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Chernobyl exclusion zone forest fire could cause further radioactive contamination

30 April 2015

Ukrainian firefighters are tackling a forest fire in the 30km exclusion zone around the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986. Earlier, the interior ministry warned that high winds were blowing the fire towards the abandoned plant, 20km away. A Ukrainian government spokesman said it was the biggest fire in the area since 1992.

Stock image
Stock image

Emergency services deployed more than 300 firefighters, three planes and one helicopter to tackle the fire, which they said was finally under control on the morning of April 30.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said that radiation levels were normal, but environmental experts have pointed to the possibility of wildfires in the heavily-contaminated exclusion zone releasing high levels of radioactivity into the atmosphere that could then be blown elsewhere.

According to Sky News, a  paper published in the journal Ecological Monographs earlier this year highlighted the risks of dangerous isotopes in the forests near Chernobyl being spread by fires.

Chernobyl's Reactor 4, the epicentre of the 1986 blast, is covered with a concrete casement which is in the process of being covered by a further containment structure, due to be completed by the end of next year.

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