Exhausted Staff Held Hostage at
Chernobyl Plant Finally Get Relief
LVIV, Ukraine (March 20, 2022) — Management of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, said Sunday that 50 staff members who had been on the job since the plant was seized by Russian forces on Feb. 24 have been rotated out and replaced.
Officials had repeatedly expressed alarm that the staff was suffering exhaustion after weeks of forced, unrelieved work and that this endangered the decommissioned plant’s safety.
The authority that manages the plant did not give specifics on how agreement was reached to let the workers leave and others come in to replace them.
Russians Allow Dozens Of Workers
To Leave After 600 Hours As Hostages
(March 21, 2022) — Dozens of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant employees who were forced by Russian troops to stay at the facility for 600 hours were finally allowed to leave Sunday.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, welcomed the workers’ release, but warned that it was long overdue.
The plant employees “deserve our full respect and admiration for having worked in these extremely difficult circumstances,” Grossi said. “They were there for far too long. I sincerely hope that remaining staff from this shift can also rotate soon.”
A Facebook post from the plant said that 64 people were sent home after they “heroically performed their professional duties and maintained the appropriate level of safety.” The workers included guards, technicians and others.
The employees who rotated out represented about half the staff at the site, per the IAEA. They were replaced Sunday by 46 Ukrainian “employee-volunteers,” the Facebook post said.
The workers had been held hostage at the facility since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. For weeks, the IAEA had called for the plant employees to be allowed to rotate, pointing to serious safety concerns posed by exhausted personnel operating under stress.
Although the Russians disconnected the plant from the power grid, engineers restored power five days later, The Washington Post reported.
Chernobyl was the site of the biggest nuclear power plant accident in history in 1986. While radioactive waste management facilities are located at the plant, its last reactor closed in 2000.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
Nuclear Plant Staff Begged Russians To Stop Shooting
“You are endangering the safety of the entire world,” a power plant worker can be heard shouting in video published by CNN and The New York Times.
(March 5, 2022) — Video taken from inside Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during the Russian assault earlier this week shows workers pleading with their attackers over a loudspeaker system to stop in order to avoid catastrophe.
“Stop firing at the nuclear facility!” someone says, according to a translation from The New York Times, which says it verified the clip’s authenticity. The message is punctuated by gunfire.
“You are endangering the safety of the entire world,” the person says multiple times. The videographer pans around a room featuring floor-to-ceiling control panels and other computer equipment.
CNN also aired the clip during a Friday-evening broadcast, with live translation by reporter Sam Kiley. The power plant worker said that if a certain part of the facility’s operations were disrupted, staff would not be able to restore it, per Kiley.
A fire that broke out near the Zaporizhzhia plant ― Europe’s largest nuclear site ― was ultimately contained on Friday.
Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister, Dmytro Kuleba, had highlighted the stakes, saying that “if it blows up,” the resulting disaster would be “10 times larger” than the meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986.
The Zaporizhzhia plant is designed with more modern protections than the Chernobyl site, with more safety measures to ward off a similar meltdown. But experts have expressed concern about the potential catastrophe of any military activity around nuclear plants.