Estimation of the Contribution of Dust Storm on April 16, 2020 to Radioactive Contamination of the Atmosphere During Forest Fires in the Exclusion Zone

M. M. Таlerko, Т. D. Lev, V. O. Кashpur

Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants,
NAS of Ukraine, 12, Lysogirska st., Kyiv, 03028, Ukraine



On April 16, 2020, a strong dust storm was observed in the northern regions of Ukraine, which coincided with the period of intense wildland fires in the Chornobyl exclusion zone. The activity of 137Cs in aerosol particles released into the atmosphere as a result of resuspension from burned areas in the meadow biocenoses in the exclusion zone is evaluated in the article. Resuspension of radioactively contaminated particles from burned areas formed after fires in meadow biocenoses of the exclusion zone can be a powerful source of air contamination in the zone itself, as well as increase of the radionuclides transport outside it. The total 137Cs activity that entered the atmosphere during the dust storm was estimated to be about 162 GBq, i. e. up to 20% of the total activity emitted in the air during the entire period of forest fires on April 3–20, 2020. The 137Cs emission from burned areas during the dust storm on April 16 and 17 amounted to 0.24% of the total stock of 137Cs activity in this territory. According to the results of modeling, the relative contribution of wildland fires and resuspension due to the dust storm on April 16 and 17 significantly depends on the distance to the emission sources. It was found that the resuspension of radioactive particles from burned areas during the dust storm determined 80–95% of the 137Cs activity concentration in the surface air near Chornobyl nuclear power plant and in Chornobyl city and the rest was due to the continuing forest fires in neighboring territories. The maximum 3-hour averaged value of the 137Cs activity concentration in the air due to resuspension from the burned areas was obtained for the location of the monitoring post VRP-750 of SSE “Ecocenter” to be about 28 mBq/m3 for the period 9–12 hours on April 16. In Kyiv, the 3-hour averaged 137Cs activity concentration due to the dust storm in the Exclusion Zone was calculated as 44 μBq/m3 in the period from 9 to 12 hours on April 17, 2020. This value was only about 4% of the total 137Cs activity in the air in this period.

Keywords: wildland fires, dust storm, radionuclide, atmospheric transport, modeling, air volume activity, Exclusion zone.


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