On March 31, the Russian army, which occupied the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, left the power plant in full force and headed for Belarus.
Their stay for more than a month on the ground of a strategic installation has caused concern not only in Ukraine but also abroad. After all, any interference with the operation of nuclear power plants can lead to catastrophic radiation on an international scale. Fortunately, this did not happen. But invaders themselves can now suffer from radiation exposure.
Why this happens, and whether they could propagate radiation outside the exclusion zone, LIGA.net spoke with Olena Parenyuk, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Nuclear Safety Problems of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
Following the news that the occupiers are leaving the Chernobyl exclusion zone, jokes appeared on Ukrainian sections of social networks that they can now be called “your grace” and “Your Excellency”. The meaning of such jokes is clear – the military invaders received such doses of radiation that now almost shine from it.
Trenches in the red forest
“We note that the information about the fortifications, trenches built by the Russians in the Red Forest, the most polluted in the whole exclusion zone, has also been confirmed.” Such a message appeared on the official Telegram channel of NNEGC Energoatom on April 1, but certainly not as a joke. Prior to that, unofficial sources have already reported such activities of the Russian army, which, according to the head of the Ministry of Integration, Irina Vereshchuk, deserves the Darwin Prize.
Here we must remember what a red forest is.
In 1986, when the Chernobyl accident occurred, the wind was blowing in a westerly direction. The heavier dust particles containing radioactive elements fell to the west of the nuclear plant in the form of a long spot with pen-like contours. The dust actively stuck to pine needles, causing the trees to receive lethal radiation. Chlorophyll molecules – substances that cause the green color of all plants and are responsible for photosynthesis – literally collapsed from the radiation and the trees acquired a brick or rusty color.
It was a dead forest, ready to ignite like a candle and release an extra portion of radionuclides into the atmosphere. Therefore, with the help of excavators, dry trees were removed and buried in ditches. A layer of sand was poured on top and new trees were planted. That is, today it is impossible to see a truly red forest in an area with that name. Today, this is not the most dangerous area in terms of radiation in the exclusion zone. Unless, of course, you’re digging trenches here.
Elena Parenyuk says that, in her opinion, the Russian occupiers did not do that. There are at least two arguments. First, from the point of view of war, the trenches in the forest between Chernobyl and Pripyat, where the Red Forest is located, do not make sense. And secondly, in the red forest are placed special signs with signs “Danger of radiation”. Even a not very educated person should understand that it is better to stay away from such a place.
Another scientist, who has been working in the exclusion zone for a long time and is well aware of it, assured us that the information about the trenches in the red forest is fiction. But it has spread well in our news space.
What if they did dig?
But what if one of the people, despite the warning, and complete absurdity, decided to “dig” in the red forest? There are special computer programs that allow you to calculate what dose of radiation this or that body will receive under certain conditions and for a certain time. Elena Parenyuk thought that if one of the people spent a month in a ditch in the area of the red forest, then he would definitely put his health in serious danger.
“In fact, there will be no health after that,” he says. “But it must be understood that the dose taken in this way is still much lower than that which can cause acute radiation sickness. Conquerors are killed by radionuclides and blacks. “
However, there is good reason to believe that the occupiers in the exclusion zone managed to receive a dose of radiation, which in the coming years can cost them not only health but also life. This, in particular, is evidenced by the message of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, according to which the Republican Scientific and Practical Center for Radiology and Human Ecology is said to contain “injured” US Army soldiers. Federation, which received substantially significant doses of radiation in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
To understand how this could happen, it is worth remembering how radiation “works” in the exclusion zone. Heavy dust particles containing radioactive elements such as plutonium, americium and, to a lesser extent, uranium isotopes were installed in a ten-kilometer zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. During their radioactive decay, the so-called alpha particles are formed.
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For this to happen, radionuclides must be inside the body – they must be consumed or inhaled. What the Russians did with their heavy equipment was to collect radionuclides not only from the earth’s surface, but also from the depths of the earth, where they managed to migrate in recent decades. Residents who inhaled this dust are now more likely to get lung cancer or have diseases of the blood or reproductive system.
Radiation travels through tanks
The question remains, does radioactivity now threaten anyone other than the conquerors themselves? Strictly speaking, there is no answer to this question yet. But once the area is safe for scientists to work on, Elena Parenyuk, along with her colleagues, will look for an answer.
One of the main tasks of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is to limit the spread of radionuclides outside it. In other words, whatever turned out to be in it to stay in place. But in practice this is impossible to achieve.
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