Ukraine confirms no change to radiation levels from forest fire

06 April 2020

A forest fire on the western tip of the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine has not affected background radiation levels, state authorities said today.

Ukrainian radiation monitoring staff (Image: SSTC NRS)

The fire broke out on 4 April in Kotovsky Forest, which is near the village of Volodymyrivka, and eventually covered about 20 hectares (50 acres), the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SESU) said today, adding that another fire, over five hectares, had been contained.

More than 130 firefighters, three aircraft, and 21 vehicles were deployed to tackle the fire, it said, adding that as of 7.00am yesterday there was no longer any open fire, "only some isolated smouldering parts". It also said that background radiation in the exclusion zone had not changed from its normal range of 0.2-0.55 μSv/h.

Ukraine's State Scientific and Technical Centre for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (SSTC NRS) said its emergency preparedness and radiation monitoring department had "conducted measurements of the radionuclide content in the air at the optimum point with the most probable estimated increase in the radiation situation due to fire".

The authority also clarified misinformation by some media that radiation levels had changed in the country's capital of Kiev, which is 100 miles from the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

"According to the field measurements, the dose rate of gamma radiation was within 0.1 μSv/h, which corresponds to normal background radiation," SSTC NRS said. "Thus, it can be stated that as of 5.00pm on 5 April, the fire in the Exclusion Zone and the unconditional (mandatory) eviction did not affect the radiation situation in Kiev and its suburbs. Observations of the radiation situation in the area are continuing. In the event of an increase in the fire area, [we] will carry out additional measurements," it added.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News