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Radiation at Chernobyl “Normal” on Anniversary of Nuclear Disaster

Chernobyl disaster
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant outside Pripyat in Ukraine pictured before the Russian invasion. Credit: Jason Minshull/ Public domain

The head of the UN’s atomic agency said on Tuesday radiation levels at the former Chernobyl nuclear power station, the scene of weeks of fighting after the Russian invasion, are “normal.”

International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Rafael Grossi told reporters Russia’s weeks-long occupation of the site was “very, very dangerous,” according to AFP.

The site was seized by Russian forces on February 24th, the first day of the conflict in Ukraine, and held until the end of March when those forces withdrew from that part of Ukraine.

This led to a number of issues and concerns ranging from the interruption of communication to the regulator, the lack of data from safeguarding systems, interruptions to the site’s normal power supply, and a lack of staff rotation which amplified stress for workers performing important duties related to safety.

In March, Ukraine had warned that radioactive substances could be released if there is an electricity outage at the site, as it makes it impossible to cool spent nuclear fuel. The company said there were about 20,000 spent fuel assemblies at Chernobyl that could not be kept cool amid a power outage.

Chernobyl: Worst nuclear disaster

The disused power station was the site of history’s worst nuclear disaster on April 26, 1986.

Chernobyl is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history both in cost and casualties. It is one of only two nuclear energy accidents rated at seven—the maximum severity—on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

In the accident’s aftermath, 237 people, of whom 31 died within the first three months, suffered from acute radiation sickness.

Greece concerned about nuclear energy and Turkey’s ambitions

“[It has been] 36 years since the destruction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant,” Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias noted in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

“Developments in the same region following the Russian invasion of Ukraine remind us, in the most dramatic way, of the dangers that always lurk from the use of nuclear energy,” Dendias added.

Greece has recently voiced concerns over Turkey’s nuclear ambitions. Marking the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster last year, Dendias called on Turkey to discuss its plans for constructing a nuclear power plant with its neighbors.

In a Tweet, the Greek FM stated “The Chernobyl disaster, the largest nuclear disaster in history, is a constant reminder of the lurking dangers. As I have already stated, Turkey must reach an understanding with its neighboring countries on the Akkuyu nuclear power plant project.”

Greece’s neighbor has slated the plant to come online in 2023, marking the centennial of the modern Turkish state.

In his remarks at the time, Dendias pointed out the risk the nuclear power plant would pose to the countries in its immediate vicinity, as well as Ankara’s seeming unwillingness to share any information about its plans.

The fact that the proposed plot constitutes Russia’s largest foreign investment is also a cause of concern to Dendias and other Western leaders.

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