The sight of smouldering peat bogs just 60 kilometres from Chernobyl has increased fears of a nuclear threat from wildfires in Eastern Europe.
Forests in Ukraine, like Russia, have been burning in a sweltering heatwave. And the proximity of this particular fire to the site of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster is giving cause for concern.
The wasteland surrounding Chernobyl remains contaminated although radioactivity has diminished substantially since the 1986 explosions.
Over the border, radiation-polluted regions of Russia have also been hit although the overall area of forest fires has decreased. The fight against the flames has been continuing near Russia’s main nuclear research facility at Sarov.
With the spectre of Chernobyl looming over this crisis, experts abroad say the actual risks are small.
In Russia, too there have been reassurances as well as vigilance.
Russian Forestry Institute Director Andrei Sirin said there is no reason to panic. But he added that these regions need special protection from fires because a radioactive cloud could rise along with the smoke and spread.
Leading scientists say the amount of radiation in the smoke would only be a fraction of the original fallout. They insist the situation won’t lead to health concerns for people locally and in other countries in Europe.