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Ukraine Says Radiation Levels Elevated In Chernobyl Zone; UN Atomic Agency Says Increase Is No Danger To Public

By RFE/RL February 25, 2022

Ukrainian authorities say radiation levels have increased in the Chernobyl exclusion zone since it was seized by invading Russian troops.

Experts at Ukraine's state nuclear agency said in a statement on February 25 that the change was due to the movement of heavy military equipment in the area, lifting radioactive dust into the air.

The decommissioned power plant was captured by Russian forces on February 24 after Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office said.

In an earlier statement on February 25, the Ukrainian state nuclear agency said data from the automated radiation monitoring system in the exclusion zone around the plant indicated that gamma radiation had been exceeded "at a significant number of observation points."

But it said it was impossible to establish the reasons for the change because of the "occupation and military fight in this area."

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that radiation levels did not pose a threat.

The IAEA said in a statement that the readings reported by Ukraine's regulatory authority "are low and remain within the operational range measured in the exclusion zone since it was established, and therefore do not pose any danger to the public."

The IAEA noted that experts at Ukraine's state nuclear agency had said the higher radiation reported by the regulator "may have been caused by heavy military vehicles stirring up soil still contaminated from the 1986 accident."

The IAEA said on February 24 that Ukrainian authorities had informed it of the takeover. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi called for "maximum restraint" to avoid actions that could put Ukraine's nuclear facilities at risk.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov confirmed in a statement that his country's forces had captured the area but said radiation levels were normal.

"Yesterday, on February 24, units of the Russian Airborne Forces took full control of the area around the Chernobyl NPP (nuclear power plant)," Konashenkov said, according Interfax.

"Radiation levels are normal in the NPP area. The NPP personnel continue to operate the power plant as usual and to monitor radiation levels," Konashenkov said.

An explosion in one of the reactors at the nuclear power plant in April 1986 left swaths of Ukraine and neighboring Belarus badly contaminated and led to the creation of the exclusion zone, which is about 2,600 square kilometers, or roughly the size of Luxembourg.

The still-radioactive site lies about 130 kilometers from Kyiv.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said that the critical infrastructure of the plant had not been damaged by the takeover and essential maintenance work was ongoing.

Poland said it had not recorded any increase in radiation levels on its territory.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and Interfax

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/chernobyl-radiation- levels-ukraine-invasion/31723877.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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