The Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been relieved for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. About half of the personnel present were able to return home after working at the site for nearly four weeks, the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA said.
The nuclear power plant, where the worst nuclear disaster ever occurred in 1986, is under Russian control.
“Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency today that about half of the staff at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant were finally able to rotate and return home,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, general manager of the IAEA, in a press release the agency said in a statement the night from Sunday to Monday.
According to the Ukrainian nuclear regulator, the rotation started in the morning. The agency said the personnel who were able to leave Chernobyl had been relieved by other Ukrainian personnel. Grossi applauds that partial rotation of staff. However, they had to carry out their work “under immensely stressful and exhausting conditions in the presence of foreign soldiers and without proper rest”.
Russian forces have been in control of the plant since February 24. A hundred Ukrainian technicians who had just completed a night shift continued to work at the site where radioactive elements still needed to be cooled. The French news agency AFP learned that the day shift could not relieve them.
“For today’s rotation, the site shift has been the same since the day before Russian troops entered the area,” the IAEA also said.
In 1986 reactor number 4 of the nuclear power plant exploded, causing the worst nuclear disaster ever. The IAEA also says it still has not received data from the Chernobyl observation systems. The other Ukrainian nuclear power plants do transmit such data. The agency had proposed to intervene on site to ensure the safety of the nuclear installations. The agency will also continue to hold consultations with that aim.