After more than three weeks without being able to leave the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, 64 workers were finally able to be rotated out, the plant said Sunday.
Staff at the plant, which includes more than 200 technical personnel and guards, had not been able to rotate shifts since Feb. 23, a day before Russian forces took control of the site, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which serves as a nuclear watchdog for the United Nations.
In a Facebook post, the plant said that to rotate the 64 workers, 46 volunteers were sent to the site to make sure operations at the plant could continue. It was unclear whether the remaining workers would also have an opportunity to be rotated.
For weeks, the International Atomic Energy Agency, known as the IAEA, has expressed concern for the workers at the Chernobyl site, calling for the staff to be rotated for their safety and security.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the IAEA, said last week that he remained “gravely concerned about the extremely difficult circumstances for the Ukrainian staff there.”
The IAEA said March 13 that workers were no longer doing repairs and maintenance, partly because of “physical and psychological fatigue.”
In a Facebook post last week, the plant said that there were enough food supplies and that “fortunately, everyone is alive and well.”
Workers at the site have faced a number of issues recently, including a power outage and limited communication. Ukrainian government officials said March 9 that damage by Russian forces had “disconnected” the plant from outside electricity, leaving the site dependent on power from diesel generators and backup supplies. Power was restored a few days later, and the plant resumed normal operating conditions.
Earlier this month, after Russian forces took command of the plant, the IAEA said that it had received a report from Ukraine’s nuclear regulator that it was only able to communicate with the workers through e-mail.
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