Global pandemic, earthquakes abound, and now smoke from a wildfire has been moving toward the famed Russian nuclear reactors–is this merely click-bait journalism?

    The Chernobyl nuclear power station and the nearby village of Pripyat have been abandoned since the late 80s when the infamous nuclear plant’s No. 4 reactor blew up.

    At that time, an explosion sent forth an ominous cloud of radioactive fallout across much of Europe. The area immediately around the plant was decimated, and thousands of Russians poisoned leading to some dying of cancer. Currently, citizens are forbidden from living within 18 miles of the power station.

    The increase in forest fires — in particular, around vulnerable sites storing nuclear waste and in areas with a history of radioactive contamination — is a worrisome development.

    And an increase in dry winter seasons as a result of climate change, making the forest more susceptible to forest fires, is a particular concern.

    The fact that this has happened on multiple occasions over the last five years does not bode well for the future, and requires better planning for worst-case scenarios.

    However, there isn’t any scientific evidence so far that demonstrates that these fires result in the release of radioactive clouds that pose a direct risk to human health. Continued air quality monitoring is needed to ensure that risks from the burning forest, in particular in the exclusion zones, are better understood — and timely and clear communication with citizens is needed to prevent fear and uncertainty.

    Wim Zwijnenburg

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