Fires in Chernobyl region pose no additional health concerns

13 August 2010

The widespread forest fires in Russia have now started to affect areas contaminated after the Chernobyl accident. However analysis from the French Institute of Radiation Protection (IRSN) say they pose no health risk. Nuclear facilities in the country also remain unaffected by the fires.

The territories contaminated by the fallout from the Chernobyl accident are located in southwest Russia, about 200km away from Bryansk, the capital of this administrative region located 380km away from Moscow.

IRSN says that in contaminated territories affected by the fires, radioactive particles (such as cesium-137 or strontium-90) would be generated when the forest wood burns.

“Even though the contaminated territories are affected by the fires in Russia, the situation would not lead to health concerns for the population, locally and in other countries in Europe.

“A slight increasing of the radioactivity due to cesium-137 might be measured in the environment but it would be very much lower than the natural radioactivity.”

Nuclear facilities east of Moscow are also near fire-affected areas. They include the military research facilities Sarov (500km from Moscow); Snejinsk (1500km from Moscow), and the Mayak spent fuel reprocessing and nuclear waste storage plant (40km from Snejinsk).

IRSN says that the risk to nuclear facilities is primarily the heat, which could cause buildings to burn. The other risks include the toxicity of smoke produced within the fire and the risks related to ashes deposit that might affect filter aeration facility, or settle on heat exchangers and electrical isolators. Up to now no nuclear facilities are directly affected by the forest fires in Russia.

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