Forest fires have erupted near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, with Ukraine saying that Russian management of the decommissioned power station is obstructing efforts to put out the fires.
(Photo : SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
Fire Burning Near the Power Plant
According to a statement released by Ukraine’s parliament, satellite data collected by the European Space Agency has revealed at least seven flames within Chernobyl’s exclusion zone.
The flames were likely started by “Russian federation’s armed aggression,” according to the parliament, but it’s unclear if the outbreak was triggered by shelling, arson, or some other motive. According to the statement, fires within 10 kilometers of the plant are “hazardous,” with Ukraine saying that its firemen are unable to put out the fires because of Russia’s presence.
In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the Chernobyl nuclear power station was taken. The facility is famous for a 1986 explosion and fire that resulted in a massive nuclear accident that spread radioactive pollution over Europe. Since then, the facility and its environs have been mostly walled off.
Also Read: UN Worried That Russia-Ukraine Crisis May Direly Impact Global Heat Goals
(Photo : GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo : GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)
However, over 200 tons of fuel remain exposed at the bottom of the disabled reactor. Experts are concerned that the intense fighting in the vicinity would further damage the plant and allow radioactive material to escape.
The prolonged conflict in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian authorities, is obstructing efforts to monitor radiation levels at Chernobyl. “There is no data on the present condition of radiation contamination in the exclusion zone’s environment,” stated Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-run nuclear corporation. “This makes it hard to respond to risks appropriately.” Radiation levels in the exclusion zone and beyond, including Ukraine and possibly neighboring nations, might deteriorate dramatically.
A forest fire near the reactor caused radiation levels to rise to 16 times their typical levels in 2020. After a two-week effort by firemen, the blaze was put out, and a man was detained for reportedly lighting the fire “for fun.”
Affected by Global Warming
According to climate experts, such potential calamities are partly a consequence of global warming, with rising temperatures forcing forests to dry up and become more ideal fire fuel. Unprecedented fire outbreaks have occurred across Europe, from Sweden to the Mediterranean, in recent years.
Warmer temperatures, according to LeRoy Westerling, a wildfire researcher at the University of California, are generating longer fire seasons across the world. However, the situation in Ukraine is exacerbated by the fact that it is in the midst of a conflict with many atypical ignition sources.
He warned that burning near Chernobyl is a worry because it might mobilize hazardous particles deposited decades ago when the reactors broke down.
The death of surrounding trees due to the nuclear catastrophe has left a vast amount of dead, fire-prone wood in the Chernobyl region, making it vulnerable to big fires. In 2015, an international group of experts warned that climate change’s growing flammable region would result in significant danger of radioactive contamination in the future, with distinctive fire peaks. Even before the Russian invasion, the research found that the area’s firefighting apparatus was understaffed and underfunded.
Separate studies released last year proved that forest fire smoke might contain radioactive material. The rising climate catastrophe poses a threat of nuclear wildfires [that] is a serious but poorly discussed issue.
According to Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University, the fires in Ukraine fall into a trend of climate change-fueled wildfire that has ravaged nations like the United States and Australia.
The conflict and the climate catastrophe, according to Mann, have a common cause: their continuous reliance on fossil fuels.
He claims that fossil fuels keep authoritarian petrostates like Russia afloat by allowing them to expand their military with the enormous cash they have gained from mining and selling fossil fuels to the rest of the globe.
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