On April 26, 1986, there was the disaster of Chernobyl at a power plant in Ukraine. Due to the reactor design as well as some serious operator errors, the nuclear accident created countless casualties. The area has been flagged for radiation since then – and it is carefully monitored to ensure that no further casualties occur.
It seems that we have not heard the end of Chernobyl, however. As a result of Russia invading Ukraine, it’s made it harder to monitor the Chernobyl site and change out those who are responsible for overseeing the area. Combine that with the bombs and other activity happening as a result of the invasion and there’s a significant amount of trouble happening.
Around the location of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, forest fires have been erupting with great fury. Something has to be done – but Russia is making it very hard to take action. Ukraine government officials have claimed that Russian control of the abandoned area is making it difficult to control the flames.
There have been at least seven fires found within the Chernobyl exclusion zone, which have been discovered using satellite imagery. The Ukraine parliament has the photos from the European Space Agency.
Now, the fires are likely not a result of natural causes. Instead, they were ignited due to the “armed aggression of the Russian Federation” according to parliament. As to what actually caused the fires to start is unknown – and due to the radiation around Chernobyl, it makes it difficult to conduct a standard investigation.
Researchers are particularly concerned about the fires because anything within 10 kilometers of the Chernobyl site is dangerous. The fire, combined with the radioactivity, could cause the radioactive elements to spread.
The Chernobyl plant was captured by Russian forces within days of the invasion – back in early February.
With the plant and surrounding area being largely sealed off since the explosion in 1986, there are a few unknown elements. What is known is that there are approximately 200 tons of fuel that remain at the bottom of the nuclear plant. Experts worry that the fires along with the fighting in the region could lead to further damage to the reactor. The fuel could cause another explosion – and that could lead to even more radioactive material escaping.
Prior to the Russian invasion, Ukrainian authorities were monitoring the radiation levels. That has become nearly impossible since the Russian forces have captured Chernobyl.
The state-run nuclear company, Energoatom, has explained, “There is no data on the current state of radiation pollution of the exclusion zone’s environment, which makes it impossible to adequately respond to threats.” They went on to explain that if the levels go unmonitored, the radiation levels could expand beyond the exclusion zone – and that could be dangerous not only for Ukraine but also for other countries.
This isn’t the first time that a fire has come close to the area. In 2020, a forest fire was created, causing radiation to spike to 16 times above what is normal. With more forest fires in the area now, the possibilities could be catastrophic.
Chernobyl is close to the Belarus border – but with wind and other environmental issues to consider, it could be problematic for many areas of Europe.
This is what Putin has done. He invaded blindly without thinking about any of the ramifications. And now, with Chernobyl not receiving the monitoring that it requires, there’s no telling what could happen.