Fires in Chernobyl areas 'not a risk'

12 August 2010

Forest fires in Russia are now burning in areas contaminated after the Chernobyl accident, but analysis from France's Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) indicates there is no health risk. 


Major efforts continue in Russia to control hundreds of wildfires that have led to a state of emergency in seven western regions and many additional deaths from air pollution. After confirmation from officials that fires were burning in areas evacuated after the 1986 Chernobyl accident, fears were raised that potentially dangerous radionuclides could be spread further by the fires.


The IRSN confirmed the fires 580 kilometres from Moscow in the western Bryansk region. It said that fires in the abandoned forests would contaminate the air with radioactive particles such as caesium-137 and strontium-90 and these could then be inhaled by people in the area.


"However, recognizing that the transfer of radioactivity from the soil into the wood is quite low, it is anticipated that the radioactivity would not be comparable at all to those released by the Chernobyl reactor accident in 1986."


"The radioactivity that would be measured in the contaminated territories is foreseen to be around the level of natural radioactivity due to the presence of radon gas in air. Consequently, no health consequences for the population are to be feared."


The IRSN said that certain winds could raise the ambient level of caesium-137, but the measured activity "would be extremely low, a million times less than the activity corresponding to the concentration of natural radioactivity in the air especially due to the permanent presence of radon."


This kind of wind-borne travel occurred in 2002, IRSN said, when fires burned in similarly affected areas. Levels of caesium-137 were raised in France, but not to levels that could be detected directly by monitoring networks.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News