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Security Brief: EMH2 Week of February 28, 2022

Week of Monday, February 28, 2022 | Issue 42

Alyssa Schmidt, Megan Bilney, Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2) Team


Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant[1]

Date: March 2, 2022

Location: Chernobyl, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine

Parties involved: Ukraine; Ukrainian military; Russian military; Nuclear scientists; Chernobyl staff; Residents of Ukraine

The event: Russian military forces have occupied the Chernobyl nuclear plant and spikes in radioactivity levels have been reported. The Chernobyl nuclear plant had a nuclear meltdown in 1986 and the site has since been shut down due to contamination. There is still radioactive waste within the plant and Russian activity in the area has disturbed radioactive dust, causing it to rise into the air.[2]

Analysis & Implications:

  • If Chernobyl staffs’ monitoring and containment activity is disrupted during the Russian occupation of Chernobyl, radioactive dust levels will likely remain at a higher level for longer. As the Chernobyl staff are currently being held hostage, it is almost certain that they will be exposed to unhealthy amounts of radiation. Illnesses are likely to increase among the Chernobyl staff following long-term spread in air-borne radioactive dust which will likely exacerbate if the necessary treatment is unavailable, likely placing a further strain on the Ukrainian healthcare system in the aftermath of the conflict.

  • If an explosion were to occur at Chernobyl, it is very likely to create radioactive contamination in Ukraine and Belarus. Following an explosion, individuals will very likely have to retreat from nearby areas, likely creating difficulties for residents to seek shelter until the area is deemed safe. Rebuilding infrastructure will likely have to occur following the destruction, likely impacting the economic stability of Ukraine, since Chernobyl will likely be closed for repairs and tourists will not be able to visit.

Date: March 3, 2022

Location: New South Wales, Australia

Parties involved: Australian Government; Australian Defense Force; State Emergency Services; Sydney businesses; New South Wales emergency medical services; Australian residents

The event: Flooding in northern New South Wales resulted in four deaths with records showing it was the region’s worst flood.[3] Evacuation orders or warnings affected approximately half a million people, including in northern Sydney, and the Australian Defense Force has been deployed to assist in rescues and recovery.[4] The State Emergency Service carried out 512 rescues in 24 hours in the days leading up to Sydney being included in the evacuation orders, with many individuals having to wait on their roofs until emergency services or private individuals with boats arrived.[5]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The flooding is very likely to exacerbate the COVID-19 related food supply chain issues as trucks and trains are unlikely to access producers and sellers. The reduced access to groceries is likely to increase the urgency of reopening train and trucking routes as many households are unlikely to have enough food and water to wait for flood levels to decrease. This will likely place a further strain on State Emergency Services and the Australian Defense Force to carry out rescues for individuals that are unable to remain in place due to lack of essentials.

  • Residents with health conditions impacted by the flooding are unlikely to have access to healthcare. The lack of available medicine is likely to increase the number of individuals moving through the water to seek safe shelter and resources. Water-borne diseases are likely to spread as a result of the flooding, likely making individuals more susceptible to other illnesses, likely resulting in increased deaths. Exposure to contaminated water will likely result in an increase in long-term health issues.

Date: March 3, 2022

Location: Zimbabwe

Parties involved: Residents of Zimbabwe; Farmers in Zimbabwe; Zimbabwe Government; Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU); Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU); Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Climate and Rural Resettlement Ministry; United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

The event: Zimbabwe has been experiencing an extreme drought which causes concern for farmers and the food supply.[6] About 40% of Zimbabwe’s exports are from agriculture and 60-70% of the population works in the sector.[7] Parts of the country have experienced rain twice this year while others have not had any rainfall.[8] Dry spells are common in this area but access to clean water is decreasing.[9]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Individuals in Zimbabwe are likely to experience famine in the coming months if the drought continues. A humanitarian crisis is likely to take place as the country will likely need to seek necessities from organizations such as UNICEF and other countries. With the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, resources will likely have to be divided between the crises.

  • Zimbabwe is likely to continue to be impoverished and farmers will likely become unemployed if the drought continues. Many individuals are unlikely able to afford essentials, including food and medicine, and will likely rely on family members living and working abroad to send back remittances to Zimbabwe. The increased poverty in Zimbabwe will very likely increase human trafficking operations in Zimbabwe as individuals leave to work abroad in nations such as South Africa, Australia, and the US to escape the famine.


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[1]Aerial view to the Chernobyl NPS” by IAEA Imagebank licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Russian Takeover of Chernobyl Poses Grave Health Threat, CounterPunch, March 2022, https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/03/02/russian-takeover-of-chernobyl-poses-grave-health-threat/

[3] NSW’s severe weather hits Sydney; fourth death confirmed in Lismore, ABC, March 2022, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-02/nsw-severe-weather-to-hit-sydney-central-coast/100873374

[4] NSW facing ‘battle on two fronts’ as flood emergency heads south, SBS, March 2022, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/four-dead-as-nsw-faces/aeqq12fz7

[5] Lismore flood emergency sees people stranded on roofs, evacuation warnings issued for entire NSW Northern Rivers, ABC, March 2022, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-28/lismore-flood-emergency-levee-breaks-largest-on-record/100866296

[6] Zimbabwe: Ravaging Drought Sparks Famine Fears, All Africa, March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203030182.html

[7] Agricultural Success In Zimbabwe, The Borgen Project, December 2021, https://borgenproject.org/agricultural-success-in-zimbabwe/

[8] Zimbabwe: Ravaging Drought Sparks Famine Fears, All Africa, March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203030182.html

[9] Addressing Drought in Zimbabwe: Applying Nuclear Science to Understand Groundwater and River Dynamics, International Atomic Energy Agency, October 2021, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/addressing-drought-in-zimbabwe-applying-nuclear-science-to-understand-groundwater-and-river-dynamics#:~:text=Located%20in%20the%20eastern%20part,the%20catchment%20area%20is%20growing

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