Around 200 tons of radioactive material is being fought in Chernobyl. Russian forces have taken over the nuclear power plant, Kiev said. “It has now become impossible for us to determine if the plant is safe,” said Ukrainian presidency adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.
In the “exclusion zone” around Chernobyl, where access has been forbidden since the explosion of reactor number 4, April 26, 1986, Russian soldiers and Ukrainian forces clashed throughout the day Thursday. The area of the incident is now occupied by wild vegetation, but it is on the direct line that Moscow troops from Belarus, to the north, must follow to head towards Kiev, 130 kilometers further south. In the evening, according to Kiev’s admission, the Moscow troops had the upper hand. And given the impact that a new accident in Chernobyl would have beyond regional borders, “this is a declaration of war on all of Europe,” Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky wrote on Twitter.
According to Russian security sources cited by Reuters, the Moscow soldiers would have massed right in the exclusion zone – an area of 30 kilometers radius around the reactor, considered one of the most radioactive areas on the planet – before moving south. The reactor occupation could be a deterrent to discourage NATO troops from intervening militarily. In view of an attack by Moscow, Kiev had strengthened its northern border with 7,500 soldiers, equipped with devices to monitor radiation, useful to avoid crossing the most contaminated areas.
The Chernobyl accident released a radioactivity equal to 400 Hiroshima bombs, killing about thirty people on the spot. The houses and towns were abandoned within hours and today look exactly as they were then. Some tourists are allowed to visit the area, but only for a very short time and the guards at the entrance to the exclusion zone check that no one enters to steal, hunt or collect mushrooms. Today what remains of the reactor is protected by the so-called “sarcophagus”, a roof of 400 thousand cubic meters of concrete and 7,300 cubic meters of iron, 92 meters high and costing over 2 billion euros, completed 4 years ago. The huge structure acts as a plug for what remains of the reactor: 740,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste and radioactive soil. Inside lies a “bomb” of 200,000 tons of residues that melted during the accident and are now reduced to a sort of solidified lava, seasoned with another 16 tons of uranium and plutonium.
The situation of the war between Ukraine and Russia: what happened today
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According to military experts, clashes between soldiers can hardly threaten the sarcophagus. But it is not certain that the structure can withstand a badly aimed heavy artillery shell that has gone off target. Before the sarcophagus was made, the reactor was protected by a structure made in haste in 1986, which soon began to show the signs of time by releasing radiation. The “cap” that today protects Chernobyl is strong enough, but there remains the fear that too strong a blow will make it jump.