Europe-Wide Atmospheric Radionuclide Dispersion by Unprecedented Wildfires in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, April 2020

Olivier Masson, Olexander Romanenko, Olivier Saunier, Serhii Kirieiev, Valentin Protsak, Gennady Laptev, Oleg Voitsekhovych, Vanessa Durand, Frédéric Coppin, Georg Steinhauser, Aanne de Vismes Ott, Philippe Renaud, Damien Didier, Béatrice Boulet, Maxime Morin, Johan Camps, Olga Belyaeva, Axel Dalheimer, Konstantinos Eleftheriadis, Catalina Gascó LeonarteAlexandra Loannidou, Krzysztof Isajenko, Tero Karhunen, Johan Kastlander, Cristian Katzlberger, Renata Kierepko, Gert Jan Knetsch, Julia Kövendiné-Kónyi, Herzy Wojciech Mieteslki, Michael Mirsch, Bredo Møller, Jelena Krneta Nikolic, Pavel Peter Povinec, Rosella Rusconi, Vladimir Samsonov, Ivan Sýkora, Elena Simion, Philipp Steinmann, Stylianos Stoulos, José Antonio Suarez-Navarro, Herbert Wershofen, Daniel Zapata-Garcia, Benjamin Zorko

    Research outputpeer-review


    From early April 2020, wildfires raged in the highly contaminated areas around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (CNPP), Ukraine. For about 4 weeks, the fires spread around and into the Chernobyl exclusion zone (CEZ) and came within a few kilometers of both the CNPP and radioactive waste storage facilities. Wildfires occurred on several occasions throughout the month of April. They were extinguished, but weather conditions and the spread of fires by airborne embers and smoldering fires led to new fires starting at different locations of the CEZ. The forest fires were only completely under control at the beginning of May, thanks to the tireless and incessant work of the firefighters and a period of sustained precipitation. In total, 0.7–1.2 TBq 137Cs were released into the atmosphere. Smoke plumes partly spread south and west and contributed to the detection of airborne 137Cs over the Ukrainian territory and as far away as Western Europe. The increase in airborne 137Cs ranged from several hundred μBq·m–3 in northern Ukraine to trace levels of a few μBq·m–3 or even within the usual background level in other European countries. Dispersion modeling determined the plume arrival time and was helpful in the assessment of the possible increase in airborne 137Cs concentrations in Europe. Detections of airborne 90Sr (emission estimate 345–612 GBq) and Pu (up to 75 GBq, mostly 241Pu) were reported from the CEZ. Americium-241 represented only 1.4% of the total source term corresponding to the studied anthropogenic radionuclides but would have contributed up to 80% of the inhalation dose.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)13834-13848
    Number of pages15
    JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
    Issue number20
    StatePublished - 29 Sep 2021

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