Disturbance of contaminated soil by military vehicles does not explain anomalous radiation dose rates in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone

Wood, M.D.; Beresford, N.A.; Barnett, C.L. ORCID:; Burgess, P.; Mobbs, S.. 2022 Disturbance of contaminated soil by military vehicles does not explain anomalous radiation dose rates in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. [Lecture] In: 5th International Conference on Radioecology & Environmental Radioactivity, Oslo, Norway, 4-9 September, 2022.

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On 25th February 2022, increased gamma radiation dose rates (by up to 90 µSv/h) were reported within the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). This coincided with Russian military vehicles entering the Ukrainian part of the CEZ from neighbouring Belarus on 24th February 2022. It was widely speculated, both amongst the scientific community and by media outlets globally, that contaminated soil resuspension by vehicle movements or even a leak from the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (ChNPP) complex may explain the dose rate increases. The CEZ contains a significant nuclear waste legacy from the four reactors that operated within the ChNPP complex and the environmental contamination caused by the 1986 accident in Unit 4. At the time of the Chernobyl accident, Unit 4 contained approximately 7.4E+7 TBq of radioactivity, 15% of which was released into the environment, predominantly as short-lived radionuclides. Although the activity left within Unit 4 has reduced over time due to radioactive decay, >5.2E+5 TBq remains within the New Safe Confinement that now covers the reactor buildings. All the fuel from Units 1-3 is retained in interim storage facilities within the CEZ and clean-up operations following the 1986 accident established approximately 800 radioactive material burial sites within the CEZ containing a total of 1.4E+4 TBq, some of which will now have decayed. Given this extensive nuclear waste legacy, the gamma dose rate monitoring network within the CEZ provides a crucial early warning system for releases of radioactivity to the environment and is part of the international safeguards for nuclear facilities. It is essential that any anomalous readings are investigated. We evaluate the hypotheses suggested to explain the apparent gamma dose rate increases, demonstrating that neither military vehicle-induced soil resuspension nor a leak from the ChNPP can explain these increases. We also propose an alternative hypothesis, which our analyses suggest provides a more plausible explanation.

Item Type: Publication - Conference Item (Lecture)
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
Date made live: 31 Jan 2023 16:17 +0 (UTC)

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