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Planned dredging in Chernobyl exclusion zone may impact Ukraine hatcheries


August 6, 2020
By Vladislav Vorotnikov

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The planned dredging on the Pripyat River in the Chernobyl exclusion zone could contaminate the entire Dnieper River with radioactive cesium and strontium accumulated in the sludge during the first years after the Chernobyl disaster, a group of Ukraine environmental protection organizations warned.

This could potentially destroy all hatcheries along the Dnieper basin, as all fish grown in its waters would be radioactive, the ecologists said. It was estimated that the radionuclides could make two-thirds of Ukraine’s fresh water undrinkable and the problem could also affect some neighboring countries.

Ukraine’s Sea Port Authority has already signed several agreements for dredging on Pripyat, and work was slated to begin in the first half of 2020. This is part of the E40 water channel project, designed to establish a water link between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Ukraine hatcheries, most of which are state-owned, have been reluctant in commenting about the government’s plans. A statement from the Kherson Hatchery said that it was “following the situation”, but do not have enough information on the matter. A spokesperson for another hatchery who requested anonymity commented that “the negative forecasts looked too Apocalyptic to be true,” adding that “hopefully the government officials know what they are doing.”

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The French organization, Association for the Control of Radioactivity in the West (ACRO), has expressed support for the environmentalists, saying that the planned dredging in the exclusion zone could be too dangerous. The catchment basin of the Dnieper River is still polluted with the radioactive isotopes, ACRO said.

Government officials, however, argued that the dredging would liquidate the sandbars formed on the Pripyat River using sand coming down from Belarus. That sand comes from outside the 30-kilometer Chernobyl exclusion zone and preliminary studies showed they were free from radioactive isotopes, the government said.

 


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