The Environmental Effects of the April 2020 Wildfires and the Cs-137 Re-Suspension in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: A Multi-Hazard Threat

Baró, Rocío ; Maurer, Christian ; Brioude, Jerome ; Arnold, Delia ; Hirtl, Marcus

Année de publication
<p align=justify>This paper demonstrates the environmental impacts of the wildfires occurring at the beginning of April 2020 in and around the highly contaminated Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). Due to the critical fire location, concerns arose about secondary radioactive contamination potentially spreading over Europe. The impact of the fire was assessed through the evaluation of fire plume dispersion and re-suspension of the radionuclide Cs-137, whereas, to assess the smoke plume effect, a WRF-Chem simulation was performed and compared to Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) satellite columns. The results show agreement of the simulated black carbon and carbon monoxide plumes with the plumes as observed by TROPOMI, where pollutants were also transported to Belarus. From an air quality and health perspective, the wildfires caused extremely bad air quality over Kiev, where the WRF-Chem model simulated mean values of PM2.5 up to 300 µg/m3 (during the first fire outbreak) over CEZ. The re-suspension of Cs-137 was assessed by a Bayesian inverse modelling approach using FLEXPART as the atmospheric transport model and Ukraine observations, yielding a total release of 600 ± 200 GBq. The increase in both smoke and Cs-137 emissions was only well correlated on the 9 April, likely related to a shift of the focus area of the fires. From a radiological point of view even the highest Cs-137 values (average measured or modelled air concentrations and modelled deposition) at the measurement site closest to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, i.e., Kiev, posed no health risk.</p>
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