The Associated Press files this report from Chernobyl, where invading tanks in February “churned up highly contaminated soil from the site of the 1986 accident that was the world’s worst nuclear disaster…”
“Here in the dirt of one of the world’s most radioactive places, Russian soldiers dug trenches. Ukrainian officials worry they were, in effect, digging their own graves.”
For more than a month, some Russian soldiers bunked in the earth within sight of the massive structure built to contain radiation from the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor. A close inspection of their trenches was impossible because even walking on the dirt is discouraged…. Maksym Shevchuck, the deputy head of the state agency managing the exclusion zone, believes hundreds or thousands of soldiers damaged their health, likely with little idea of the consequences, despite plant workers’ warnings to their commanders. “Most of the soldiers were around 20 years old,” he said….
The full extent of Russia’s activities in the Chernobyl exclusion zone is still unknown, especially because the troops scattered mines that the Ukrainian military is still searching for. Some have detonated, further disturbing the radioactive ground. The Russians also set several forest fires, which have been put out.
Ukrainian authorities can’t monitor radiation levels across the zone because Russian soldiers stole the main server for the system, severing the connection on March 2. The International Atomic Energy Agency said Saturday it still wasn’t receiving remote data from its monitoring systems. The Russians even took Chernobyl staffers’ personal radiation monitors….
When the Russians hurriedly departed March 31 as part of a withdrawal from the region that left behind scorched tanks and traumatized communities, they took more than 150 Ukrainian national guard members into Belarus. Shevchuck fears they’re now in Russia. In their rush, the Russians gave nuclear plant managers a choice: Sign a document saying the soldiers had protected the site and there were no complaints, or be taken into Belarus. The managers signed.
The article includes more stories from Chernobyl’s staff:
Even now, weeks after the Russians left, “I need to calm down,” the plant’s main security engineer, Valerii Semenov, told The Associated Press. He worked 35 days straight, sleeping only three hours a night, rationing cigarettes and staying on even after the Russians allowed a shift change. “I was afraid they would install something and damage the system,” he said in an interview….
Another Ukrainian nuclear plant, at Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine, remains under Russian control. It is the largest in Europe.
Long-time Slashdot reader MattSparkes also notes reports that researchers at Chernobyl “had been looking for bacteria to eat radioactive waste — but they now fear that their work was irreparably lost during the Russian invasion of the facility.”
New Scientist reports (in a pay-walled article) that scientist Olena Pareniuk “was attempting to identify bacteria that could consume radioactive waste within Chernobyl’s destroyed reactor before the Russian invasion. If her samples are lost it will likely be impossible to replace them.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.