Level of radioactivity in Chernobyl is ‘abnormal’, says head of Atomic Energy Agency | World

The level of radioactivity at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant is “abnormal” and has risen after Russian troops occupied the area, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday (26). Rafael Grossi, during a visit to the plant.

“As for the level of radioactivity, I would say it is abnormal. There were times when the levels went up, due to the movement of heavy equipment that Russian forces brought here and when they left. We have been monitoring it daily,” Grossi said.

The director general also condemned the occupation by Russian forces for several weeks of the plant as “very, very dangerous”.

“The situation was absolutely abnormal and very, very dangerous,” the head of this UN agency told reporters during his visit to Chernobyl, exactly 36 years after the worst nuclear catastrophe in history.

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Grossi is accompanied on site by a group of specialists “to deliver vital equipment”, such as dosimeters and protective clothing, and to carry out “radiological and other controls”.

These experts are expected to “repair remote surveillance systems, which stopped transmitting data to the IAEA headquarters” in Vienna, Austria, shortly after the start of the war.

Located 150 kilometers north of Kiev, the Chernobyl power station fell into Russian hands on February 24, the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and suffered a power and communications network outage. Russian soldiers withdrew from the nuclear facility on March 31.

Since then, the situation has gradually returned to normal, according to IAEA daily reports based on information from the Ukrainian nuclear regulator.

Rafael Grossi had already traveled to Ukraine at the end of March to lay the groundwork for a technical assistance agreement. On the occasion, he visited the Yuzhno-Ukrainsk power plant in the south, before meeting with Russian officials in Kaliningrad, on the shores of the Baltic.

Ukraine has 15 reactors in four operational plants, as well as waste dumps like the one at the Chernobyl plant.

What is Chernobyl and why is the city important

What is Chernobyl and why is the city important

A Chernobyl reactor exploded in 1986, contaminating much of Europe, but especially Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

Known as the exclusion zone, the territory within a radius of 30 kilometers around the plant is still heavily contaminated and it is forbidden to establish residence in this area.

At the moment, Russian forces control the massive Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. In late February, the latter was hit by artillery fire that set nearby buildings ablaze and raised fears of disaster.

“Russia’s illegal and unjustified aggression in Ukraine once again jeopardizes nuclear security on our continent,” warned EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell and European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson in a joint statement.

The two European authorities accuse Russian forces of having “recklessly damaged the affected nuclear facilities”.

According to Borrell and Simson, the disruption of normal operations, “including staff rotation, compromises the safe operation of nuclear power plants in Ukraine and significantly increases the risk of accidents.”

“On the anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl accident, we reiterate our greatest concern about the nuclear safety risks posed by recent Russian actions at the Chernobyl site,” they said.

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