What do we know about the Russian ventures in Chernobyl

What do we know about the Russian ventures in Chernobyl

Lviv - The former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, out of use by the major disaster of 1986 and since then managed by Ukraine, has been the backdrop for one of Russia's most dangerous and surreal attacks for weeks. On March 31, the Moscow troops left the area - crossed with the intention of reaching the Ukrainian capital Kyiv - and on April 2 the yellow and blue flag returned to fly over the former plant. At that moment a long process of checking the damage began, with the emergence in recent days of more and more testimonies on the risky behavior of the Russians, and we are wondering about the future of what remains one of the most delicate places in Europe.

There are various hypotheses on the radiation peaks recorded in Chernobyl A new study dismisses the idea that the highest levels are linked to the ground moved by the passage of Russian military vehicles and believes that they are due to interference from the security system data transmissions Although Chernobyl remains a mostly deactivated site and the reactors have been shut down for decades, a workforce of dozens of people continues to operate in the area to take care of the last, complicated decommissioning and reclamation phases of the plant. Despite the recommendations of the Ukrainian scientists who still work at the former plant - contained within the notorious exclusion zone - Russian soldiers would not have respected even the minimum safety standards during, tearing up toxic land with bulldozers and tanks, digging trenches and bunker and exposing oneself and others to potentially harmful doses of radiation.

A situation that Valeriy Simyonov, head of safety at the Chernobyl site, summarized in an interview with New York Times: "They have arrived and they did what they wanted. " Adding: "We tried to warn them that it was dangerous, but they ignored us."

The capture of the power plant On the afternoon of February 24, Russian forces surrounded Chernobyl with tanks and armored vehicles, entering Ukraine from the Belarusian border, located about 16 kilometers away. About 170 Ukrainian soldiers who had secured the facility were taken underground and held captive. Engineers, supervisors and other technical personnel were forced to continue working for weeks, with no possibility of returning home.

The war in Ukraine blocked scientific research in Chernobyl After the 1986 nuclear disaster the area wildlife was repopulated around the plant, attracting several researchers interested in studying the effects of radiation. But now everything is stopped In the following days the teams of the Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom were brought in for an inspection: with a very abrupt questioning they wanted to know how the structure was managed, information on all procedures, confidential documents and transactions. This was told by Oleksandr Lobada, a radiation safety supervisor at the station. In mid-March, a cooling pool that holds spent nuclear fuel rods was cut off, immediately compensated by emergency generators. And the story was spread of a Russian soldier who allegedly handled an object that contained cobalt-60 (an extremely dangerous material) kept in a deposit without gloves: within a few seconds the Geiger counter, the instrument that measures radioactivity, had very high levels reported.

Despite the exceptional situation, the Chernobyl personnel were able to continue their control and maintenance work, in a site that, although not active, still stores the radioactive waste of the worst nuclear disaster ever, which accelerated, according to some scholars, the collapse of the Soviet Union. The levels of radioactivity in most of the 28-kilometer exclusion zone around the nuclear power plant, 36 years after the accident, pose minimal risks, equivalent to flying at high altitudes. Billions of dollars have been spent since 1986 to clean up and contain further contamination.

But if site conditions are not monitored properly there is a risk of releasing nuclear material. In some hotspots, sometimes covering a few hectares, sometimes just a few square meters, the radiation can rise well beyond normal environmental levels. This is the case of the so-called “Red Forest”, where according to the accounts of the Ukrainian personnel of the site, the Russian soldiers moved without wearing protection and raising radioactive dust. Some photos and satellite images seem to confirm this gamble.

What do we know about the situation at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhja The Russian military forces hit the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, causing a fire in a secondary building. International authorities say they have not recorded changes in radiation levels The effects "We believe that very soon [the Russians, ed.] Will feel the consequences of the radiation they have received. Some of them will feel it in months, others in years," he said to the press Yevhen Kramarenko, head of the state agency for the management of exclusion zones, adding that Ukraine is working to develop further security measures to "avoid any event similar to what happened in the future". The Ukrainian Minister of Energy German Galushchenko is even more drastic: the soldiers who passed through the "Red Forest" are left with "more than a year of life". These are striking statements, partly influenced also by the needs of war propaganda. For now, no cases of ailments or diseases attributable to radiation exposure have been officially confirmed and the International Atomic Energy Agency has not been able to verify some evidence on the incident. But it is also true that the effects of radiation often only manifest themselves after many years.

The reasons for the seizure of the Chernobyl power plants and, at the same time, of Zaporizhzhia in the southern part of the country, by the Russian armed forces are still unclear today. The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK said the exclusion zone was an Achilles' heel in Ukraine's defense lines, as it was not sufficiently protected. As mentioned, Chernobyl is also on the most direct route from Belarus to Kyiv. Europe has again been haunted by the specter of contamination. The event has not only alarmed the entire continent, but has also curbed a number of research projects underway in the exclusion zone. Before the war the site, which extends into Ukraine and Belarus, was the site of a large number of ecological studies conducted by international scientists. "At this point we have no idea how this will impact the long-term international collaborations taking place there," James Beasley, professor of wildlife management and ecology at the University of Georgia, said in an interview.

Today there are 107 operational reactors across the European Union, which are closed as they age without being replaced, but 14 countries still rely on them, with France being particularly attached to it. The war between Ukraine and Russia could change the attitude of public opinion, albeit indirectly. According to an Ipsos poll of 7 April, one in two Italians would be willing to rehabilitate nuclear power in order to overcome the energy crisis and the high bills.

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