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Ingredients To Build Dirty Bomb Go Missing From Chernobyl Monitoring Lab: Report

 Anatolii Nosovskyi, director of the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP) in Kyiv, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in a recent interview that the ingredients needed to build a dirty bomb have gone missing from a monitoring lab for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

In the chaos of the Russian advance, he told Science, looters raided a radiation monitoring lab in Chornobyl village—apparently making off with radioactive isotopes used to calibrate instruments and pieces of radioactive waste that could be mixed with conventional explosives to form a “dirty bomb” that would spread contamination over a wide area. ISPNPP has a separate lab in Chornobyl with even more dangerous materials: “powerful sources of gamma and neutron radiation” used to test devices, Nosovskyi says, as well as intensely radioactive samples of material leftover from the Unit Four meltdown. Nosovskyi has lost contact with the lab, he says, so “the fate of these sources is unknown to us.”

Russian military forces quickly took control of all Chernobyl facilities shortly after they launched their invasion into Ukraine back at the end of February and effectively held the staff there hostage for nearly a month, according to the report.

Chornobyl is not the only Ukrainian nuclear installation at risk in the war. On 4 March, Russian forces shelled the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant—fortunately missing its reactor halls. Two days later, a rocket attack damaged a research reactor used to generate neutrons for experiments at the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology. Nosovskyi labels the assaults as nothing short of state-sponsored “nuclear terrorism.” But Chornobyl has a unique set of radioactive hazards. On 11 March, wildfires ignited in the nearby radioactive forests, which harbor radioisotopes that were disgorged in the accident and taken up by plants and fungi. Russian military activities have prevented firefighters from entering the exclusion zone, Nosovskyi says. The fires continue to burn and could grow more intense as the weather warms, he says, releasing radiation that could lead to “significant deterioration of the radiation situation in Ukraine and throughout Europe.”

Nuclear experts warned that “thousands of other sites in Ukraine have radiological materials” and that while there are ongoing attempts to secure the materials, not all of the materials are closely monitored by officials.

Vitaly Fedchenko, a nuclear security expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, notes that Ukraine, as a former member of the Soviet Union, has not kept close track of everything. “There are a lot of radioactive sources that are not on anyone’s radar,” he claimed, “even Ukraine’s radar.”




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