IN CHERNOBYL’S RADIOACTIVE FOREST, ARSON AND TIMBER SMUGGLING

On 26 February, Al Jazeera carried a disturbing feature saying that, more than 30 years after the nuclear accident, fires pose environmental risks and stir fears over illegal logging.  It says that, shrouding two-thirds of the Zone, the forest insulates radioactive contamination as vegetation and soil absorb particles of uranium-238, caesium-137 and other radionuclides that were rocketed out of Reactor Four.  Burning such woods is incredibly dangerous, as fires that turn radionuclides into inhalable, windblown aerosols, though there are “sanitary” clearings are the firebreaks carved out by Pivnichna Pushcha (Northern Forest), a state-run forestry whose sole purpose is to prevent fires in the Zone.  However, ash can be dispersed great distances by wind to areas outside of the zone and thus affect people, while some of the ash settles near the site of the fire and can return the area to a very high level of radioactivity.  There is also a danger from logging of trees, mostly tall, decades-old pines, oaks and ash-trees that often stand on contaminated soil – and fetch a good price at Ukraine’s timber market, according to corruption monitors and officials; and it is alleged that fires are used to justify more logging of trees that are smuggled out of the Zone.  The agency involved is allowed to sell limited amounts of the Zone’s timber since 2004 as long as each tree is scanned for radioactivity but there are claims that the timber has left the Zone without scanning and documentation and tracked to furniture factories, and claims some of it was shipped to Romania and can further be resold in the EU.  There are also greater concerns about charcoal with radiation levels exceeding the permissible levels 4 times that was found on sale in some Ukrainian supermarkets (in 2007).  Police have raided illegal charcoal workshops, and it is said that the use of radioactive charcoal is inherently more hazardous than furniture as the health risks stemming from the ingestion of radioactive materials can be significant.

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/chernobyl-radioactive-forest-arson-timber-smuggling-200214104539121.html

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Author: raytodd2017

Chartered Legal Executive and former senior manager with Isle of Man Customs and Excise, where I was (amongst other things) Sanctions Officer (for UN/EU sanctions), Export Licensing Officer and Manager of the Legal-Library & Collectorate Support Section

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