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The Russian military has reportedly destroyed a laboratory that manages radioactive waste at the Chornobyl nuclear power facility in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian state agency responsible for the Chornobyl exclusion zone said that the laboratory contained ‘highly active samples and samples of radionuclides, which are now in the hands of the enemy, which we hope will harm itself and not the civilised world’.
The exclusion zone is the area around the NPP that has been contaminated since the plant suffered a meltdown in 1986, causing the world’s most severe nuclear disaster to date.
Radionuclides are unstable atoms of chemical elements that emit radiation.
The laboratory was opened in 2015, having been built with a €6m ($6.6m) investment and support from the European Commission.
Last month, at the start of the conflict, Russian forces took control of the decommissioned plant.
On 10 March, Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the electricity supply to the Chornobyl NPP was disrupted, causing the plant to lose its supply of external power.
The Ukrainian regulator also raised concerns that the power supply failure might lead to a radiation leak at the nuclear facility.
On 14 March, however, Ukrainian state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom notified the IAEA that the power supply to the Chornobyl NPP had been restored.
The power supply was restored by repair staff at Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s national transmission system operator.
This meant that the facility’s cooling system could work without requiring any backup power.
On 21 March, staff at the NPP were rotated and allowed to return home after almost four weeks.
The personnel at the plant had been carrying out their duties continuously since 24 February, when Russian forces took control of the site.
Energoatom noted that eight of Ukraine’s 15 reactors are still operational, including the two reactors at the Zaporizhzhya NPP and three at Rivne.