17 Apr 2020 20:33

Radioactive contamination increased in parts of Chernobyl zone - head of State Emergency Service

KYIV. April 17 (Interfax) - The head of Ukraine's State Emergency Service, Mykola Chechetkin, said that rescuers in the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had to work in certain areas with increased radioactive contamination.

"I want to reiterate that background radiation both in the exclusion zone and in the Kyiv region and the city of Kyiv is within the natural range and does not exceed permissible levels," Chechetkin said during an online briefing on Friday evening.

At the same time, he admitted: "Yes, of course in the Chernobyl zone there are some areas where background levels of radioactive contamination are exceeded."

Sometimes rescuers have to work there too, so "the radiologists in the exclusion zone and our radiological safety officers, through verification and calculation according to certain formulae, tell rescuers how long they can work in a particular area," Chechetkin said.

"The Chernobyl zone fires... are posing absolutely no threat, neither to the Shelter sarcophagus nor the radioactive waste storage facility, nor any other critical facilities in the exclusion zone," Chechetkin said.

"The smell of smoke... is absolutely nothing to do with the fires from the Chernobyl zone. The smoke is coming from fires in the Zhytomyr region," he said.

As for yesterday's sandstorm in and around Kyiv, this was an unusual phenomenon for this region, he said. "The mixture of dust and combustion residuals... travelled, leading to the air in Kyiv getting polluted," Chechetkin said.

Meanwhile, the EU Delegation to Ukraine said that the emergency crisis team and the state nuclear regulatory inspectorate in Ukraine were monitoring radiation in the Kyiv region using the Rodos Decision Support System.

"This system allows performing detailed forecast calculations of the movement path of potentially contaminated clouds along the northern borders of Ukraine. This system is trustworthy and meets all international standards. Everybody can access accurate information about the situation on the website https://sstc.ua/news," the delegation stated on Friday.

"This RODOS system has been developed in the EU and provided by the European Commission to Ukraine in the framework of its nuclear safety assistance programs. The European Union is a long-standing partner of the Ukrainian authorities in addressing the consequences of the Chernobyl accident that destroyed the nuclear reactor 4 in 1986."

As part of this effort, the European Commission provided monitoring equipment, necessary software and training, which Ukraine regularly uses to measure background radiation in the Chernobyl exclusion zone and elsewhere in the country. The system is connected to the European radiation monitoring system which distributes information among member states in real time, the delegation said.

Additionally, Ukraine can avail itself of the EU's Copernicus satellite system to obtain detailed imaging of the forest fires which began on April 4.

A forest fire broke out in the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl NPP on April 4. Wind fanned the flames, and despite the efforts of firefighters, the fire reached the town of Pripyat and high-risk facilities in the exclusion zone.

The flames approached the industrial site of the Chernobyl NPP's new safe confinement facility as close as 500 meters due to gale force winds on April 13. Ukraine's State Emergency Service sent a large unit of hardware and personnel to combat the blaze. Firefighting aircraft performed 227 flights on Monday to dump 500 tonnes of water. Rain helped the firemen put out the blaze.

However, the fire reignited in the Chernobyl exclusion zone on April 16 due to strong winds.

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