Around 400 hectares of woodland is on fire in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, according to reports from Russian media. While the Ukrainian government claims the fire is “contained,” experts fear the mass burning of radioactive plants has the potential to “resuspend” radioactive particles in the surrounding air.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk played down fears on Wednesday, saying that firefighters had contained the large forest fire and radiation levels in the area were normal. While the words are comforting they are not the most trustworthy, as in virtually all nuclear disasters officials have said the same thing only to later be disproven time and again. Radiation showing up in a children’s park near Fukushima, Japan, is the latest example.
The fires in Ukraine have threatened to spread toward the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant as high winds pushed it toward the plant about 20 km (12 miles) away.
Authorities suspected the fire was started deliberately and had tightened security around the exclusion zone. The Russian military, operating under disguise as ‘rebels’, likely started the fire as their war with Ukraine escalates.
A fire raged at the plant for 10 days after the reactor meltdown 1986, sending huge amounts of radioactive material into the surrounding environment and over large parts of Europe, particularly Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
The area around the plant was evacuated and a 30km (19 mile) exclusion zone remains in place to this day. Work on laying a new seal over the damaged reactor began in 2007 and is due to be completed this year.