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The Chernobyl nuclear power plant after the meltdown, showing reactor 4 with its roof blown off. Wikimedia Commons.

Chernobyl: Radiation spike at nuclear plant seized by Russian forces

February 25, 2022 -

A radiation spike has been recorded near Chernobyl's nuclear power plant which has been seized by Russian forces, monitoring data shows.

Invading Russian troops took control of the plant - the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986 - on Thursday, Ukraine said.

Radiation levels increased about 20-fold on Thursday, monitoring stations there reported.

But experts say another major nuclear disaster there is "extremely unlikely".

The rise was caused by heavy military vehicles stirring contaminated soil in the 4,000-sq-km (2,485 sq-mile) exclusion zone surrounding the abandoned plant, Ukraine's State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate reported .

The biggest spike was recorded close to the damaged reactor.

Radiation levels are continuously monitored there - measured as a dose that you would receive per hour in a location.

Close to the reactor, you would normally receive a dose of about three units - called microsieverts - every hour. But on Thursday, that jumped to 65 microSv/hrs - about five times more than you would get on one transatlantic flight.

Prof Claire Corkhill, a nuclear materials expert from Sheffield University, told the BBC the spike was "quite localised" and there had been increases along the main routes in and out of the zone around the reactor.

"The increased movement of people and vehicles in and around the Chernobyl zone will have kicked up radioactive dust that's on the ground," Prof Corkhill said.

"Provided there's no further movement, it should decrease again over the next couple of days."

But any military activity in the zone is concerning.

Russian troops captured the plant, about 130km (80 miles) north of the capital, Kyiv, after a fierce battle with Ukrainian forces, according to Ukrainian officials.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian officers fought to defend it, "so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated." He called the Russian assault on Chernobyl a "declaration of war against the whole of Europe."

Russian officials have not commented on the battle.

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