UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (left), Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (center), and IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visited the Chernobyl plant April 20, six days before the 25th anniversary of the accident there. (Photo credit: D. Calma/IAEA)

IAEA Photos Show Life at Chernobyl

Twenty-five years after the accident at the Ukraine plant's reactor four, more than 3,000 people still work at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on decommissioning work, managing nuclear material, and building the new structure to encase reactor four.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visited the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine last week to mark the 25th anniversary of the accident there (April 26, 1986) and participate in a Kiev conference assessing nuclear power plant safety since then. IAEA has posted a "Chernobyl: 25 Years, 25 Stories" photo gallery on its website showing conditions at the plant and surrounding region today, with information about waste handling, safeguarding of materials, wildlife living in the Exclusion Zone, and work still going on at the power plant.

More than 3,000 people still work there. They are decommissioning reactors one, two, and three; managing nuclear material and the environment around the plant; and building the new structure to encase reactor four, according to IAEA.

The agency says more than 20,000 spent fuel assemblies (about 10 full reactor loads) are still inside the reactor buildings and a storage facility. "The plan is to eventually move the fuel to a longer-term storage facility," it says. "To monitor the nuclear material at the plant site, the IAEA employs a safeguards system which is among the most advanced at any safeguarded nuclear facility. The Agency uses remote monitoring, makes on-site inspections, and applies seals to ensure the non-diversion of nuclear material." IAEA also has installed monitoring equipment at access points into reactor four.

Amano mentioned the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crisis in Japan during his visit with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. "While that accident needs to be assessed and the appropriate lessons must be learned," Amano said, "this latest accident demonstrates that, despite the great progress made in the last 25 years, more needs to be done to ensure that a 'safety first' approach becomes fully entrenched among nuclear power plant operators, governments, and regulators."

Last week, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission created a task force to review the preparedness of Canada's seven nuclear power plants in light of the Japanese disaster. The task force is chaired by Dr. Greg Rzentkowski, director-general of nuclear power plant regulation, and includes senior CNSC experts in reactor design, safety assessment, and emergency preparedness and response.

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