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Vegetation fires, smoke emissions, and dispersion of radionuclides in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone


Hao, Wei Min; Bondarenko, Oleg O.; Zibtsev, Sergiy; Hutton, Diane. 2009. Vegetation fires, smoke emissions, and dispersion of radionuclides in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. In: Bytnerowicz, A.; Arbaugh, M.; Riebau, A.; Andersen, C., eds. Developments in environmental science, Volume 8: Wildland fires and air pollution. The Netherlands: Elsevier: 265-275.

The accident of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (ChNPP) in 1986 was probably the worst environmental disaster in the past 30 years. The fallout and accumulation of radionuclides in the soil and vegetation could have long-term impacts on the environment. Radionuclides released during large, catastrophic vegetation fires could spread to continental Europe, Scandinavia, and Russia. The potential for large fires occurring in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (EZ) was assessed based on vegetation conditions. We reviewed the composition of radionuclides in the soil and vegetation and in the particulate matter emitted by fires. The highest atmospheric radionuclide 137Cs levels occurred in early spring and late fall, corresponding to the most intense periods of burning in the EZ. It is evident from satellite images that smoke plumes from the EZ and southern Ukraine dispersed several hundred kilometers from the active fires and reached a major metropolitan area. We propose to install a satellite receiving station to detect fires in real time. It is also essential to develop a smoke dispersion and air quality forecasting model to predict the radioactivity levels downwind from catastrophic fires in order to protect public health.

Keywords: radionuclides, Chernobyl nuclear power plant (ChNPP), Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (EZ), smoke dispersion


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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Vegetation fires, smoke emissions, and dispersion of radionuclides in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Electronic Publish Date: October 16, 2009
Last Update:
October 16, 2009

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