Australian news, and some related international items

Radiation hazards of mine in occupied Donetsk, site of an underground nuclear test.

Why nuclear risk from war in Ukraine isn’t missiles but accidental hits on reactors, Kyiv safety expert warns, By Isabella Bengoechea   i ,   23 Feb 22 ”……………………………………….A radioactive time bomb’

There is also growing concern over a “radioactive time bomb ticking away as a result of the war in Ukraine”, Ms Roslycky said.

Radiation from the Yuny Komynar (Yunkom) mine near Yenakiieve in occupied Donetsk has been slowly contaminating the environment. In 1979 the Soviet Union conducted a nuclear test here deep underground. The explosion melted the walls into glass, creating the ‘Klivazh’ facility, a vitrified capsule of radioactivity.

When a mine stops operating, water must be continually pumped out to prevent flooding because water that enters the shafts and chambers can become polluted with heavy metals which can then enter the soil and waterways.

Before the Russian occupation the Ukrainian government spent millions pumping water out of mines in the region to prevent flooding. However in 2018, the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) ceased pumping operations, with infrastructure sold off for scrap metal.

A 2019 report by Ukraine’s National Institute for Strategic Studies found that contamination from flooded mines was an ‘urgent threat’ to over 300,000 people in separatist areas, with one in four already lacking a source of drinking water.

In the Yunkom mine: “There is a risk of the glass capsule being destroyed, and the leaking of highly hazardous radioactive elements into surface waters,” according to a 2021 report by Truth Hounds, a Ukraine-based human rights NGO. “Just two months after water pumping ceased, the level of mine water in the shaft of the mine increased by 157 meters.”

Since 2020, the capsule is believed to have flooded. According to the International Human Rights Community, the concentration of radionuclides in the aquifers about 5km away from the site, was 20-34*103 becquerels/kg.

“This means that low-level radioactive waters are already entering the drinking water level,” the organisation said.

“Like a dirty bomb, this radioactive-chemical cocktail poses a large-scale environmental threat affecting the ecology, human health and lives in areas far beyond Ukrainian borders should it seep through to the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea making its way into the Mediterranean,” according to Ms Roslycky.

“The threat is the pollution of the environment, the land, the water, the animals, the people. This is a pending international environmental disaster that needs to be taken under control.”

Denial from Russian-backed separatists

However, the DPR denies any change in radiation levels or risks associated with the mine. There is little data available because all requests to access the site to investigate by Ukraine and observers including the International Atomic Energy Agency have been rejected.

Similarly, requests to inspect other nuclear sites in, for example, occupied Crimea, have been rebuffed.

Last April President Zelensky warned: “The lack of such information is a problem that has no borders, and its consequences will have no boundaries.”

An investigation opened by the Donetsk Region Prosecutor’s Office found that the DPR “understand that these actions could cause an ecological disaster, consisting of the radioactive and chemical contamination of groundwater and surface water and, in turn, the pollution of the Sea of Azov”.

As Ms Roslycky points out, by refusing to engage with international authorities, Russia “instrumentalises this position to legitimise the Russian occupation authorities” in Donetsk and Luhansk. By claiming that Ukraine must engage with the DNR directly, they want to force Ukraine and the international community to formally recognise them.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations, has called upon the UN to carry out an environmental impact assessment in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Without proper maintenance of such sites, they may soon be adding to the nuclear and environmental threat – on top of the military threat – looming over Ukraine.

February 24, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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