March 5 (UPI) — An international regulator that reports to the United Nations confirmed Saturday that radiation levels remain normal at a nuclear power plant that fell to Russian forces Friday.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement that officials in Ukraine have been able to communicate with workers at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
Russian forces took control of the Zaporizhzhia in the country’s southeast after a shelling attack during which a fire broke out when the facility was hit by a Russian projectile. The fire was eventually put out.
Ukrainian officials told the IAEA that two out of six reactors were now operating a day after the attack significantly damaged the facility’s training center, which is located separately from the reactor units. There was also some damage to the site’s laboratory building and to an administrative structure.
“In regular updates to the IAEA, the Ukrainian regulatory authority and the plant management also confirmed that the technical safety systems were intact and radiation levels remained normal at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant,” Grossi said. “One telephone communication line had been lost but another was still functioning, as was mobile phone communication.”
Officials said that regulators continue to receive online radiation monitoring data from the safety systems at Ukraine’s three other nuclear power plants and that six of nine total reactors at the plants are currently operating.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian staff at Chornobyl have not been able to rotate shifts since the site fell to the control of Russian forces last week, Grossi said.
Grossi urged Russian forces to allow staff operating Ukraine’s nuclear facilities to rest and rotate their shifts so that they can perform their jobs safely because they “certainly cannot last for too long” in the “tense” environment.
Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s national operator Energoatom, told Grossi on Friday that workers at the plant have since been allowed to change work shifts.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the international body on Friday that Russian forces are now 20 miles “and closing” from reaching the Yuzhnoukrainsk Nuclear Power Station in southern Ukraine, the country’s second-largest nuclear plant.
If Russian forces are successful in taking control of Yuzhnoukrainsk, it will be the third nuclear facility in Ukraine that has fallen into the hands of Russia.