Nuclear power group to visit Chernobyl after Russian troops leave

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency will lead a group of experts to assess the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after Russian troops abruptly abandoned it this week.

Heavy military machinery used by the Russians appears to have caused radiation in the region, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told a news conference on Friday, but he could not confirm reports that the Russian troops were said to have been poisoned by the radiation.

Russia raised international alarm in the early days of the war for attacking and seizing the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. The plant requires round-the-clock monitoring to ensure nuclear materials remain contained in completely safe.

“We’re going to be there very, very soon, because in Chernobyl there’s a lot of work to be done,” Grossi said.

He did not, however, indicate any particular reason for alarm.

“The general radiation situation around the plant is completely normal,” Grossi said. “There was a relatively higher level of localized radiation from heavy vehicles at the time of the plant occupation and apparently this could have been the case again upon exit.”

The speed of the Russians’ departure from Chernobyl was somewhat surprising, although Russian forces have withdrawn from areas of northern Ukraine in recent days.

Ukrainian authorities said the invading soldiers dug trenches in the dangerously radioactive Red Forest, which sits next to the destroyed nuclear power plant, and exposed themselves to “significant doses” of radiation.

A plastic-covered operator’s chair sits in an empty control room of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s third reactor in 2018.

Efrem Lukatsky via Associated Press

Troops “panicked at the first sign of illness,” Ukraine’s state-owned power company Energoatom said Thursday.

Russian officials with whom Grossi spoke did not comment on the reasons for their departure. If the troops were contaminated, Grossi said, the IAEA was ready to offer expert assistance.

The nuclear agency, which sits under the auspices of the United Nations, has agreed with Ukrainian and Russian authorities on a framework for how its experts will help secure and monitor nuclear facilities across Ukraine during the conflict. , although Grossi declined to provide many details.

The IAEA was setting up small teams of experts to deploy in an emergency, he said.

Ukraine is highly dependent on nuclear energy, receiving about half of its energy supply from nuclear sources.


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