The nuclear threat of the Yunkom mine
The carelessness of the occupiers regarding the nuclear danger of the Yunkom Mine.Since the occupiers stopped pumping water from the Yunyi Kommunar mine, better known as Yunkom, the Donetsk region has been in danger of a nuclear disaster. Despite public fears, the separatists chose the cheaper and easier option of mothballing the mine, citing Russian scientists' conclusions about their actions' feasibility. In turn, Ukrainian experts believe that the flooding of the mine in parallel with the same processes at other mines can provoke an ecological catastrophe - a "second Chernobyl". Outwardly, "Yunkom" is no different from dozens of other abandoned mines in Donbas. But at a depth of 903 meters, just above the last layer of its mining, there is something that will make this mountain object potentially dangerous for many years to come - a chamber with radioactive substances. Mines, even in a non-military situation, have a great impact on the environment. These are: - land use withdrawals and disturbance of the earth's surface; - pollution of the air basin with solid and gaseous substances in the process of coal mining, enrichment, and processing; - pollution and disturbance of the hydrologic regime of ground and surface waters; - noise pollution and vibration of soils; - pollution of the ground surface by wastes of coal mining and enrichment. For example, mine water discharge pollutes the natural environment with suspended substances, affects mineralization, and spreads heavy metals. Dust, gas, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, etc. are released into the atmosphere through boiler houses, ventilation shafts, rock dumps, and coal stockpiles. In addition, the rock dumps contaminate the surface with surface-active particles and saturated harmful substances, due to which the fertility of the land in the area of impact is reduced. And hostilities in the region have significantly worsened the situation. The flooding of the Yunkom mine could lead to the release of cesium and strontium into the mine waters. An important feature is a way the mine is mothballed. A distinction is made between dry and wet consecration. The separatists in the DNR use the second option. However, Ukrainian authorities, geologists, and ecologists believe that the mine must be permanently drained so that cesium and strontium do not get into the mine waters, then into groundwater, and from there into the Seversky Donets, Kalmius, and the Sea of Azov. However, wet mine preservation requires special preparation. It is necessary to backfill the communication paths between the mine and the soil to prevent radionuclides from seeping into the ground and groundwater. The half-life of radioactive strontium and cesium lasts about 30 years, with each decade the activity of radionuclides decreases. The mine does not flood instantly. This is a gradual process, but at a certain stage a point of no return is reached, that is when it will no longer be possible to pump out water. The administration of the so-called DNR ignores this critical aspect. Unfortunately, this is not the only ecological hotspot in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. Although military operations complicate the current situation, Ukrainian environmentalists are trying their best to prevent catastrophic consequences for the environment due to the carelessness of the Russian occupants.
In September 1979, an underground nuclear explosion was conducted at the Yunkom mine to reduce the probability of sudden methane releases, after which it was closed and isolated. A glass capsule about 30 meters in diameter filled with radioactive water formed at the site of the explosion.
In 2002, the Yunkom mine was closed as unpromising. Environmentalists had expressed concern about the danger of its flooding. This allegedly threatens that radioactive waste, which is located at a depth of about 1 kilometer, will come to the surface together with underground water and contaminate the surrounding territory, particularly the flow of the Seversky Donets River as the Don and the Sea of Azov.
The administration of the self-proclaimed DNR, which controlled the town of Yenakiieve, decided to reduce the level of water drainage in the mine due to a lack of funds in the budget. This led to the flooding of the mine. The facility was transferred from "dry" to "wet" mothballing. Without the consent of the IAEA and the State Nuclear Regulatory Committee of Ukraine. The information was also confirmed by the OSCE Special Monitoring Commission.
The Ukrainian authorities have asked the IAEA to send experts to Donbas to clarify the situation around the Yunkom mine, where an underground nuclear explosion was conducted in the Soviet times. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov said that in early October he met with IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi via video conference and voiced Ukraine's request to conduct an examination and send an IAEA expert team monitoring mission to Donbas.