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Wildfires in the Chornobyl exclusion zone—Risks and consequences

Beresford, Nicholas A.; Barnett, Catherine L.; Gashchak, Sergii; Kashparov, Valery; Kirieiev, Serhii I.; Levchuk, Sviatoslav; Morozova, Valeriia; Smith, James T.; Wood, Michael D.


Nicholas A. Beresford

Catherine L. Barnett

Sergii Gashchak

Valery Kashparov

Serhii I. Kirieiev

Sviatoslav Levchuk

Valeriia Morozova

James T. Smith


Following the 1986 Chornobyl accident an area of approaching 5000 km2 surrounding the nuclear plant was abandoned, creating the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). Whilst this area likely contains the most radioactive terrestrial ecosystem on earth, over the nearly 35 years since the accident the absence of humans and associated activities has resulted in increases in wildlife numbers. Both the Belarussian and Ukrainian components of the CEZ are now designated as nature reserves; together they form one of Europe's largest protected areas and have been described as an iconic example of rewilding. Forests and former agricultural land (now scrub) dominate the CEZ and wildfires are an annual event. In April 2020, the CEZ suffered its most widespread fires to date when >800 km2 of the 2600 km2 Ukrainian portion of the CEZ was burnt. Largescale fires in the CEZ have implications for wildlife, as they do elsewhere, but they also pose additional radioecological and radiological protection questions. We discuss the implications of wildfires in the CEZ, considering effects on wildlife and changes in radionuclide mobility. We also demonstrate that the risk to firefighters and the wider public from the inhalation of radionuclides in smoke resulting from fires in the CEZ is likely to be low. However, further experimental and modelling work to evaluate potential doses to firefighters from inhaled radioactive particles would be valuable, not least for reassurance purposes.


Beresford, N. A., Barnett, C. L., Gashchak, S., Kashparov, V., Kirieiev, S. I., Levchuk, S., …Wood, M. D. (2021). Wildfires in the Chornobyl exclusion zone—Risks and consequences. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, 17(6), 1141-1150.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 1, 2021
Online Publication Date May 13, 2021
Publication Date Oct 19, 2021
Deposit Date Apr 19, 2021
Publicly Available Date May 14, 2021
Journal Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Print ISSN 1551-3777
Electronic ISSN 1551-3793
Publisher Wiley
Volume 17
Issue 6
Pages 1141-1150
Keywords General Environmental Science, General Medicine, Geography, Planning and Development
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs
Additional Information Additional Information : ** Article version: VoR ** From Crossref journal articles via Jisc Publications Router **Journal IDs: pissn 1551-3777; eissn 1551-3793 **History: issued 09-04-2021; published_online 09-04-2021 **License for this article: starting on 09-04-2021, ,
Projects : NEC06110 RED FIRE: Radioactive Environment Damaged by fire: a Forest In REcovery;Chernobyl - a radioactive ecosystem on fire (CHAR)


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