Australian news, and some related international items

Chernobyl nuclear power plant: Worker reveals risk of accident as Russians force staff to do 24-hour shifts

Chernobyl nuclear power plant: Worker reveals risk of accident as Russians force staff to do 24-hour shifts i New, By Isabella Bengoechea, March 25, 2022

A Chernobyl worker has given the first inside account after the power plant was seized by Russian forces i News

By Isabella Bengoechea

March 25, 2022  A Chernobyl worker has given the first inside account of life at the nuclear plant since the Russian invasion and warned that exhausted staff are being forced to work 24-hour shifts, increasing the risk of an accident.

Mykola Pobiedin, foreman of the radioactive waste processing workshop at Chernobyl, who worked as a liquidator there after the 1986 disaster, described a dire safety situation where the plant was encircled by military trucks and tanks and troops patrolled with machine guns.

He compared allowing Chernobyl to be operated by exhausted staff to a bus driver who “has not slept for days” transporting passengers.

Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, was captured by Russia on the first day of invasion on 24 February.

More than 200 workers were forced to stay on site. On 20 March, about 100 were allowed to return to their homes, after nearly four weeks working under armed guard.

Personnel at Chernobyl usually work in 12-hour shifts before being replaced by the next shift.

However, because no rotation was permitted, they were forced to work for 24 hours straight with one half hour break.

Mr Pobiedin, who gave permission to be identified, spoke to i by phone from the city of Slavutych, which was built in 1986 to house workers evacuated from the plant after the disaster.

In a separate debrief, he spoke to Valeriy Korshunov, founder of the European Institute of Chernobyl, a Ukraine-based NGO which works to educate the public about the Chernobyl disaster through scientific and cultural projects, in order to prevent new nuclear disasters in future.

Mr Korshunov and his organisation hope to publicise the plight of the Chernobyl workers to draw attention to the dangerous situation Russia has inflicted on Ukraine’s nuclear sites.

He passed on his comments to i, with the permission of Mr Pobiedin and his family.

Mr Pobiedin suggested there was an increased risk of accidents as a result of the extreme fatigue of staff working at such a sensitive site.

“There may be some errors, some actions are not undertaken,” he said. “A tired person would do a mistake and it will cause issues.”

Though reluctant to cause alarm about a possible nuclear accident at Chernobyl, he added: “If you are riding a bus in which the driver has not slept for days. What could it lead to? If Europe agrees to drive with such a bus driver, then let it be…”

“There is a break for half an hour, for example to eat or for private needs, and the rest of the time people are concentrated on watching monitors. This is intellectual work; you cannot be distracted.”

Despite having managed to leave the power plant, his memories of Russia’s attack on the first day of the invasion are still stark.

“Everything started with the ‘Everyone to the bomb shelter’ alarm, which we followed,” he said.

“Then this whole situation got clear – it was a seizure.

“Then came the command ‘Everyone to the workplace!’ Well, then we started organising our life there somehow, adapting to the situation.

“The Russian military did not enter the territory of the power unit. They drove around the industrial site in their armored personnel carriers. In this way they controlled the whole situation.

“In other words, everything around us was encircled…………………………

the staff managed to keep up their spirits by attempting to carry on as normal and listening to the Ukrainian national anthem on the radio…………………………….

Since the release of the staff, only about 50 have opted to replace them – a perhaps understandable reluctance considering they would be going as hostages with no idea of when they could leave.

“I saw they arrived with backpacks,” said Mr Pobiedin. “They probably took something, but how long will it last?”

He called for the regular rotation of sufficient personnel to ensure the safety of the nuclear facilities: “The rotation is very important. We can’t let people just be there indefinitely.

“Some personnel change should be done. The Russians are not opposing to such shift changes. It should be scheduled: once a week, once every 10 days … So that people know and get prepared.

And not so that people come and do not know how long they must stay. One does not know if it is one day, 20 days or for ever.”

While the freed workers may have breathed a sigh of relief at finally leaving, they may not have escaped the worst of their ordeals.

Many live in Slavuytsch, about 40km from Chernobyl. However the city is under intense shelling by the Russians.

Others who live in other nearby settlements are currently trapped in the city and cannot return home. When i was speaking to Mr Pobiedin, our interview was cut off halfway through after sirens went off and he had to go down into a bomb shelter…………..


March 26, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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