While we experience dread over the pandemic and climate change, a new threat emerges in Ukraine. Wildfires have been burning near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exclusion zone since April 4, 2020. The fires have now closed in on the nuclear power plant and its radioactive storage facility. The 18.5 mile-long exclusion zone emptied the entire human population in the area after the meltdown of Chernobyl in 1986.
The fires are not a threat to the reactor and storage facility, but smoke from the burning of the forests and the grasslands in the exclusion zone released as radioactive particles. This smoke is spreading over large swaths of Ukraine.
Local farmers started the fires. And yes, the area is much warmer and drier than usual due to the slow death of the planet.
The link contains NASA imagery that tracks the carbon monoxide. Severe Europe writes:
Fires have emerged around April 4th in the Chernobyl’s exclusion zone, the 30-kilometer area around the former nuclear reactor, where authorities have prohibited people from living. The fires were started by locals, burning the dry grasslands near the exclusion zone…
Wildfires in the region have spread to just over a mile from the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant and a disposal site for radioactive waste. More than 300 firefighters were battling the fires. The image below from FIRMS shows the hotspots detected by satellites in the past 24 hours, where we can see the fires nearing the nuclear complex of Chernobyl.
We created graphics from the NASA Geos-5 forecast system, which simulates the smoke from the Chernobyl fires, tracked as carbon monoxide loading. The first image is from yesterday, where the smoke was moving towards the north. The oncoming cold front has changed the wind direction which is now projected to send the smoke clouds (with potential radiation) towards the south and south-east. That would take the smoke over the capital of Kiev, and further towards the south into the Black Sea. The less likely (but plausible) scenario is, that the fires would spread even further, creating more radioactive smoke, which could spread west towards central Europe if the winds would be from the east. The current danger is limited to the surrounding areas and towards the Black Sea, but the situation will be monitored closely.
Kiev, for now is, reporting normal radiation levels though that can change at anytime.