Mystery with Russian soldiers in Chernobyl – No radioactive leak, IAEA says

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The Ukrainian Chernobyl nuclear power plant was not damaged during the occupation by Russian troops, but the latter may have been exposed to radiation, mainly because they dug trenches in the contaminated area, Ukrainian authorities said today.

When asked about it, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi said he was “unable to confirm” this information. The UN agency “is trying to gather additional information to provide an independent assessment of the situation,” the statement added.

“The radiation around the station is at normal levels”Grossi told reporters in Vienna.

The withdrawal of the Russians could, however, cause a “local” increase in radiation, due to the movement of vehicles, he explained. The same thing happened when the Russian army occupied this area, on the first day of the attack, on February 24.

Grossi returned to Austria today from a tour of Ukraine and Russia, where he discussed with the authorities of each country the “framework” for the development of equipment and experts at the Ukrainian nuclear facilities. He said he hoped “very, very soon” to head a mission to Chernobyl.

The equipment is operating normally, said the facility manager

The station, where the worst nuclear accident in history occurred in 1986, was liberated on Thursday after the Russians withdrew from the zone north of Kiev.

“All equipment operates” as well as “all radiation control and monitoring systems”, said its director, Valery Seida, in a statement issued by the Ukrainian Atomic Energy Agency Energoatom. No problems have been observed, not even in the sarcophagus covering reactor no. 4, nor in the stored radioactive material.

In this “no-go zone”, which was contaminated by the 1986 catastrophe, Russian soldiers may have been exposed to significant doses of radiation, according to Ukrainians. “The fine dust that vehicles lift in the air and the radioactive molecules it contains could easily penetrate the body, by breathing”, said Seida. And, even worse, they seem to have dug trenches in the “red forest”, the most polluted area.

Kuleba blamed Russia for irresponsibility

For this reason, but also in general for the safety of nuclear facilities, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba accused Russia of “irresponsibility”, speaking to reporters in Warsaw.

Reactor no. 4 Chernobyl exploded in 1986 causing the worst nuclear disaster in history. It is covered with a double sarcophagus: one built by the Soviets (and which has now been damaged) and a second, installed in 2019. The other three reactors at the station were gradually shut down after the accident. The latter ceased operations in 2000.

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