hundred years and to withstand temperatures from -43 to +45 ° C and force 3 tornadoes, with winds of over 300 km per hour. The republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are still burdened by the high costs of decontamination and the populations of the contaminated areas are suffering the effects of the accident.