Forest fire near Chernobyl plant extinguished

| 16th April 2020
Chernobyl reactor 4, site of the 1986 fire

Chernobyl reactor 4, site of the 1986 fire.

Arsonists who started the fire have been arrested and will face heavy fines, according to the Ukrainian government.

We remember the lessons of April 26, 1986. And no one will hide the truth from you. The truth is that the situation is controlled there.

Forest fires near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor has been put out by 1500 firefighters, after raging for more than a week.

More than 220 trips by plane and helicopter were needed to extinguish the fires, with around 500 tonnes of water dumped on the blaze, according to Ukranian authorities.

The fires were in the Exclusion Zone around the now-defunct Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which released large amounts of radiation over Europe following an explosion and fire in 1986, and was widely considered the worst civil nuclear disaster in history.

“Don’t panic”

Though the forest fires had now been put out, it would take a few days to end the smouldering, the president of the Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said in a statement. There was no threat to the nuclear power plant or spent fuel storage, he said.

He continued: “I urge all citizens not to panic. We remember the lessons of April 26, 1986. And no one will hide the truth from you. The truth is that the situation is controlled there. Background radiation in the capital and the Kyiv region is within normal limits."

Several people have been arrested for arson, one of whom is suspected of setting fire to around seven hectares of forest, he added. On Monday, the Ukrainian Parliament approved a 20-fold increase in the fine for arson to £4,500 or imprisonment.

Fires in the area around the former nuclear plant are have occurred before, particularly in 2010, due to a large amount of dead material from trees accumulating in the area. Drought due to climate change has increased the risk of forest fires in the area, according to scientists.

The burning of radioactive material from a serious fire could cause between 20 and 240 cases of cancer, according to a paper published in the journal Environment International in 2014.

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.

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