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How do you assess the situation with radiation in the Exclusion Zone and unconditional resettlement now? How safe is it for people to be there?
If you follow the rules of behavior that have developed over 30 years and just the rules that must be adhered to on this territory, it is basically safe for your life. The rules, in particular, forbid eating plants, fruits, root crops, drinking water from reservoirs and wells in the Zone, entering buildings abandoned by people, putting things on the ground, moving around in the Zone without an escort from the administration.
And if you do not follow the rules, then what?
Lottery. You know, it is a random. Already thirty years have passed after the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, this is just the time for the half-life of cesium, strontium. It is much safer. After the explosion, it fell out not so much as a carpet, but like spots. And depending on what kind of element it is.
Let me try to answer the question the way you originally asked it. Historically, the tragedy occurred on our territory, and we have this territory. We cannot change this. And this is what we are currently working on, what we are thinking about, how to use this territory as effectively as possible. How to use the advantages of this territory? We began to look for options. The whole area is almost 265 thousand hectares.
This is a large territory. Anyway, for 30 years, person had minimal impact here. Here, people's is limited (in the Zone there is an admission regime, - Ed). It was decided that two thirds of the territory would be a biosphere radiation reserve. The corresponding decree was signed by the president in April last year. After that, it was necessary to amend the legislation so that this decree began to work. And we registered this reserve on March 30. We are now in the process of creating the reserve administration. Two-thirds of the territory (of the exclusion zone, - Ed.) would be a reserve. The reserve is, in fact, everything from "dozens" to the border of the zone (with populated areas).
What does it mean “dozens?”
The territory adjacent to the Chernobyl NPP, which is strongly polluted, where elements are scattered, the half-lives of which are up to 24 thousand years. Transuranium. And if we say that as a whole in the zone for 30 years there is 10 thousand times less pollution, this territory will remain polluted for another 24 thousand years.
Does Pripyat, the dead city, fall into the "dozen?"
Of course. So we began to look for different options, how to use this territory as effectively as possible. "Energoatom" has already started the construction of ISF (storage of spent nuclear fuel, with until recently was exported to the Russian Federation, - Ed.). They are already preparing a playground. There is a good clay pillow, a good playground. In December 2016, they have already started preparing this site. And we have another option - the placement of solar panels.
Together with "Ukrenergo," we created a working group and explored the place, determined the number of sites that can be allocated for the placement of solar panels. These are plots without forests (presumably, the park of solar panels will be located on 2.5 hectares.) The first line is located on the territory of the resettled village of Kopachi, - Ed.).
The very technology does not require much influence of the human factor. Only at the stage of construction, people are needed. We put, and then there the staff is minimally involved in order to serve them. Territories are extensive. There is an infrastructure of electric networks. And there are options how to use issue this electricity. For example, Kyiv has a shortage of electricity. And what is good for Ukrainian citizens, the perimeter of the "dozen" will be strengthened with respect to access to this territory. There will be a ban on visiting.
And excursions will be canceled?
Given the huge interest in this place, no, of course. People's Deputy Anna Romanova (dealing with tourism issues, - Ed.) said that there is no such other place in Ukraine, like Chernobyl, where foreigners would go so purposefully. Yes, it is a zone of tradition, a zone of trouble. We have 16 thousand visitors annually.
How will the investor be selected?
Everyone should do his own thing. Businessmen should engage in business, raise funds, generate ideas. We, as a state agency, must create conditions that are interesting to them. At least we had an idea. But I will honestly say that when we told about this, the number of applications of those who applied to us (investors ready to participate in the project, - Ed.), exceeded our expectations. More investors have applied than we expected. Despite the fact that this is a rather expensive technology with a long payback period, many companies have applied.
Who are these investors?
More than 50 companies. Mainly, these are Ukrainians. There are serious companies with a name. Not just LLCs. There are serious French companies, Danish, German, and American. But most of them are Ukrainian.
Did DTEK, energy division of System Capital Management, has also apply?
Yes. It is another matter that everything has been regulated so normatively that we constantly overcome these difficulties. In March of the last year, when this idea on solar power has just arose, we came to the conclusion that there is no corresponding function in the regulation on the activity of the agency (for managing the exclusion zone). In the law on the exclusion zone, there were no norms. We began to change the legislation. Of course, the minister (Ostap Semerak, ed.) supported us very much. We managed to make appropriate changes, and this story began later. We started with an attempt to launch a pilot project.
With whom? With which companies?
With those who first have applied. For example, one company came. I tell him (the representative of the company, - Ed.): well, but you should understand that you'll be an experimental rabbit. We will train. I will say honestly, I have been struggling with this for a year, and it turned out to be not so simple. Why? State Property Fund agreed for rent only.
Renting the land? (I specify, remembering that the interlocutor spoke about the abandoned agricultural fields, overgrown with bushes)
From the point of view of the Ukrainian legislation, land and real estate objects are different objects. By classification. And everything related to real estate objects is leased out by the State Property Fund. As for the land, there is another legislation. We were looking for (for the implementation of the pilot's project, - Ed.) real estate objects - in the same villages left by people. We needed a little more than one hectare. We found a concrete site at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the same facility that is located in Chernobyl. It is flat, asphalted. We applied to the State Property Fund, let us lease it. We have put to the auction, and came a company (the investor, with which the pilot is being implemented, - Ed.) but it has turned out that it is a concrete platform. In general, to assess this property, none of the seven methods of the SPF, as it turned out, are not suitable.
Really? This is the procedure?
Really. So we then came out at such a cost that this potential investor came and said: this is the end. Because it is cheaper for me to rent this concrete site in Kyiv than it does in Chernobyl. We again went to the SPF! They found a new method, compared it, and it turned out to be 30% less. The investor says: well, 30% less. But we do not really need it in Chernobyl.
You mean the amount of rent?
Of course, it is calculated depending on this technique. But you understand, regarding the concrete platform... It might generate something, or it might not be used at all.
So you want to say that it would better just stay unused.
We start to count, I say, let us take direct income and indirect. There is a concrete platform. Let us put solar panels on it, or there will not be nothing there.
Again, we are looking for someone who will evaluate and make a technical passport. Then it needs to be registered in the registration service. And there they tell us: we do not have such a Chernobyl city in our system! Accordingly, no streets, nothing. And on this basis, we will not register anything. And this despite the fact that we have spent so much work for a year alreadyBut there is everything in the register of special property, I mean the city of Chernobyl. All enterprises are registered there, although taxes are paid in Ivankiv. In general, we decided that we need to make changes. The state architectural inspection was involved in this situation.
And this is only one site from the whole project?
Yes. But this is a precedent. Potentially, whoever comes next, it will no longer be necessary to seek the adoption of a decree on the lowering coefficient, it will not be necessary to convince the registration service.
Maybe you will say, who are these lucky ones who will implement the pilot project?
We have two such sites - one company from Vinnytsia, which professionally deals with solar panels, the second is Ukrainian-German one.
That is, there would be more than one investor for the project of placing solar panels in the Zone?
Of course, frankly I want to do something new, good. On competitive terms. Pilot projects went on real estate, and with respect to other companies there will be allocated land. There will be another selection procedure, and I do not exclude that there we will also face some difficulties.
In the presentation of the project, you have written that in general the park can give 1.2 MW of electricity - 1% of the total production in Ukraine. Is this the whole park?
Yes, figuratively, the whole park.
How much will the pilot project generate?
There will be placed panels somewhere at 0.75 MW. This is only 750 thousand dollars of investment. This is generally the first private investment in the exclusion zone. Before that, there were only grant funds and budget funds. This is 15 work places. The second - 1.5 MW and about 30 million UAH of investment.
And what about the idea of arranging a cemetery for household waste in the area?
These ideas only sound in the media, and yet no one with concrete proposals come to us.
This territory is polluted, but with other substances. In addition, in the territories that have already been decreed by the presidential decree under the reserve, nature revives, there are already 1.2 thousand plants, at least 19 of them are from the "Red Book". 409 species of animals, including 54 species from the "Red Book". Reforestation - for 10 years 636 hectares of forest was planted and almost 3 hectares resumed.
That is, it would be needed to clear the territories for garbage dumps?
You cannot do this. One of the main functions of the forest is barrier, this is the non-distribution of radionuclides outside the zone.
Your ecologists explained to me that if, for example, cesium enters the pine tree, it will remain in it, and then, when the tree falls, the pollutants will already go to the ground together with it. That is, the more the zone is plaited by vegetation, the safer it is for the environment.
Absolutely right. Therefore, the "quiet" technology of placing solar panels on suitable open areas is suitable for the Zone.
And how much the Zone would remain “the Zone?” Is it possible, for example, to use it for agriculture?
No. There is no point in returning people to this territory. There should be no idea in 300 or 500 years to use the Zone for agriculture, drill the land and drink water. Because transuranic elements are very dangerous.