INTERNATIONAL: iCLEAR - Innovating the Chernobyl Landscape: Environmental Assessment for Rehabilitation and Management

Lead Research Organisation: University of Portsmouth
Department Name: Sch of the Env, Geography & Geosciences

Abstract

The 1986 Chernobyl accident led to the immediate and permanent evacuation of more than 100,000 people from a huge area of land, creating the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). After >30 years as a permanently evacuated area, other options for the CEZ are now being actively considered in Ukraine. The President of Ukraine has recently requested the end-users of this project, the Chernobyl ECOCENTRE and the State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management (SAUZEM) to develop a new strategy for its future management. The purpose of the iCLEAR project is to support SAUZEM and ECOCENTRE in the development of this long term strategy by building on our NERC science to develop the first Environmental Management Information System (EMIS) for the CEZ, informed by the first stakeholder consultation exercise on scenario planning for CEZ management.
The UK and Ukrainian team will work together to develop a stakeholder-informed EMIS which will provide the end users with clear answers to the key scientific questions necessary for evaluation of management options. This will include an evaluation of the spatial distribution of present and future risk of radiation to humans and wildlife and determination of the spatial distribution of resources in the zone.
For Ukraine, the CEZ represents a unique and important potential resource for agriculture, wildlife conservation and (in the 10 km near-zone) radioactive waste disposal. This proposal meets ODA and Global Challenges sustainable development objectives by supporting Ukraine to increase its agriculturally productive land. If just 10-15% of the abandoned lands could be returned to agricultural use, the newly exploited area would represent a land value in excess of $100 Million. But effecting change in the CEZ is highly complex because of its political and emotional significance. So, it is essential that the future zone strategy is based on the best available scientific evidence and is as open as possible, using internationally recommended methods for stakeholder communication and involvement.
The applicants, partner institutes (Ukrainian Institute for Agricultural Radiology, UIAR and Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute, UHMI) and end-users have extensive data and resources to provide answers to the key questions identified for decision-making. These include key monitoring data and GIS contamination maps. The project will also build on new research provided by the NERC "TREE" project which has successfully used the CEZ as a natural laboratory to study transfers and effects of radioactivity. iCLEAR will also use research on the impacts of forest fire in the CEZ developed within the NERC Urgency grant "REDFIRE". Coupled with extensive monitoring and mapping data developed by our local project partners and end users, these unique, but unconsolidated, datasets will be incorporated in a new GIS based EMIS. This EMIS will translate our NERC science into an essential scientific underpinning for CEZ management decision making. Long term sustainability of the EMIS and Stakeholder Group is a key project objective. This will be ensured through the embedding of the EMIS in the end user agencies during their active participation in its development. The project will include consolidation of the tool within the end-users agencies, ensuring it meets their needs and can deliver the necessary outcomes. The system will be used to explain distribution of current and future radiation risk in interactions with local communities, industry (forestry and agricultural state enterprises) and other stakeholders in their ongoing development and implementation of the new CEZ strategy. The results of iCLEAR will have direct relevance to management of other abandoned territories, particularly in neighbouring Belarus and in the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan. Existing links of the project team with administrations of these areas will facilitate knowledge exchange.

Planned Impact

The Chernobyl accident had a huge impact on the affected countries of the former Soviet Union not only in terms of the real and potential health effects of radiation exposures but, perhaps more importantly, in the economic and social cost of dislocation, stress, compensation and clean up. The value of the land lost to production is in the 100's of millions of $US, a large sum for a relatively small economy like Ukraine. By initiating the first Stakeholder Group and the first Environmental Management Information System (EMIS) for the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), iCLEAR will support future management of the area and provide realistic scenarios for its future sustainable development.
The end-user project partners, the Chernobyl ECOCENTRE and State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management (SAUZEM) have primary responsibility for management strategies and policy on the regulation of radioactivity within the CEZ and are the key agents for change in the future development of the CEZ. Support for these end-users from iCLEAR is highly timely: the President of Ukraine has recently asked both to develop a new strategy for CEZ management. Through the project partners, the wider Ukrainian government will therefore benefit from iCLEAR. By shaping future management scenarios and EMIS design, the Stakeholder Group formed by iCLEAR will, for the first time, bring together the end-users with other key actors to provide a new management perspective. The wider Stakeholder Group will include self-settlers, wildlife NGOs, local regional government, those responsible for "Chernobyl tourism" and PripyatInform, the organisation representing former residents.
The embedding and use of the EMIS in the end-user agencies will ensure that knowledge gained in iCLEAR is effectively incorporated. iCLEAR outputs will have a direct impact on the process of change for the CEZ through incorporation of outputs in their strategic plan reported to the Ministries for Emergencies and Environment. iCLEAR will establish a sustainable Stakeholder Group and EMIS; this will be achieved through incorporation of the iCLEAR outputs in the ECOCENTRE and SAUZEM forward workplan beyond the project end. iCLEAR outputs will have long term benefits by supporting key decisions on CEZ management options expected within the next five years. These changes are likely to bring significant economic benefits to the region, through sustainable use of forest and agricultural resources in less contaminated parts of the CEZ (exploitation of just 10-15% of the CEZ would restore a land value > $100M). Furthermore, potential "softening" of the outer 30-km zone border and wider Zone of Obligatory Resettlement, with clear presentation of risk assessment, would represent a step-change in the slow process of recovery and "renormalisation" of the surrounding regions from the accident. These regions have been adversely affected (economically, socially and psychologically) by the perception of a, to many, unknown radiation risk. Complementary scenarios involving further development of this substantial area as a nature reserve could bring clear conservation and ecosystem services benefits to the region and internationally.
These impacts of the iCLEAR project will be facilitated through (i) the incorporation of outputs in strategic planning by the end-user agencies for the CEZ; (ii) two informal forum events for wider dissemination of results and communication materials (iii) incorporation of outputs in websites of state agencies and former Chernobyl residents associations; (iv) press releases and direct contact with local media. International impact will be supported by the proposers' existing links with management of the affected areas in neighbouring Belarus and with the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan through their involvement in an International Atomic Energy Agency Expert Group; outcomes of iCLEAR may influence how the Belarussian and Fukushima abandoned areas are managed in the future.
 
Description 1. We have developed a method for testing whether radioactively contaminated land in Ukraine is suitable for agriculture. This method is currently being evaluated by The State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management as a scientific basis for legal change to land use restrictions put in place after the Chernobyl accident;

2. Through our ATOMIK vodka project, we have demonstrated that a consumer product can safely be made from abandoned lands in Ukraine.

3. We have supported a new water management framework for the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, changing management of water resources in the area.
Exploitation Route The ATOMIK vodka project has let to a spin out company which hopes to produce and market grain spirit from abandoned lands at Chernobyl

The Protocol for re-zoning agricultural land is being taken forward to change policy of The State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management

The water management strategy is changing water resource management in the Exclusion Zone.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

URL http://www.atomikvodka.com
 
Description Recommendations from our stakeholder meetings in Ukraine are moving forward the process of reusing agricultural land contaminated by the Chernobyl accident. Spin out Social Enterprise "The Chernobyl Spirit Community Interest Company" is planning to begin production of grain spirit in late 2020.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Company Name THE CHERNOBYL SPIRIT COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY 
Description The company owns the trademark ATOMIK and plans to begin production of grain spirit from Chernobyl contaminated areas in Ukraine in late 2020. 
Year Established 2019 
Impact None yet.
Website http://www.atomikvodka.com
 
Description ATOMIK vodka worldwide media coverage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Our ATOMIK vodka project recieved worldwide media coverage (reach in the 100's of millions) showing the first consumer product from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This helped change perceptions of the current state of Chernobyl contaminated areas in Ukraine and worldwide.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.atomikvodka.com
 
Description Article in The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article written by JT Smith pointing out mistakes in the hit HBO/Sky "Chernobyl" drama series. Audience reach ca 250,000 in English and Spanish versions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://theconversation.com/ten-times-the-chernobyl-television-series-lets-artistic-licence-get-in-t...
 
Description BBC "Our World" programme "In the Shadow of Chernobyl" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Our iCLEAR research was covered in a BBC "Our World" documentary showing our work supporting recovery of Chernobyl affected communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/n3ct4f2p
 
Description BBC Radio 4 and BBC World "More or Less" episode. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewed for an episode of "More or Less" on the estimated death toll from the Chernobyl accident. Contributed to better public understanding of the Chernobyl accident, and the risks of nuclear power.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csz3r2
 
Description Stakeholder workshops, Narodychi, Ukraine 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact iCLEAR stakeholder workshops presenting and discussing current state of abandoned lands in Narodychi District, evaluating and communicating radiation risks and discussing steps forward to change zone designation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019