Concerned about the environmental and human toll from Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, over 1,000 organizations and individuals from more than 75 countries released an open letter expressing their solidarity with the people of Ukraine. The environmental impacts include the release of toxic materials into air, water and soil from crumpled buildings, impaired sanitation systems, exploded pipelines and damaged industrial facilities like fuel and chemical storage sites. Experts fear that the fighting could escalate, with Russia targeting Ukraine’s hydroelectric dams, toxic mine tailings dams, and hazardous waste storage sites.
And, a miscalculation could destabilize one of Ukraine’s 15 active nuclear reactors. On Friday morning, Russian forces seized one of those nuclear sites in the southern part of Ukraine, but a fire reported at the plant was extinguished, and there was no immediate indication that radiation leaked into the atmosphere. But, the forest surrounding the defunct Chernobyl power plant may pose a hazard if it catches fire, which could inject a plume of radioactive smoke and ash high enough in the atmosphere to be carried hundreds or even thousands of miles away.