In 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in present-day Ukraine caused the worst nuclear disaster in history. Now, a nuclear laboratory in South Carolina is sending teams to the site to figure out just how the area is still affected a quarter-century later.
Under a recent agreement, the US Department of Energy is working with Ukraine’s International Radioecology Laboratory to study the effects of an accidental radiation release in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 24 years ago. As part of the agreement, research teams from the Savannah River National Laboratory (SNRL) will look at the effect of decontamination methods used by the former Soviet Union.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, which includes the abandoned city of Pripyat, is still heavily contaminated from radiation as a result of the accident. While unsafe to live in, Pripyat does provide an opportunity for researchers to study what happens when a radioactive discharge occurs. Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the company that operates SRNL, says the research is still valuable even though Chernobyl’s design was very different from American nuclear plants.
Eduardo Farfan, SNRL’s co-principal investigator for interactions with IRL, says American teams have a good relationship with their Ukranian counterparts.
We share a lot of the same interests with our colleagues at IRL. They are developing techniques and technologies for cleaning up the environment in the region that might ultimately be useful to DOE.
The two groups have worked together previously at the site. Earlier research includes learning how far radiation can penetrate concrete and how it’s distributed in taller apartment buildings. Those findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Health Physics Journal.