Report: Ukrainian Nuclear Reactor Staff Must Join Russian Energy Company to Keep Jobs

Ukrainian staff members at the Zaporizhzia nuclear reactor inside Russian occupied territory must decide by Thursday to sign a statement joining the Rosatom corporation, Russia’s atomic energy company, or lose their jobs, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

 “If they don’t sign the statement, they won’t have a livelihood, to feed their family, children,” a worker who left the plant this summer and made his way to Ukrainian-held territory told the publication. “If they sign, they will be a traitor and a collaborator…it all stinks.”

According to the report, the reactor, which is the largest in Europe, was declared property of the Russian Federation by Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.

The choice puts the estimated 3,000 Ukrainian workers in the sticky position of losing their jobs or becoming part of the enemy in the ongoing conflict there.

The report said that if they do not sign the agreement, they could become targets for the occupying Russian authorities, but could also become targets of Ukrainian authorities if they do submit to signing the document, running afoul of Ukraine law.

Coupled with the individual dilemmas being faced by the workers, which is down from a staff of 11,000 before Russia invaded in February, is the overall safety of the plant should they leave.

“The idea of safety is like a religion in the plant,” Oleksandr Kharchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s energy ministry said in the report. “They know that if most of them leave it will create a huge danger for the station itself.”

The Journal reported that Russian occupiers presented the Ukrainian staff with the documents last week, who in-turn, walked out of the meeting, only to have representatives from the Ukrainian energy company Energoatom reach out to them in encrypted text messages telling them to continue working without signing the document.

“Staff at the plant are being forced to make a hugely difficult decision for themselves and their loved ones,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the U.N. atomic energy watchdog, based in Vienna, said in a statement to the Journal. “The enormous pressure they are facing must stop.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Monday that the plant is operating on emergency diesel power generators after the last external electrical substation was damaged and knocked off the grid by Russian artillery shells.

Energoatom told Reuters that Russia is purposely targeting the electric substations servicing the reactor, which needs a constant supply of outside electricity to keep it cool and prevent a potential meltdown.

“In recent days, the Russian invaders, shelling the entire territory of Ukraine, deliberately targeted substations connected by high-voltage communication lines to Ukrainian nuclear power plants,” Energoatom said on its website.

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