With the fabled Chernobyl nuclear facility under attack and losing stability every day, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been concerned about rotating out the plant’s 210 technical people. These people are typically on a consistent rotation into and out of the work zone.
By keeping them there, these people are being exposed to more and more radiation, and at levels that are incredibly unhealthy for the average human being. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi wrote a statement to request things get sorted out quickly. “I’m deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chernobyl 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.”
This statement is a powerful gesture for the IAEA to make on behalf of the workers from the plant. Considering the IAEA has lost contact with the monitoring systems for Chernobyl, this is a fair request to make. There is no telling just how high the radiation levels may have gotten at this point, or how much danger those on the site might be in. Then there are also the concerns about the damage any shells, bullets, or Russian aggressors may have done to the facility.
By not knowing the conditions of the reactor and on the ground, the IAEA is flying blind on keeping the people at the site and in the area safe. What is even riskier is the loss of eight out of the 15 nuclear plants Ukraine has within its borders to Russian forces. There is no telling what the agenda of these forces is, what they might be doing with the fuel rods or other items. Given the age and condition of many of their nuclear reactors, there is a big concern about how they could be misused.
Russia has given zero indications about its willingness to comply with the IAEA or any other agency that may attempt to help those at Chernobyl or any other nuclear site. What is clear is that working consistently on shift for over two weeks at this point is certainly taking its toll on these workers. With only limited access to food, water, and medicine, they cannot last too much longer without some shift rotations and improved working conditions.
The IAEA’s seven indispensable pillars include a variety of regulations to ensure safe operations. Including “The operating staff must be able to fulfill their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure; There must be uninterrupted logistical supply chains and transportation to and from the sites; There must be effective on-site and off-site radiation monitoring systems and emergency preparedness and response measures, and There must be reliable communications with the regulator and others.”
Just these few of the seven pillars sound like obvious cornerstones to safe plant operations, but they are also pillars Russia is completely ignoring. The ignoring of the rules is at their own peril when it only involves their own country or no innocent civilians. However, as we have seen at this site in 1986, that is not the case in this part of Ukraine, and it’s not the case around their other nuclear sites as well.
As the IAEA awaits the ability to enter and inspect, to change shifts, and to reestablish monitoring services, the rest of the globe watches and worries. This kind of stress is not good for the workers, and it certainly is not going to allow them to perform their mission adequately. With the advancements by the people and soldiers of Ukraine to try and retake their country, this should be back to its full and normal operation sooner than later.