Chernobyl plant workers allowed to leave after 600 hours inside facility
Some Chernobyl nuclear plant workers were permitted to go home on Sunday after roughly 600 hours at the facility following its seizure by Russian forces invading Ukraine.
In a Facebook post, the plant said 64 people were sent home after they “heroically performed their professional duties and maintained the appropriate level of safety.” The departing employees were replaced by 46 “employee-volunteers.”
Roughly 300 people have been held at the facility since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, according to The Washington Post.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) director general Rafael Mariano Grossi called the move “a positive — albeit long overdue — development” in a statement.
“They deserve our full respect and admiration for having worked in these extremely difficult circumstances,” Grossi said. “They were there for far too long. I sincerely hope that remaining staff from this shift can also rotate soon.”
Earlier this month, power was restored to the plant after Moscow’s forces reportedly knocked the plant off the energy grid.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned the U.N. Security Council earlier this month that Russia’s focus on nuclear plants could be problematic in Ukraine.
“Nuclear facilities cannot become part of this conflict,” she said. “Russia must halt any further use of force that might put at further risk all 15 operable reactors across Ukraine – or interfere with Ukraine’s ability to maintain the safety and security of its 37 nuclear facilities and their surrounding populations.”
Nearly a month into the invasion, about 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes and are now internally displaced or refugees abroad because of the attacks.