The Chernobyl zone as a unique eco-landfill
The Chernobyl zone as a unique eco-landfill

Recently, many are interested in the process of managing the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Many misperceptions have arisen about its conditional “migration to various departments”. Who, in the end, makes decisions, plans a strategy for its development, determines priorities, implements financial obligations?

These questions are especially acute in the light of insufficiently coordinated work in the framework of protecting the unique Chernobyl forest from fires, which are becoming more and more in the zone every year. Here’s how Vitaly Petruk, the chairman of the State Agency for the Management of the Exclusion Zone (SAEZ), comments on this issue.

It is no secret that forests burn from year to year, and everywhere. The highest fire hazard rating was declared due to the unprecedented heat and the relatively small amount of precipitation in almost all regions. From year to year, Kiev region is a leader in forest fire indications.

SAEZ dispatching service receives similar signals almost daily. Nevertheless, the current year still inspires hope for a decrease in these indicators, especially compared to the critical year of 2015, when the number of fires in the exclusion zone rose to the maximum critical level.

Then, in 2015, it became obvious that something needs to be done with the elements that the unprecedentedly high air temperature carries with a minimum of precipitation, it was then that the situation caused an unprecedented public resonance. Of course, the risk of massive forest fires is associated with the territory near Kiev, where Chernobyl is not just a fragment of history in the memory of people.

Therefore, large-scale and effective fire-fighting measures should be introduced in the exclusion zone, including organizational, legal and technical ones. But we have problems with this…

Why do massive fires occur in the Chernobyl zone?

As a rule, large-scale consequences are caused by timely undetected and not eliminated sources of ignition. There is an explanation for this. It is in the fact that systemic fire safety measures in the exclusion zone were last held in the early 2000s.

We are talking about creating mineralized stripes, lighting the zone, monitoring and maintaining forest paths, clearing the forest from dead wood, and so on. Moreover, sufficient fire-fighting measures simply did not exist even in the ten-year Forestry Plan 2006–2016.

Including for this reason, the fire in the exclusion zone reached enormous proportions in the aforementioned 2015. A similar document for the next decade has already been developed and is being implemented taking into account the amendments made to the strategic fire safety plan. In this regard, inter agency cooperation with the border service, the police, the Ministry of Emergencies, the Belarusian side is extremely important.

This is necessary to understand who and what is responsible for in case of fire. This concerns, it would seem, elementary things such as the management of communication channels, the presence of a list of direct telephone contacts, which greatly improve the responsiveness to any disasters. It is important to consider the exceptional fact that not a simple forest is burning, but a radioactive one.

This is a signal that all personnel should have a set of personal protective equipment, modern metering devices for the received radiation dose, so that later it would be possible to conduct examinations and, if necessary, deactivate possible objects of pollution.

Just a watchful eye is not enough to notice a fire 

In principle, the timely identified source of ignition is already 90% of success in extinguishing a fire. Five video cameras received by SAEZ from American colleagues came in very handy in connection with this, the image from which goes to the central control panel of the exclusion zone.

The fire, which was able to be localized in early July of this year, is the merit of one of them. Although severe weather conditions such as strong winds and high temperatures managed to cause considerable losses. Surveillance cameras are still not enough, in fact, like the funds allocated from the state budget for the prosperous and fully safe functionality of the exclusion zone.

Nevertheless, its personnel should provide the barrier function of the zone and not give either radiation or fires the opportunity to spread beyond its borders.

It is extremely important to establish monitoring of the radiation situation in real time

For this purpose, radiation measurements are taken every two hours. In case of emergency, these indicators will be included in the work every two minutes. Data is recorded in the appropriate computer program.

This makes it possible not only to see the objective radiation situation, but also to predict its development depending on various factors, including natural disasters. The plans include the acquisition of 10 surveillance cameras and their placement on towers of the appropriate height.

In the meantime, no one has canceled the old proven grandfather’s method – binoculars and a sharp look, thanks to which SAEZ employees reveal smoke every day and other signs of fire.

Why does the Zone attract people?

Some experts, not without reason, believe that people are driven solely by emotions and the desire to see something special. Although, according to scientists, there is only radiation from the unusual. Wildlife can be found in various places today, and two-headed deer have never appeared there.

Pripyat is abandoned by people? But today in Ukraine there are enough such abandoned places, especially in rural areas. What is valuable in ruins – is it hard to say? But you can easily get injured in the zone, especially if you visit it with a group of illegals or stalkers. In addition, the zone is often visited by scientists from around the world.

They conduct research in various fields and publicly share their findings. In addition, a scientific department has been created on the basis of the Chernobyl zone, which collects and structures all the scientific developments made on its territory. Scientists are unanimous in the opinion that a lot of outstanding discoveries will be made here.

Therefore, when the Chernobyl exclusion zone is called a unique ecological testing ground for researchers, this is not an exaggeration, but a real fact.