March 8 (UPI) — The International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday said that it has lost contact with the safeguards monitoring systems at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.
The international watchdog said in a statement that Ukrainian regulators that it was only able to communicate with the power plant at the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster had been lost via email on Tuesday after Russian forces took control of the plant at the start of the invasion on Feb. 24.
“The Agency is looking into the status of safeguards monitoring systems in other locations in Ukraine and will provide further information soon,” the IAEA said.
IAEA said the Chernobyl plant, which holds decommissioned reactors as well as radioactive waste facilities is not currently operational and handling of nuclear materials has been halted.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi also expressed concern after Ukrainian regulators said it was “becoming increasingly urgent and important” for the 210 technical personnel and guards working at the plant to rotate shifts as they have been “in effect living there” for the past 13 days since the invasion.
The regulator said that staff had access to food, water and medicine “to a limited extent” but that the situation for staff was “worsening.”
“I’m deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chernobyl nuclear plant and the potential risks this entails for nuclear safety,” Grossi said. “I call on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there.”
Overall, the Ukrainian regulator said eight of the country’s 15 nuclear reactors were operating, including two at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant after it was taken under the control of Russian forces last week.