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28th May 2022

EU takes nuclear protection measures, amid safety worries

  • Chernobyl was the site of one of the world's worst nuclear accidents in 1986 (Photo: Brook Ward)
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On Wednesday (6 April), the European Commission announced that it is building up a strategic reserve to protect member states and Ukraine against chemical, biological or nuclear attacks.

"We aim to provide rapid response capabilities for our citizens if such an emergency ever occurs," commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarčič said on Wednesday.

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The medical capacity of individual countries could become overwhelmed if a nuclear accident or strike happened.

To set up an extra level of safety, the EU has developed a plan that consists of two parts.

Under its RescEU programme, the EU will stockpile €540.5m worth of specialised medical equipment, developed through the EU's civil protection mechanism, to treat patients exposed to such emergencies.

The EU will also set up rapid response teams equipped with specialised decontamination equipment that can be sent in the event of an attack.

In president Vladimir Putin's speech announcing the invasion, back in February, he said that anyone who "tries to stand in our way" will face consequences "such as you have never seen in your entire history."

He then ordered his defence minister Sergei Shoigu to put Moscow's nuclear forces on alert.

"The EU has already mobilised its medical rescue reserve to replenish stocks of potassium iodide tablets," commission spokesman Balasz Ujvari said during a press conference.

These tablets can protect people from some of the harmful effects of radiation, and the EU announced on Wednesday it has sent three million pills to Ukraine.

Chernobyl

In March, Russian forces attacked and captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near Kyiv, close to the Russian border. It was the site of one of the world's worst nuclear accidents in 1986.

The plant has been shut down since 2000 but still employs a permanent crew to keep cool water circulating over the spent fuel rods.

Last Thursday, the entire Russian deployment had left the area, taking several Ukrainian service personnel with them, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog based in Vienna, reported.

"Morale and the emotional state" of staff are "very low," director general Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Monday, adding that this could threaten the secure operation of nuclear facilities across the country.

In an update on conditions at the Chernobyl plant, Energoatom, Ukraine's state power company, said that a fresh rotation of personnel would only be allowed to return to the Chornobyl site once security conditions will allow it.

EU pledges aid for new Chernobyl sarcophagus

The European Commission has pledged €110 million toward the building of a new sarcophagus for the Chernobyl nuclear plant - an arched, cyclopean structure which is to slide over the damaged reactor and to provide Ukraine with roughly 100 years to dispose of the nuclear waste.

Chernobyl staff relieved after weeks, but risks remain

After weeks of continuous work and extreme pressure, staff at Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine were finally relieved by boat via the Pripyat river — but situation at high-risk site is still far from normal, the UN nuclear watchdog said.

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