Chernobyl's radioactive pine lumber may be in Europe's supply chain
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The Red Forest in Chernobyl, Ukraine

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine - Pine tree logs from areas surrounding the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster are entering the lumber supply chain in Europe, say local watch dog groups.

Officials managing the 18-mile Chernobyl Exclusion Area surrounding the reactor brought in foresters to thin the forests, which pose danger of wildfires as they thicken. But locals say that instead of being thinned, the forests are being clear cut, and the logs sold to neighboring countries, according to a New York Times reports.  

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The Exclusion Zone Management Agency brought in the contractors both to thin the woods to reduce wilfire risk, and also to salvage wood killed in fires. But some ome contractors are clear cutting wide swaths of forest, with logs sold to Ukraine and Romania, gateways to the European wood supply chain.

When the Chernobyl nuclear reactor melted down and burned April 26, 1986, radiation spread into the atmosphere, and across Europe. The extreme radiation killed the pine trees immediately over a large area, and the rusty-orange color of the dead trees has come to be known as “The Red Forest.”

The Red Forest covers four square miles surrounding the defunct reactor. The rusty color of the dead pine trees followed absorption of high levels of radiation. The Red Forest was bulldozed and buried in "waste graveyards" and remains one of the most contaminated areas in the world today.

The bullzdozing was an effort to avoid wildfires, which would have caused more radiation to be transported for many miles by the heated air in the convection column. As the forest grows back, the Ukraine Government is seeking was to prevent more wildfires. Reuters shows the efforts to fight wildfires in the areas in 2015. 
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In 2013, Oregon logger Mike Wiedeman, president of BTO Forestry Solutions in Enterprise, Oregon, told Oregon Public Radio he had talked with officials in the Ukraine about harvesting the trees in the Zone of Exclusion. Wiedeman visited the zone, and developed a plan to convert the wood to fuel by gasifying wood in order to generate electricity. 

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Bill Esler | ConfSenior Editor

Bill wrote for WoodworkingNetwork.com, FDMC and Closets & Organized Storage magazines. 

Bill's background includes more than 10 years in print manufacturing management, followed by more than 30 years in business reporting on industrial manufacturing in the forest products industries, including printing and packaging at American Printer (Features Editor) and Graphic Arts Monthly (Editor in Chief) magazines; and in secondary wood manufacturing for WoodworkingNetwork.com.

Bill was deeply involved with the launches of the Woodworking Network Leadership Forum, and the 40 Under 40 Awards programs. He currently reports on technology and business trends and develops conference programs.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Bill supports efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities in the manufacturing sectors, including 10 years on the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation; six years with the U.S. WoodLinks; and currently on the Woodwork Career Alliance Education Committee. He is also supports the Greater West Town Training Partnership Woodworking Program, which has trained more than 950 adults for industrial wood manufacturing careers. 

Bill volunteers for Foinse Research Station, a biological field station staddling the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, one of more than 200 members of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.