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March 9, 2022updated 23 Mar 2022 12:53pm

Ukraine crisis: IAEA loses contact with Chornobyl nuclear plant

The Ukrainian regulator has told the IAEA that staff at the NPP have limited access to food, water and medicines.

Understand the impact of the Ukraine conflict from a cross-sector perspective with the Global Data Executive Briefing: Ukraine Conflict

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that it has stopped receiving transmissions from the Chornobyl nuclear power plant (NPP).

IAEA director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi said it is important to rotate the 210 technical staff and guards working at the nuclear facility.

The same personnel are understood to have been working at the site since Russian military took control of it on 24 February.

The IAEA said that to ensure safe operations at the nuclear facility, it is mandatory to change staff.

Grossi said: “I’m deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and the potential risks this entails for nuclear safety.

“I call on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there.”

The Ukrainian regulator also informed the IAEA that the situation for the staff at the Chornobyl NPP was ‘worsening’, with limited access to food, water and medicines.

It has asked the IAEA to take international support to prepare a plan to rotate existing staff members at the power plant.

The Ukrainian regulator added that the handling of nuclear material at the site has also been put on hold for the time being.

Grossi explained that he is ready to travel to the Chornobyl NPP or elsewhere to protect Ukraine’s nuclear facilities from the conflict.

On 2 March, Grossi outlined seven ‘indispensable pillars’ of Ukrainian nuclear safety and security to the IAEA’s Board of Governors.

These included the capacity of NPP staff to ‘make decisions free of undue pressure’.

On 25 February, the IAEA appealed to Russia to avoid any action that may imperil the safety of nuclear facilities in Ukraine.

The nuclear watchdog said it was ‘closely monitoring’ the situation to ensure the safety of the nuclear power plants and other nuclear-related facilities in the country.

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