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Nearly half of Chernobyl nuclear plant staff was able to rotate, UN nuclear watchdog says

Nearly half of Chernobyl’s nuclear plant staff were able to rotate and return to their homes, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Sunday.

Those who were able to leave the plant had been working for nearly four weeks, according to the IAEA.

IAEA Director Gen. Rafael Grossi tweeted that he welcomed news of the staff’s rotation, emphasizing “they deserve our full respect and admiration for having worked in these extremely difficult circumstances. They were there for far too long. I sincerely hope that remaining staff from this shift can also rotate soon.”

Grossi also said he is “continuing consultations with a view to agree on a framework for the delivery of IAEA assistance. The initiative aims to ensure safety and security at Ukraine’s nuclear sites.”

On March 15, Ukraine informed the UN’s nuclear watchdog the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had reconnected to the national electricity grid after losing on-site power.

As of Monday, the site had been receiving all required power from the repaired line, enabling the staff to switch off the emergency diesel generators they were relying on since March 9, it said in a statement.

Since Russian troops took control of the nuclear plant on February 24, the plant’s 211 technical personnel and guards had not been able to leave, meaning they had been “in effect living there for the past three weeks,” according to the watchdog.

The Ukrainian regulator told the IAEA the information it received regarding Chernobyl was “controlled by the Russian military forces” and consequently it could not “always provide detailed answers to all” questions posed.

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