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World in Ukraine: Japanese scientists work to reclaim Chornobyl for solar and wildlife via Kyiv.post

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Now, almost 32 years after the disastrous explosion that in 1986 spewed radiation across Europe, the pond remains one of the most radioactive parts of the 10-kilometer exclusion zone around the shuttered plant.

But while the dead zone looks apocalyptic today, Japanese and Ukrainian scientists are studying how to revive it. The cooling pond might play a key role in the quest to make contaminated lands useful again. Ukraine has big plans for the 2,600-square-kilometer exclusion zone: a massive solar power plant worth $1.3 billion and with a 1.2-gigawatt capacity, a wildlife sanctuary and a place to store radioactive waste in a 10-kilometer area near the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

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Joint work

The Japanese and Ukrainians are working under the project named Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development, also known as SATREPS. This scientific initiative focuses its research on the cooling pond, investigating how radioactive contamination affects an ecosystem and how contaminated territory can be brought back into use.

“We take samples of dust and other atmospheric condensation here for further research,” says Obrizan, deputy head of the Information and Analytical Department at EcoCenter, a Ukrainian state radioecology research enterprise, and one of the Ukrainian scientists participating in the  Chornobyl research.

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The scientists will study the migration of radionuclides — radioactive atomic particles — in water, soils and sludge.

To that end, Obrizan and his colleagues have created three drainage reservoirs in parts of the zone with different levels of radioactivity where scientists can collect the material they need for research.

While Japan plans to resettle people in the present exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant in the future, Ukraine does not intend to repopulate the Chornobyl zone.

The zone in Ukraine remains seriously affected by more dangerous radioactive contamination, which will take at least 24,000 years to decay, Serhii Kirieiev, EcoCenter’s director told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 5.

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In 2017, the French government allocated 250,000 euros for a feasibility study to determine which areas would be suitable for a solar power plant.

The French energy company Engie SA will submit results of the study to Ukraine’s Ecology Ministry and the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management in mid-February.

“Only after that we will talk about further steps,” Petruk said.

Although the memo of cooperation between Japan and EcoCenter was signed in 2016, the active phase of cooperation started in May 2017. Until December, the scientists were studying soils, aerosol particles, as well as the pond’s sludge and water. But then winter set in, and the Japanese scientists left for home.

“Now the project is on hold,” Obrizan said. “Our Japanese colleagues will come back to continue the studies in spring.”

Read more at World in Ukraine: Japanese scientists work to reclaim Chornobyl for solar and wildlife 

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