Power plant staff captured by Russian troops are tasked with preventing nuclear meltdown…


The UN’s nuclear watchdog expressed grave concerns last night over the dire conditions of hostage workers forced to run the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants under Russian control.

It is feared terrified staff who were captured along with the plants when they were stormed by Vladimir Putin’s forces are being overworked in unsafe environments with limited food rations.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also said the Russians had blocked vital channels of communication at both sites.

Director general Rafael Grossi said: ‘I’m extremely concerned about these developments. In order to be able to operate safely and securely, management and staff must be allowed to carry out their vital duties in stable conditions without undue external interference or pressure.’

It comes as the Daily Mail learnt that workers held hostage in Chernobyl are surviving on just one meal of porridge a day and two hours of sleep as they are forced to run the facility around the clock.

The staff have been trapped since the plant was seized on the first day of the invasion and are said to be ‘starving, exhausted and depressed’ as their terrifying ordeal enters its 12th day.

It is feared terrified staff who were captured along with the plants when they were stormed by Vladimir Putin's forces are being overworked in unsafe environments with limited food rations. Pictured: Russian forces guard the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

It is feared terrified staff who were captured along with the plants when they were stormed by Vladimir Putin’s forces are being overworked in unsafe environments with limited food rations. Pictured: Russian forces guard the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant 

Around 100 workers are sleeping on their desks as they work continuously to maintain safety at the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. It is usually run by a day staff of around 500 people.

‘They are facing a very difficult situation and are starving, exhausted and depressed,’ a source close to the Chernobyl crisis told the Mail.

‘With nowhere to sleep and no blankets, many are only sleeping for two to four hours on desks or wherever they can find a space.

‘They are running out of food and are down to one meal of porridge a day. They are fed once every 24 hours, if there is enough they might get extra bread.’

The staff have been trapped since the plant was seized on the first day of the invasion and are said to be 'starving, exhausted and depressed' as their terrifying ordeal enters its 12th day. Pictured: A Russian soldier guards the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

The staff have been trapped since the plant was seized on the first day of the invasion and are said to be ‘starving, exhausted and depressed’ as their terrifying ordeal enters its 12th day. Pictured: A Russian soldier guards the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

The source said staff had resorted to raiding the lockers of their colleagues in the hope of finding food, medicine or hygiene products.

Local civic leader Yuri Fomichev said the terrifying situation ‘posed a danger to the world’. The mayor of Slavutych, which was built in 1986 to house evacuated personnel from the Chernobyl disaster, added: ‘The main thing we want to convey is that it is very dangerous.

‘People are exhausted, both mentally and emotionally, but mainly physically.’

Around 100 workers are sleeping on their desks as they work continuously to maintain safety at the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster. It is usually run by a day staff of around 500 people. Pictured: Soldiers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

 Around 100 workers are sleeping on their desks as they work continuously to maintain safety at the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. It is usually run by a day staff of around 500 people. Pictured: Soldiers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant 

UN agency chief Mr Grossi also said he had ‘grave concerns’ over reports that any action by plant managers needs prior approval by a Russian commander.

‘The operating staff must be able to fulfil their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure,’ he warned.

Chernobyl staff faced ‘physiological pressure and moral exhaustion’, Mr Grossi added.

The plant has been undergoing decommissioning since the 1986 crisis but significant amounts of nuclear material remain in the form of spent fuel and other radioactive waste.

The IAEA also reported that it was facing problems communicating with personnel at the site which was currently only possible with e-mails.

Fears that the hostages' exhaustion could lead to disaster came as the Kremlin continued its reckless targeting of Ukraine's nuclear sites. Pictured: Chernobyl

Fears that the hostages’ exhaustion could lead to disaster came as the Kremlin continued its reckless targeting of Ukraine’s nuclear sites. Pictured: Chernobyl

Mr Grossi stressed his readiness to travel to Chernobyl to secure commitments to the safety and security of all Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

Fears that the hostages’ exhaustion could lead to disaster came as the Kremlin continued its reckless targeting of Ukraine’s nuclear sites. Authorities said Russian forces had shelled a physics institute in Kharkiv that contained nuclear material and a reactor, threatening a ‘large-scale ecological disaster’.

The Russians were firing from Grad launchers, which do not have precise targeting, raising concern that a missile could go astray.

On Friday Putin’s troops shelled and stormed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station – which has six reactors and is the largest in Europe –prompting worldwide outrage and condemnation.

On Friday Putin's troops shelled and stormed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station (pictured) – which has six reactors and is the largest in Europe –prompting worldwide outrage and condemnation

On Friday Putin’s troops shelled and stormed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station (pictured) – which has six reactors and is the largest in Europe –prompting worldwide outrage and condemnation

Staff at the massive plant are under Russian control but teams were last night said to be allowed to rotate in three shifts, letting them rest.

But there were still problems with the supply of food, which was hitting morale, the UN regulator said. It added there were major problems communicating with staff after the phone lines, e-mails and fax went dead.

Mr Grossi said this was ‘also a source of deep concern, especially during an armed conflict that may jeopardise the country’s nuclear facilities. Reliable communications are a critical part of nuclear safety’.

Despite the problems, the regulator was able to confirm that radiation levels at the site remained normal.

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