IAEA Chief to visit Chernobyl next week

Russian soldiers withdrew from the plant at the end of March, Kyiv said. Since then, the situation has gradually returned to normal, according to daily reports from the IAEA based on information from the Ukrainian regulator.

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VIENNA: The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency will visit Chernobyl next week as the organization ramps up efforts to “prevent the danger of a nuclear accident,” a statement said Friday.

Chernobyl, the scene of the worst nuclear disaster in history, fell into Russian hands on the first day of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, and suffered a power and communications outage.

Russian soldiers withdrew from the plant at the end of March, Kyiv said. Since then, the situation has gradually returned to normal, according to daily reports from the IAEA based on information from the Ukrainian regulator.

However, in mid-April, Ukrainian authorities said they could not restore radiation monitoring at the site.

Rafael Grossi will arrive on April 26, the anniversary of the 1986 disaster, with a team of experts from the UN body to carry out radiation checks and deliver essential kit.

“Based on our scientific measurements and technical evaluations, we will be able to better understand the radiological situation there,” he said.

The plant’s staff, who were forced to work non-stop for weeks, are now on rotation. But damaged bridges and de-mining activities have made it difficult to operate in the area, Ukraine told the IAEA this week.

Grossi praised staff and said he looked forward to being able to speak with them.

“They have been through more than we can imagine, and they deserve our full respect and admiration for preserving the safety and security of the site despite the dire situation,” he said.

During their visit, the experts will also repair remote monitoring systems that stopped sending data back to the agency’s headquarters in Vienna.

In March, Grossi traveled to Ukraine to lay the groundwork of an agreement for providing technical help. He visited a nuclear power plant in the south of the country, before meeting senior Russian officials in Kaliningrad.

“The military conflict is putting Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and other facilities with radioactive material in unprecedented danger,” he warned at the time.

Ukraine has 15 reactors in four operating plants, as well as waste repositories such as Chernobyl. The IAEA plans further inspections in the coming weeks.

The Zaporizhzhia power plant, the largest in Europe, is still occupied by the Russians. Artillery strikes in early March caused a fire in nearby buildings and raised fears of a catastrophe.

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