The Ukrainian government claimed Wednesday that Russian soldiers plundered and destroyed a laboratory near the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant designed to monitor hazardous waste.
In the early days of Ukraine’s invasion, the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe site passed under Russian hands, raising concerns that safety standards inside the exclusion zone may be jeopardised.
According to a Ukrainian government agency, the laboratory was part of a European Union-funded attempt to bolster radioactive waste management by analysing waste samples on-site and trash packing.
It further stated that radionuclide samples that may generate significant quantities of radiation had been taken from the facility. It expressed hope that Russia would use the samples to “harm itself, and not the civilised world.”
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s government issued a warning about multiple fires near the facility, which it claimed were likely started by Russian artillery or arson. Staff working at the factory on the day it was taken had just recently had the opportunity to return home, three weeks after they were scheduled to cycle with an incoming squad.
Following the employees’ imprisonment, local mayor Yuriy Fomichev remarked that they were “exhausted, both mentally and emotionally, but mainly physically.”
According to Fomichev, more than 100 persons were shift workers who should have been released after 12 hours. However, according to Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 13 staff employees and the majority of the guards refused to rotate.
The facility had to rely on emergency diesel generators for several days before being reconnected to the national power grid after damaged wires were restored. More than 30 people died due to the explosion at Chernobyl’s No. 4 reactor in Pripyat on April 26, 1986.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization, many more died from radiation poisoning in the years that followed. 135,000 people were evacuated from the area by Ukrainian officials, and a 19-mile exclusion zone around the plant will be inaccessible for decades.
A sarcophagus was created to cover Reactor 4 and contain the radioactive material in the months following the tragedy. However, later, the situation worsened, resulting in radioactive leakage.