Most Chernobyl towns fit for habitation

25 April 2012

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Ukraine is making plans to rebuild civil society in the areas affected by the Chernobyl accident, as the man responsible for the Exclusion Zone announces most of the affected towns could be resettled.

A round of comments have come from Ukrainian leaders today ahead of tomorrow's 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.

Speaking to parliament, prime minsiter Mykola Azarov announced extra funding for Chernobyl programs amounting to UAH3.7 billion ($460 million). The pensions of the 'liquidators' that performed emergency clean-up are to be increased and there will also be more money available for other people badly affected by the accident. Azarov said he is doing so 'despite huge payments on debts, despite the frantic overpayment for Russian gas', and because he does not want to make empty promises.

At the same time, Vladimir Kholosha, chairman of the State Agency for the Exclusion Zone (DAZV) gave a briefing at Government House. He gave the results of radiological surveys carried out last year in 2155 of the 2293 settlements in the Exclusion Zone. It revealed that 'most of these towns can function without restrictions due to radiation'.

He said this is because time, natural processes and countermeasures have significantly reduced radiation hazard compared to the time immediately after the accident some 26 years ago.

Approaches to evacuation

The Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl was drawn to limit additional radiation doses from the accident to 1 millisievert per year, compared to the 2.4 millisieverts per year people receive from all sources. This resulted in a very wide evacuation area, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

By contrast, radiation experts in Japan have said that Fukushima residents should be able to return home to areas where additional doses would be up to 20 millisieverts per year, although their wish is for additional doses to be as low as possible. Some areas have already been opened during daylight hours for residents and workers to make repairs ahead of a permanent return.

Kholosha also connected the towns with potential socio-economic development, which Azarov separately said was the only way to alleviate the chronic 'state of poverty' that hampers some of the affected regions.

A draft bill towards a definition of the 'concept of state policy on development activities in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone' was published by the DAZV on 7 December last year but Kholosha did not reveal any specific areas he may be considering for potential development.

The only area specified in documents available from the DAZV is the Chernobyl power plant site, where other industrial activities could take place to make better use of the labour force maintained in the worker town of Slavutych.

DAZV will work with local authorities and labour unions to promote volunteerism and development of supporting civil society groups. One concrete measure will be the creation of a radio station for the region, which is due to begin broadcasting before the middle of this year. 

Belarusian example

Belarus lies close-by to the north of the Chernobyl site and was badly affected by contamination spread on the wind during the accident. In 2010 that country announced a multi-year plan to promote basic economic activity in its evacuated Gomel and Mogilev regions.

The official plan begins by reducing fire risk by clearing overgrown areas and then properly disposing of buried contaminated items. Infrastructure work can then follow - the rebuilding of roads and reconnection to gas and electrical grids.

Among the first self-sustaining industries in the Belarusian regions could be forestry, with schools and housing provided for the families of specialist workers before broader development begins.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News