Chernobyl, another legacy being affected by climate change?

Martin Berwick 2018

Martin Berwick
Consultant, Assurity Consulting
20th April 2020

On Saturday 26th April 1986 an accident occurred at the Nuclear plant in Chernobyl (Ukraine) that had a devastating effect nationally and internationally. When nuclear Reactor No. 4 suffered a huge power increase, the core exploded and large amounts of radioactive materials and fuel were released. It is considered the worst nuclear disaster to ever happen (it is one of only two nuclear energy disaster to be rated the highest (7) on the international Nuclear event scale) and the effects through the initial contaminants - such as radiocaesium - were felt as far away as Scandinavia.

In early April, forest fires have been devastating the local area near to the Chernobyl plant and burning within the 30km (18.6 mile) exclusion zone. This exclusion zone was set up around the site after the disaster, as protection from the extremely high levels of radiation contaminating the site and surrounding areas. So, as these fire develop it may not just smoke that is potentially being spread. Fortunately, again, hundreds of firefighters have been deployed and have the blaze under control currently.

I say again, because over the last 5 years these fires have happened on more than one occasion. With drier winters and warmer weather as a result of climate change the areas is becoming increasingly susceptible to the risk of fire. Currently I have found no scientific evidence to show that these fires are resulting in the release of radioactive clouds or having any effect of human health. But with the vagaries of the weather meaning, should we see radioactive contamination occur as a consequence of such a fire, countries to the North, East, South and/or West could be adversely affected. Does more need to be done to protect the exclusion zone? Should we preparing for the worse case scenarios to stop or limit another potential disaster in the future?