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In Chernobyl: a hundred Ukrainian employees, ‘hostages’ of the war, fear the worst

“Save our loved ones!”, “Ukraine does not need a second Chernobyl.” About 50 people demonstrated in Slavutycha small town near the famous nuclear power plant, where his relatives have been held since the beginning of the Russian offensive.

From February 24, a hundred night shift technicians were unable to leave the centerl after the Russian army took it over. The day team was also not authorized to relieve them, their relatives, who requested anonymity, explained to AFP.

Since then, the staff has tried to guarantee the maintenance of the now inactive site and where on April 26, 1986 the worst nuclear accident in history was recorded. Russian soldiers surround him, the relatives explain.

“Our men are not just hostagesbut also prisoners of a Russian concentration camp,” denounces a woman with a serious face during the Slavutych demonstration, recorded by local television.

Ukrainian soldiers at the Chernobyl plant, before it was taken over by the Russians. Reuters Photo

“exhausted”

His relatives recount his hard day to day, as well as the risks that this situation represents for a plant, whose security, in his opinion, is largely compromised.

“Physically and morally, they are exhausted”, explains the wife of a technician who can communicate with the outside through a fixed telephone. “They think that nobody thinks about them, neither the Russian nor the Ukrainian government,” she adds.

Workers receive two meals a day consisting of “small portions, poorly prepared“. “They can take a shower, but without soap or shampoo”, they do not have access to medicines and sleep “on the floor, on desks or chairs”, he laments.

In a statement, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, stressed on Tuesday the “enormous stress” and the lack of “necessary rest” of these technicians.

In the opinion of the Argentine official, this “endangers” one of the “pillars” of nuclear safety: staff must be able to make decisions “without undue pressure.”

Employees actually feel “on the front line if an accident occurs”, especially when the power lines that supply Chernobyl remained without service for several days last week, an engineer from the plant told AFP.

The dangers

The pool where spent nuclear fuel is stored has “overcapacity of 40%” and all the reinforcement ones are full, which violates the “nuclear safety rules”, warns the expert, who attributes the situation to the Ukrainian Chernobyl directorate.

Contacted by AFP, the Ukrainian atomic agency could not respond to these accusations.

“There are no risks of explosion on the site”Karine Herviou, deputy general director of the French Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), assures AFP.

Although Chernobyl had to resort to generators to keep safety systems running for several days, “the lasting loss of power to the site [causaría] an accident”, unlike the central “working”Hervio adds.

But there are still risks linked to the war, especially when the Russian army installed “a military base” in the Chernobyl compound, says a relative of a detained technician, who also worked at the plant.

“The strategy is brilliant from a war standpoint (…) No one will launch a missile against Chernobyl” to attack the Russian army, he explains. “But in the name of humanity, it’s crazy.”

The main risk for Chernobyl is “human error”, estimates the man, for whom the current situation already represents a “catastrophe” for the plant, with the presence of Russian soldiers who “do not know” the nature of the site.

AFP Agency

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