IAEA steps in to make Chernobyl safe

Article by Amanda Jasi

NUCLEAR experts have arrived at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant to help make it safe after Russian forces left.

The Russian military quickly took control of the Chernobyl plant after invading Ukraine on 24 February. The occupiers left the site on 31 March, which is now protected by the National Guard of Ukraine. Russia’s control of the site compromised safety and operations at the facility. Staff rotation was limited, maintenance and repair activities were prevented, radiation monitoring systems in the exclusion zone stopped working, and safeguard monitoring systems stopped transmitting to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The site also lost power briefly and had to rely on diesel generators.

After the Russian military withdrew, Ukraine took steps to ensure safe and secure operations. Staff were rotated for a second time since the invasion, and direct communications between the site and IAEA were re-established.

The team arrived today on the 36th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. It includes safety and security experts who will conduct radiological assessments and restore safeguard monitoring. They will also deliver radiation monitoring equipment, and personal protective equipment.

The mission is headed by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. Last week, he said: “The IAEA’s presence at Chernobyl will be of paramount importance for our activities to support Ukraine as it seeks to restore regulatory control of the plant and ensure its safe and secure operation.”

“It will be followed by more IAEA missions to this and other nuclear facilities in Ukraine in the coming weeks.”

Grossi also highlighted that nuclear safety in the country has been jeopardised on several occasions these past two months, though the worst-case scenario has been avoided. He added that “we need to intensify our efforts to make sure that remains the case”.

IAEA and Ukraine have worked closely to draw up detailed plans for safety and security assistance to the country’s nuclear sites, which include 15 reactors operating at four plants. Seven of the country’s 15 reactors are currently connected to the grid, including two at the Russia-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

According to IAEA, safety systems at the four operating plants remain operational, and they continue to have access to off-site power.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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