Russia’s temporary takeover of the Chernobyl site was “very, very dangerous” and increased radiation levels but it is now back to normal, the head of the UN atomic watchdog said on Tuesday.
“The situation is really abnormal and very, very dangerous,” Rafael Grossi told reporters when he arrived at the sarcophagus that covered the radioactive waste of the nuclear reactor.
Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, visited the site on the 36th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
The Russian army took over the site on February 24, the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, taking Ukrainian soldiers captive and detaining civil servants.
The occupation lasted until the end of March and raised global concerns over nuclear leaks.
Grossi said radiation levels are now “normal”.
But he added that “there were moments when the level had risen due to the movement of heavy equipment brought by the Russian army here and when they left”.
Ukrainian officials said Russian troops may have been exposed to radiation after digging fortifications in “many places” at the site and stirring up clouds of dust with their armored vehicles.
On April 26, 1986, an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction destroyed the reactor in an accident that was initially covered by Soviet authorities.
Hundreds of people died although the exact figure is still disputed.
Eventually, 3,50,000 people were evacuated from a 30 -kilometer radius around the plant, an exclusion zone that remained uninhabited, in addition to a number of elderly residents who returned home despite the official ban.
Three other Chernobyl power station reactors were shut down in a row, with the most recent closure in 2000.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by AGRASMARTCITY staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)