How Ukraine is predicting radiation threats thanks to EU

From now on, Ukrainian experts will be one of the first in the world to learn about radiation emissions in different parts of the planet and can rather accurately predict their expansion, emphasize representatives of the EU, who assessed the introduction in Ukraine of RODOS, a pan-European system for forecasting, monitoring the consequences of radiation accidents and decision-making.

The Ukrainian meteorologists and representatives of the exclusion zone and the nuclear industry emphasize that the system covers more and more facilities and is well integrated into a number of government structures. Meanwhile, experts say about some of the problems that the RODOS system still has to overcome in Ukraine.

RODOS, the European system for forecasting, monitoring the consequences of radiation accidents and decision-making operating in Ukraine has repeatedly demonstrated its effectiveness over the past two years. Indeed, it was the first to record air pollution by radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 in autumn of 2017, and determined the epicenter of the emission, which was the Southern Ural in Russia. This was announced by Dave Corbett, the Director of the Joint Support Office of the European Union Radiation Safety Projects in Ukraine, during a conference devoted to expanding the use of the RODOS system in Ukraine. Then, on 9 November, the French Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety Institute (IRSN) was the first to report the radioactive cloud of ruthenium over Europe, but Ukrainian experts discovered pollution earlier and even managed to consult with the French, the Ukrainian Nuclear Forum Association explained the course of events.

The Ukrainian RODOS system is integrated with the European one and exchanges data with it on the spread of radiation, specified Dave Corbett.

In Ukraine, the RODOS system works not only at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, but also at all four operating nuclear power plants in Ukraine. It proved to be effective when it revealed the spread of Russian ruthenium emission. It was the Ukrainian RODOS system that first discovered ruthenium in the air, determined the approximate epicenter of emission, and after that reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And on 5 June of the current year, it discovered a fire in the exclusion zone, precisely predicted the spread of radiation and estimated its scale (the content of radionuclides was much lower than the standards safe for the population – ed.). Later on, this forecast has been confirmed by on-site measurements … Over the past 30 years, the EU has provided nearly EUR 1 billion for radiation safety; this sum has been spent not only on new safe confinement (a new sarcophagus at the ChNPP – ed.), on the spent nuclear fuel storage facility, but also on the forecasting and monitoring system,” acknowledges the European official.

According to him, such results of the system operation prove its effectiveness in Ukraine, and certify that it was well integrated into other local monitoring and decision-making systems.

During the June fire in the exclusion zone, the system forecasted, taking into account the weather and the direction of the wind, that the maximum concentration of radioactive substances will be on 5 June in the village of Mila to the west of Kyiv, however, there will be no excess of the permissible levels of radiation pollution. These forecasts were confirmed by the mobile laboratory that went to the location. The content of cesium and other radioactive substances in the air was many times lower than the maximum permissible content, and the fire was soon extinguished, so back then they did not resort to evacuation of the population or other emergency measures.

RODOS radiation emission response system has become a component of making security decisionы in Ukraine – experts

Currently, RODOS is used by all Ukrainian NPPs, meteorologists and SES, and during the last two years it was introduced in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This system is integrated with other government decision-making systems, it uses data of the current weather and its forecasts, explains Leonid Tabachnyi, Head of the Center for Forecasting Consequences of Radiation Accidents of the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center, which is the operator of the RODOS system in Ukraine.

How RODOS works was explained by one of the developers of this system, namely Wolfgang Raskob, Head of the Emergency Team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany). According to him, the system automatically receives different data, in particular global weather forecasts. Based on this, it generates a map of the future radioactive contamination, if the circumstances and the place of emission are known, or determines this place, if the devices detected contamination with radionuclides. In addition, RODOS offers an algorithm for actions at each stage of the accident, in particular determines when and where evacuation of the inhabitants is required.

In developing and improving the system, we took into account all stages of the accident. It makes it clear that the whole sequence of actions in different stages of the accident, up to the last one, is already safe for people“, explains the developer.

Another participant in the development of the RODOS system, Ivan Kovalets, Head of the Computer Science Department of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, clarified that now this system in Ukraine can forecast not only the emission of radiation from nuclear power plants, but also the spread of radionuclides through the transport of radioactive substances, forest fires, tornadoes, floods and flooding of polluted areas. In particular, RODOS has already generated a map of possible pollution in case of abnormal lifting of water on in the Prypiat River.

However, Ukrainian scientists, specialized SES units and European donors are now working to ensure that the forecasting and monitoring system covers the whole territory of Ukraine and is able to respond to different types of emissions that occurred not only in the territory of the state but also anywhere in the world. This was stated, in particular by the Head of the Radiation Protection Department of the State Nuclear Regulatory Committee Tetiana Kutuzova:

The purpose of the RODOS system is to show how, in what direction and why the radioactive substances are moving. The is blowing towards the EU not only from Ukraine, but we often have to respond first and report on the situation to our partners.”

The RODOS forecasting and decision-making system in Ukraine is a successful project, told Radio SvobodaOlha Kosharna, Head of Communications at the Ukrainian Nuclear Forum Association.

The fact that the system is effective is evidenced by the ruthenium catastrophe in the Southern Ural. When it happened, the scientists, who developed and implemented the system in Ukraine, were able to accurately determine the location and source of emission on the basis of global meteorological data. After all, the system is connected to the meteorological forecasts of the leading world organizations. There is no doubt that this project had to be extended to the Chernobyl Zone (the European Commission reported on the completion of this work). From now on, the RODOS system for the Chernobyl Zone is integrated with this system for the NPP, and all information from them flows to the Center for Forecasting Consequences of Radiation Accidents of the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center. I was there and saw how it worked,” says the expert.

However, Olha Kosharna points out the difficulties associated with low salaries and incomplete staffing of the Center for Forecasting Consequences of Radiation Accidents. As a way out, she proposes to establish the preparation of commercial forecasts of weather conditions for renewable energy facilities (wind and solar power plants), as well as to demand more adequate funding from the government, since this project “is largely a pioneer, and its suspension cannot be allowed.”

The development of a system that would predict the spread of possible radiation emissions in Europe and help make decisions was launched in 1991. Experts from Ukraine, Germany and other European countries joined this work. They started to introduce the RODOS system, which had already been tested in the EU, in Ukraine seven years ago, starting with nuclear power plants, and since 2017 is was extended to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The Chernobyl disaster has led to one of the largest emissions of radiation. This resulted in the massive radiation contamination of territories, from which about 200 thousand people were resettled. Exclusion zones were created in the territory of Kyiv Oblast in Ukraine, Gomel and Mogilev regions in Belarus as well as Bryansk Oblast in Russia.

According to the accident liquidator, ecologist, author of scientific and artistic books about Chernobyl, Serhii Myrnyi, the level of pollution in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, in comparison with 1986, has decreased by one thousand times.

Author: Yevhen Solonyna

The original article was published on Radio Liberty