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Plume of smoke from fire near Chernobyl at Terra MODIS (NASA) image of 10 August 2015 via Greenpeace Russia
Plume of smoke from fire near Chernobyl from Terra MODIS (NASA) image of 10 August 2015 via Greenpeace Russia

Fires in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone continue to be a major hazard, which can impact Europe depending on the wind direction and which, in a worst case scenario, could make Europe uninhabitable. Europe needs to be sending firefighting manpower and expertise, including forestry experts, no strings attached, to help the Ukraine prevent and stop these fires.

Fire should be foremost in everyone’s minds, when considering the Ukraine’s new nuclear waste facility. This should include consideration of use of German dry casks, which resist fire for one hour.[1] The US transportation casks are only required to be resistant for 30 minutes in fire, and the US licensed non-transportation dry casks (which includes French ones), are even less resistant. Innovation is desperately needed for safe nuclear fuel storage. Focus needs to be on quality for both Ukrainian and European safety. Furthermore, Holtec’s history of bribes, or kickbacks, should exclude them from the spent nuclear fuel contract, especially within the context of donor monies, and of the Ukraine’s history of corruption: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/why-was-holtec-debarred-as-tva-contractor/

The ongoing fires, and fire risk, also raises the question of if it is safe to transfer Ukrainian nuclear waste from elsewhere in the Ukraine to a location near Chernobyl. Furthermore, transboundary impact considerations must come into play under the Espoo Convention. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster seriously impacted the UK, Norway, as well as impacting Austria, Switzerland, Germany and other locations. The impacts continue. Soil remains contaminated, in a splotchy manner, and wild boar, reindeer and sheep sometimes exceed even the weakly protective “standards” in place (i.e. 600 to 1200 Bq or even more per kg).

It is interesting that only Russian State media agencies consistently report these dangerous fires in the Chernobyl exclusion zone in English (and even German). While it’s great that some media agencies are reporting in English, where is Russia’s mea culpa? Have you heard it? President Putin, and even his grandfather, were an integral part of the Soviet system, whose nuclear weapons production led to Chernobyl. That’s why Chernobyl lacked containment – it didn’t have to be shut down to get the plutonium for weapons. That was the design. Where is Russia’s mea culpa? Where is Putin’s apology on behalf of the USSR? Aren’t they trying to erase history by failing to mention this?

Furthermore, when Russia took Crimea they took the Ukraine’s huge new solar power plant, thus making the Ukraine more dependent on Russian oil and gas, and upon nuclear power. Presumably Russia hoped that the Ukraine would continue to use Russian nuclear fuel, etc.

According to Greenpeace Russia on August 10, 2015:
Fire is in the area of the former village of Kovshilovka, about forty kilometers (25 miles) west of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant itself. Based on satellite images, the fire broke out, or resumed in the surviving pockets of smoldering peat, on August 8th. It was officially registered by the Ukraine’s State Service for Emergency Situations the next day, August 9th.

Officially the fire area is around 60 hectares. However, the real area, according to preliminary estimates is about one and a half thousand hectares. Officially, there are a number of localized fires. In reality, it is unlikely to be really localized. Perhaps its area will increase further.

Smoke from the fires is in the Russian cities Zlynka, Novozybkov, Klintsy and Mglin. http://www.greenpeace.org/russia/ru/news/2015/10-08-pozhar/

From the Ukrainian Government:
Information on Fire in the Chernobyl Exclusion (forced resettlement) Zone (as at 9:00 on August 10th)

As of the morning of August 10, 2015, work on extinguishing the fire between the former villages of Kovshylivka Varovychi and Buda continues. The total area of ​​the fire 60 hectares.

Firefighting involves 97 people and 17 vehicles. Three firefighting aircraft An-32P and a Mi-8 helicopter are also involved.

In the village of Poliske ongoing firefighting is in an area of approximately 10 hectares. Firefighting has involved 30 people and 5 vehicles.

Fire on the forest floor near the former village of Kovshylivka is localized in an area of ​​32 hectares. The situation is under control, but extinguishing individual cells within a controlled perimeter of the fire continues. Firefighting involves 20 people. and 5 units.

Total for firefighting in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has involved 147 people. and 27 units.

Firefighting is carried out around the clock.
DSNS Ukraine http://www.mns.gov.ua/news/41269.html (The original Ukrainian has additional information such as the personnel required for coordination. This is NOT meant to underestimate the bravery and valiant efforts of the Ukraine’s firefighters. But, if you compare to the numbers of firefighters put on the ground in the US and Australia for wildfires-bushfires, the Ukraine clearly needs additional help, especially in the context of Chernobyl. They also need help with fire prevention.)

(English translations based on google translate. See Greenpeace original in Russian at first link, and Ukrainian original at second link if you require information other than for general reading.)

Note 1: Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage:
Public Report, 2006, National Academy of Sciences: https://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/security/nasrptsfp6.pdf