The Chernobyl nuclear power plant did not suffer any damage during its four-week occupation by Russian soldiers, but they were exposed to radiation, especially by digging trenches in the infected area, Ukrainian authorities said on Friday.
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The plant, where the biggest nuclear disaster in history took place in 1986 when one of its reactors exploded, was liberated on Thursday during the withdrawal of Russian forces from the area north of Kiev.
“All the equipment at the Chernobyl power station is working. All radiation control and monitoring systems operate under their normal regime, ”said plant director Valery Seida, quoting a statement from the Ukrainian Atomic Energy Agency Energoatom.
“The plant is functioning normally”, both with regard to the sarcophagus covering the damaged reactor n ° 4, and the storage of radioactive material.
Russian soldiers “took away five of the 15 containers for the plant,” he said.
But above all, in this forbidden zone that was badly contaminated by the 1986 disaster, they were exposed to probably large doses of radiation, note the Ukrainians.
“The thick dust that blew their vehicles into the air and the radioactive particles it contained could easily have entered the bodies of the Russians through their lungs,” Seida said.
Worse, they appear to have dug trenches in the “red forest”, the most infested area.
“It is therefore entirely possible that they have sustained significant radiation pollution,” according to Energoatom.
“Irresponsibility” of Moscow
As such, as with the general security of the facilities, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba condemned Moscow’s ‘irresponsibility’ in a separate statement to the press in Warsaw.
“Russia has been irresponsible at every level, from refusing to allow plant personnel to carry out their duties in full, to digging trenches in the infected area,” he said.
“The Russian government (…) will have to answer the mothers, sisters and wives of its soldiers, explain to them why it forced them to expose themselves to these risks,” the minister continued.
The plant’s number 4 reactor exploded in 1986, causing the worst civil nuclear disaster in history. It is covered by a double sarcophagus, one built by the Soviets and now damaged, the other, more modern, was inaugurated in 2019.
The plant’s other three reactors were gradually shut down after the disaster, the last in 2000.