The explosion and meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine in 1986 is one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, releasing vast amounts of radioactive waste upon Eastern Europe.
In order to try and restrict the spread of irradiated particles from the area, the Ukrainian government set up the ‘zone of alienation’ preventing all commerce from leaving the region. This mean that the vast forests surrounding the power plant were no longer logged, and tended to.
Most Ukrainian forests are carefully controlled, with old, dead, or fallen trees removed, along with any accumulating brush, in order to reduce the risk of forest fires during the hot winter months.
The forests around Chernobyl have been virtually abandoned, and are now overgrown, over-crowded, dense, dry thickets of pine that is ripe for burning, and this were to happen it could become an international disaster.
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For almost three decades the trees around Chernobyl have been absorbing and storing contamination, and burning the trees would release that contamination in irradiated particles that could then be carried away in the smoke; and instead of the contamination being emitted from just one localised area like in the meltdown, the contamination would be released from 660 square miles of trees.
Nikolay Ossienko, a Ukrainian fire fighter that works in the area, explained that “there’s really no question. If Chernobyl forests burn, contaminants would migrate outside the immediate area. We know that.”
Strontium 90, cesium 137, plutonium 238 and other radioactive elements would be released if the trees were burned.
Sergiy Zibtsev, a Ukrainian forestry professor who has been studying these irradiated forests for 20 years, said that rainfall has been decreasing, and summer droughts are lasting longer than usual, all as a result of climate change. The chance of a forest fire is constantly increasing.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com