CERAD is following the situation in Ukraine

CERAD partners are key players in Norwegian nuclear preparedness, both as the leader of the Crisis Committee for Nuclear Preparedness (Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, DSA) and as Committee advisors (Meteorological Institute, MET; National Institute for Public Health, FHI; The Norwegian University of Life Sciences, NMBU). The Isotope Laboratory at the Environmental Chemistry section, NMBU also acts as an emergency laboratory for measurement of radioactive samples.

Scientists at CERAD have many years' experience studying radioactivity in humans and the environment, including the impact of Chornobyl in Norway. Research includes advanced source characterisation, transport and transfer modelling, assessment of the environmental, health and societal impacts of radioactivity, and measures to mitigate radiological risks. Our work on dispersion and transport modelling is particularly relevant for the preparedness phase of a nuclear emergency, namely when there is an increased risk of a release but no actual release of radioactivity. As research scientist Erik Berge at MET, explains “The Metrological Institute is constantly updating meteorological forecasts and running dispersion models of potential releases at facilities”.

Relevant information about the radiological situation can be found on the DSA website and on webpages of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Nuclear facilities in Ukraine

Nuclear power generates about half of Ukraine’s electricity, with 15 operational power reactors as well as a number of nuclear facilities related to waste, research, industry and medicine. The Ukrainian power plants run Soviet-designed VVER reactors that are similar to Western European pressurised water reactors (PWR). These reactors have a reinforced concrete containment around the reactor, multiple back-up safety systems and separate coolant loops. They are inherently safer than the RBMK Chornobyl reactor, and a Chornobyl-type accident at Ukrainian nuclear power reactors is unlikely. However, there are still risks related to loss of reactor coolant, or from damage to spent fuel cooling ponds or waste storage facilities. A good overview of the situation can be found here
Ukraine nuclear power plant attack: scientists assess the risks (nature.com)

Radiation Monitoring Systems

Elevated levels of radioactivity in the Chornobyl area on the 25th February were widely reported in the media. The consensus is that these are likely to be due to increased military activity resuspending contaminated soil. The measurement network in Europe and Norway is extremely sensitive and capable of detecting increases well below those posing any health or environmental risk. These include a variety of open online resources. The independent SaveEcoBot organisation monitors information on the environment in Ukraine, including radioactivity maps.  Although we cannot verify the reliability of data, it has been referenced widely in the media, and clearly shows the spikes reported in the Chornobyl area last week. Providing the site stays online, it is likely to be one of the “go-to” sites for the public should an actual release of radioactive material occur.

Radiological map of Ukraine created by SaveEcoBot initiative

Radiological map of Ukraine created by SaveEcoBot initiative

Photo
SaveEcoBot

A Humanitarian Crisis

As stated on the DSA website: «Both physical attacks and cyber attacks can endanger nuclear safety and serious incidents with subsequent radioactive releases that can spread over large areas cannot be ruled out.» But these risks should also be put into perspective with the actual distress that the Ukrainian people are suffering, including many of CERADs long term collaborators and friends. “Putin’s attack of Ukrainian nuclear facilities is a serious breach of international law and the war has precipitated one of the largest humanitarian crises since the ending of the second world war. It is also clear that, at present, the shelling of cities and hospitals pose a far more immediate source of harm to the people of Ukraine than the risks from the attacks on nuclear facilities,” says CERAD director, Professor Deborah Oughton. 

 

 

 

Published 10. March 2022 - 13:17 - Updated 23. March 2022 - 22:04