Loggers from Wallowa County, Oregon are poised for a major role in expanded timber-cutting operations urgently planned for the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the approximately 19-mile area encircling the site of the former Soviet Union’s disastrous nuclear power plant accident of April 1986.

“The overriding concern in the zone is wildfire,” explains Mike Wiedeman, president of a decades-old family logging business based in Enterprise and past president of the American Loggers Council.

Like nearly all other activities normal to the area before the accident struck, logging in the irradiated zone ground to a halt and has since been seen only on a small scale, allowing stands in the vast forest to grow dangerously dense.

The significant amount of radioactive smoke a large wildfire would produce poses a potentially widespread threat. Although a 2011 study concluded that evacuations might not be necessary outside the zone, no one is eager to put that to a test. Researchers also concluded that people inside the zone were likely to suffer overexposure to radiation.

Wiedeman has grown increasingly interested in the CEZ and the possibility of working there on a long-term basis, ever since someone in Ukraine’s private sector approached him about becoming involved in a major project that would begin forest-thinning in earnest and convert the logged timber to energy.

From The Statesman Journal: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20130505/GREEN/305050060/Oregon-loggers-eye-role-near-Chernobyl