Some workers at Russian-held Chernobyl nuclear facility allowed to rotate out

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March 20 (UPI) — Some staff at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant were allowed to leave on Sunday after being forced to remain at the facility nearly a month after it was seized by Russian forces.

The facility said in a statement that 64 workers were allowed to rotate out and that 46 volunteers have been sent to replace them to perform essential duties and ensure the power plant continues to operate.

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Those who have been allowed to leave include nine members of the National Guard of Ukraine, one of whom is a cancer patient, as well as one servicewoman from the National Emergency Service.

Last week, Ukraine’s nuclear energy regulator told the International Atomic Energy Agency that staff at the facility “were no longer carrying out repair and maintenance of safety-related equipment, in part due to their physical and psychological fatigue.”

The IAEA has raised concerns for the overworked staff for weeks and said that not letting them rotate out could lead to safety and security risks.

Last week, officials with the Chernobyl facility said in a statement that more than 300 people remained at the nuclear power plant and were “all alive and healthy” with a supply of food.

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Reactor No. 4 was destroyed by an explosion in 1986 and remaining three functional ones were shut off in 2000.

The IAEA said in a statement on Saturday that Ukrainian engineers repaired and reconnected one of three previously disconnected power lines linking the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, the country’s largest nuclear facility, to the electricity grid.

Russian forces had taken control of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant on March 4.