‘Bad news’: Radiation spikes 16 times over normal after fire breaks out near Chernobyl nuclear plant

FE Online
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Fire near Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine: In what could possibly trigger an alarm at a time when the world is already battling the coronavirus pandemic, forest fires that broke out close to the Chernobyl nuclear power station - the scene of radioactive contamination after an explosion in 1986 - led to high levels of radiation in the Ukrainian region, reports said.

Reports quoted Ukraine’s firefighters as saying that there were two separate instances of forest fires in the area close to the Chernobyl nuclear plant - first, a smaller fire that spread in a patch of 12 acres which was localized and contained; and the other covered an area of 50 acres, which Ukraine’s emergency services struggled to contain late into Sunday night.

Yegor Firsov, head of Ukraine’s state ecological inspection service, was quoted as saying that the radiation was above normal in the centre of the fire. In a Facebook post, he said: "There is bad news", and went on to reveal in a video Geiger counter readings from the spot which showed radiation levels that were 16-times above normal, reports said.

To battle the fires, Ukrainian authorities had to mobilise 100 firefighters, two planes, and a helicopter. The emergency services later revealed that the high levels of radiation had led to difficulties in controlling the raging inferno in some areas.

An explosion in the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power station in April 1986 had led to high levels of radiation in the area surrounding the nuclear power plant. Locals and plant workers were evacuated and people were forbidden from living within a 30-kilometre-radius of the power station. Even after the disaster the other three reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant continued to function and generated electricity till the station finally shut down in 2000. To further cut any chance of radiation, a large protective dome was placed around thew fourth Chernobyl reactor in 2016.