Workers at Russia’s nuclear power plants will be isolated from the general public and required to live in onsite clinics at their respective stations as nuclear authorities tighten their response to the coronavirus after a number of industry infections.
The order came Tuesday from Rosenergoatom, Russia’s nuclear utility, and specified that both primary and back up crews of nuclear technicians, who “facilitate process continuity” would now be required check in to dispensaries at their plants, where they would be provided with daily living essentials and isolated from outside contact.
Rosenergoatom, which is a subsidiary of state nuclear corporation Rosatom, is responding to a Tuesday video address by Andrei Likhachev, the corporation’s CEO, which outlined the isolation measures.
Earlier this week, Likhachev confirmed that four Rosatom employees had tested positive for the coronavirus, the spread of which has all but ground the world economy to a halt as the number of those infected worldwide surpasses 1 million.
Russians have been told to stay home through next week on a government ordered holiday. There have been 4,149 cases of coronavirus reported by Moscow as of Friday, 34 of which have resulted in death. In his address, Likhachev asked all Rosatom employees who could feasibly work remotely had been asked to do so, though he said the corporation’s overseas reactor building projects would continue.
Rosenergoatom’s unprecedented steps to protect highly skilled nuclear specialists from falling ill from the virus mirror measures other countries are taking for their own workers to avoid power interruptions or outright plant shutdowns.
In the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering isolating its own workers from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, while France – the world’s most nuclear-dependent nation – is weighing staff cuts of its own. Both France and the United Kingdom have shut down a number of their nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities in response to a spike in local infections
Rosenergoatom didn’t make clear precisely how many of Russia’s nuclear workers have been put in isolation, but its parent company Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, controls a sprawling network of reactors, laboratories, commercial structures and fuel fabrication facilities that employ some 250,000 people.
Rosatom also has 36 power units at different stages of implementation in 12 countries around the world. It is currently constructing seven reactors overseas: two each in Bangladesh, Belarus and India, plus one unit in Turkey. It also runs 38 rectors at 11 nuclear power plants throughout Russia.
On that backdrop, Andrei Petrov, Rosenergoatom’s general director, said nuclear workers would be checked into their nuclear plant-based clinics after undergoing medical tests. Afterward they would be provided with accommodation and meals within the confines of their respective plants.
The Rosenergoatom release offered no indication of how long workers would be required to remain onsite. Petrov added that families of isolated nuclear workers would receive assistance from their local municipalities, which, in Russia, are tightly bound to the nuclear power plants they support.
Workers at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant, 1,800 kilometers to Moscow’s east, have already been working in isolation for more than a week, after the wife of one of the plant’s technicians tested positive for the virus.