Apr 26, 2022 - World

IAEA: Russia's seizure of Chernobyl was "very dangerous"

Russia's seizure of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was "absolutely abnormal and very, very dangerous," Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Tuesday during his visit to the plant, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: The power plant, which is inoperative but still manages the fallout of the 1986 nuclear disaster and stores and processes nuclear waste, fell under Russian control in the first day of its invasion of Ukraine.

  • After Russia occupied the plant, it lost direct power and had to rely on emergency diesel generators for several days after power lines were damaged. IAEA also lost access to data from systems it uses to monitor conditions at the plant.
  • Russian troops held plant's staff members hostage and forced them to operate the plant for around 600 hours before they were allowed to leave

What they're saying: Grossi's visit coincided with the 36th anniversary of the nuclear disaster. He said he does not believe the plant is close to suffering a similar accident, but that Russia's occupation elevated the risk of mismanagement and a possible incident.

  • "I don't know if we were very close to disaster, but the situation was absolutely abnormal and very, very dangerous," Grossi said, according to the Times.
  • "In this case, what we had was a nuclear safety situation that was not normal, that could have developed into an accident," he added, per a video released by the IAEA.
  • "The first credit must go to the operators, to these people here, because they carried on their work in spite of all the difficulties, in spite of the stress, in spite of the fact that they could not be working normally."

The big picture: The IAEA mission led by Grossi went to Ukraine to deliver radiation monitoring equipment and assess radiation levels around the plant and the exclusion zone near it.

Go deeper: Live updates on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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