Since early April, wildfires have engulfed parts of Ukraine as a result of locals setting fire to grass in the area. This weekend, the fires were a mere mile away from the site of Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant and sparked fears of radiation.

Over 300 firefighters, dozens of fire trucks and several aircraft facilities have been utilised to fight the fire. “The main thing we can say is that there is no threat to the nuclear power station, the spent fuel storage, and to other critical sites in the exclusion zone,” said Ukrainian emergency services

However, some are not quite convinced. A member of Greenpeace Russia told Reuters that the fires were larger than reported and could pose a serious health risk.

Strong winds have further instigated the fire with two blazes erupting on Saturday within the exclusion zone – the 1000 square mile zone surrounding the nuclear plant. Many have raised concerns on what could happen if the fire reaches the now defunct nuclear reactor or the storage site for radioactive waste. However, government agencies have reassured that the fire has not led to a spike in radiation levels.

While fires are common in the area, Greenpeace say this is the worst occurrence since the 1986 explosion.

The 1986 Chernobyl Explosion

In April 1986, a nuclear accident occurred at the 4th reactor of the Chernobyl power plant during a safety test. The test led to a reactor core exploding and triggered a nuclear chain reaction that released radioactive contamination into the air for several days. It is estimated that about 400 times more radioactivity was released from Chernobyl than by the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Chernobyl is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history and is only one of two disasters rated at the highest severity on the International Nuclear Event Scale along with 2011’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

While the area is mostly abandoned, the site has attracted many tourists, particularly following HBO’s miniseries adaption of the disaster.

Photo credit: CNET

Aisha Mohamed