UN Nuclear Watchdog Issues Warning on Chernobyl

IAEA says it has lost contact with systems reporting on nuclear material at plant in northern Ukraine
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2022 6:20 AM CST
UN Nuclear Watchdog Issues Warning on Chernobyl
A shelter construction covers the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on April 27, 2021.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been keeping tabs on nuclear-linked sites in Ukraine as the war there waged by Russia continues, and recent news is concerning. Per Reuters, the international group that reports to the United Nations on nuclear power and technology worldwide, says it has lost contact with the systems keeping tabs on nuclear material at the Chernobyl plant in northern Ukraine, near the country's border with Belarus. IAEA chief Rafael Grossi "indicated that remote data transmission from safeguards monitoring systems installed at the [Chernobyl plant] had been lost," the agency said in a statement.

It added, per the Moscow Times, that it's "looking into the status of safeguards monitoring systems in other locations in Ukraine" and will give an update on that soon. The paper adds that about 200 staffers at the plant, including guards and technical workers, have been held hostage for nearly two weeks since Russian forces bore down on the plant, and that the situation for those staffers is "worsening." A scientist who escaped with his team after the plant takeover says workers who are still trapped there have been denied access to their labs and equipment, per New Scientist.

Thousands still work at the plant to prevent future nuclear disasters from taking place, with workers regularly rotating shifts to stay well-rested for safety purposes. The escaped scientist says staffers aren't being allowed to leave and take that needed rest, and are being kept in substandard conditions, putting the entire plant in jeopardy. "We cannot go on like this," Grossi says. "There [have] to be clear understandings, clear commitments, not to go anywhere near a nuclear facility when it comes to military operations." (More IAEA stories.)

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