The United Nations nuclear watchdog on Friday warned that Russian troops are putting “unbelievable pressure” on workers at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant.
Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on March 4, and it has since allowed Ukrainian plant operators to manage the site but under extreme conditions.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team members unload suitcases with equipment as they arrive to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) did not release specifics on how Ukrainian plant officials were being treated but said the work conditions are “extremely stressful and challenging.”
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the Ukrainian nuclear specialists “continue to perform their duties and maintain, as far as possible during the war, the safety of the nuclear facilities.”
But the agency noted that “the morale and the emotional state” of staff at the Zaporizhzhia power station is “very low.”
Zaporizhzhia, located in southeastern Ukraine, has increasingly been put in the sites of Russian forces as they look to establish “full control” in the neighboring Donbas region.
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi talks to journalists as he arrives with an IAEA team to Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Ukraine officials warned last week that Russia is looking to establish a referendum to annex occupied territories in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, which is just south of the nuclear power plant along the Dnipro river.
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Russian forces have reportedly brought in personnel from the Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, which demands daily reports from Ukrainian plant operators regarding “confidential issues” on the workings of the nuclear plant.
Grossi, who traveled to Ukraine in March amid the heightened security threat, said the situation at Zaporizhzhia “continues to be challenging and requires continued attention.”
The IAEA chief warned that the “situation will become unsustainable” and on Friday proposed to lead a team to the nuclear power plant at the “earliest possible opportunity.”
Grossi visited the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant earlier this week after it was occupied by Russian forces for 35 days.
Decorated Ukrainian National Guard soldiers and State Emergency Service members observe a moment of silence during a ceremony commemorating the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster at the Those Who Saved the World monument in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Since the withdrawal of Russian troops from the infamous site of the world’s largest nuclear catastrophe, alarming reports have surfaced reflecting a disregard for nuclear safety by Russian soldiers.
The IAEA said Friday that the remote transfer of data from the Chernobyl plant to its headquarters in Vienna is slowly being restored.