Plans for post-Chernobyl resettlement

13 August 2010

The government of Belarus has announced a masterplan to bring areas evacuated after the Chernobyl accident back into general use. 


The recent 'State Program on Overcoming the Consequences of Chernobyl, 2011-2015 and the period to 2020' contains the details of a $2.2 billion plan. It marks a change in Belarus' policy with regards the 1986 accident at Chernobyl in Ukraine from rehabilitation to recovery.


'At the heart of public policies to combat the effects of the Chernobyl disaster is the transition from post-accident rehabilitation measures to the restoration and furthering of socio-economic development in affected regions, creating in them a more attractive environment for life.'


'Effective use of the contaminated territories is an important task that must be addressed through special projects aimed at development of the affected regions, the establishment of industries, providing design and production of self-sustaining and profitable products.'


Ever decreasing circles   


Between 2000 to 2010
the area of agricultural and domestic land contaminated by caesium-137, strontium-90 or both has decreased by 21% from 12,970 to 10,210 square kilometres.

The focus of the work will be within the Gomel and Mogilev regions, from which over 137,000 people were relocated. A primary measure will be to reduce fire hazard in the overgrown areas while some 14,000 contaminated objects hastily buried by previous governments are to be removed and about 5600 contaminated or broken-down buildings must be demolished.


Initial infrastructure requirements will mean the refurbishment of gas, potable water and power supplies, while the use of local wood will be banned. Schools and housing will be provided for specialist workers and their families ahead of wider socio-economic development. Free meals will be provided for students in the areas and there will be incentives for qualified professionals in healthcare, education, housing and utilities.


Overall, some 21,484 dwellings are slated for connection to gas networks in the period 2011-2015, while 1368 kilometres of road will be laid. There should be ten new sewerage works and 15 pumping stations. The cost of the work was put at BYR 6.6 trillion ($2.2 billion), split fairly evenly across the years 2011 to 2015 inclusive.


Food and forestry 


The area of agricultural land that could come back into use totals over 10,000 square kilometres.


A suite of protective measures are to be set up to allow a new forestry industry whose products would meet national and international safety standards. A radiation monitoring system to support this would ensure workers are not be put at risk.


The feasibility of agriculture will be examined in areas where the presence of caesium-137 and strontium-90 is lower, 'to acquire new knowledge in the fields of radiobiology and radioecology in order to clarify the principles of safe life in the contaminated territories.' Land found to have too high a concentration of radionuclides will be reforested and managed to prevent their spread to neighbouring areas.


In April last year specialists in Belarus stressed that it is safe to eat all foods cultivated in the contaminated territories. However, consuming certain amounts of wild mushrooms, berries, game, milk or meat from cattle could take an individual beyond the internationally accepted limit for public exposure of 1 mSv per year. Grain and legumes are acceptable for use from all regions apart from a few places in the worst-affected Gomel region.


As well as bringing about the re-use of previously abandoned land, the learning by Belarusian scientists should allow the better targeting of medical care for people thought to have been affected by the accident as well as improve living standards overall. Social and medical measures are to be stepped up for the 1.4 million people the government has under health surveillance and there will be an end to the distinction between clean-up workers and people exposed due only to their location in the days after the accident.


Protective measures will be put in place for 498 settlements in the area where average annual effective radiation dose may exceed 1 mSv per year. There are also 1904 villages with annual average effective doses between 0.1 mSv and 1 mSv. The goal for these areas is to allow their re-use with 'minimal restrictions', although already radiation doses there are lower than background levels in other parts of the world. The most affected settlements are to be tackled first, around 2011-2013, with the rest coming back in around 2014-2015.


Researched and written 

by World Nuclear News