Radiation levels in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone rose after Russian forces took control of the nuclear power plant in Ukraine, radiation monitoring data shows, with Ukrainian experts attributing the spike to contaminated soil in the area disturbed.
Chernobyl, located about 125 km north of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, is the site of the worst nuclear accident in history. More than 35 years after the catastrophic explosion, the area remains radioactive, with around 30 km around the decommissioned plant designated an exclusion zone due to high levels of contamination, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). .
After Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, Russian troops took control of the Chernobyl plant on the same day following a battle with Ukrainian national guards guarding the site, it said. said the Ukrainian government.
Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate reported that data from the Exclusion Zone’s automated radiation monitoring system showed that gamma radiation dose rate control levels had been exceeded at a “significant number vantage points”.
The increase was due to “the disturbance of the upper layer of the ground due to the movement of a large number of radio heavy military machines through the exclusion zone and the increase in air pollution”, said the agency reported, adding that the condition of facilities at the site remained unchanged.
“The readings reported by the regulator – up to 9.46 microSieverts per hour – are low and remain within the operational range measured in the exclusion zone since its inception, and therefore pose no danger to the public,” said the IAEA in a statement, adding that it would continue to closely monitor developments in Ukraine and the safety and security of reactors in the country.
Nuclear watchdog CRIIRAD said in its own statement on Friday that more research was needed to verify, cross-check and interpret the data, but described the situation as extremely concerning.
“It is logical to fear that the increase in ambient radiation (risks of external irradiation) will be accompanied by contamination of the air, and therefore risks of inhalation for the soldiers and civilians present”, specifies the press release. of the Independent French Observatory. He also did not rule out the possibility of a cyberattack or the impact of electromagnetic disturbances.
Although many other nuclear power plants operating in Ukraine are unlikely to be military targets, CRIIRAD said military conflict situations were always “high risk” and that if shutting down reactors could reduce this risk, more than 50% of Ukraine’s electricity consumption was nuclear. dependent.
Meanwhile, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in an earlier statement that it was vitally important that the safe and secure operations of facilities in the exclusion zone were not affected. or disrupted, recalling that Member States had previously adopted a decision that any armed attack or threat against nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes was “a violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and the Statute of the Agency”.
The Chernobyl site itself has no military significance, but is the shortest route to Kiev from neighboring Belarus, an entry point into Ukraine for Russian troops, according to military analysts quoted by The Associated Press .