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The Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine is disconnected from the grid due to damage inflicted by Russian occupying forces, sparking fears of radioactive contamination if cooling of spent nuclear fuel stops.
The 750 kV Chernobyl-Kiev high-voltage line is currently disconnected “due to damage caused by occupants,” Energoatom, or Ukraine’s National Nuclear Power Generation Company, said on Wednesday. The Chernobyl power plant and all nuclear facilities in the exclusion zone are without electricity.
The regulator explained that there are approximately 20,000 spent fuel assemblies stored at the facility that require constant cooling. Without electricity to cool the pumps, the temperature in the retention basins will rise, causing the release of radioactive substances into the environment.
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“The only power grid supplying the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and all its nuclear facilities occupied by the Russian military is damaged,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Wednesday. “CNPP has lost all power. I call on the international community to urgently call on Russia to cease fire and allow repair units to restore power.”
“Standby diesel generators have a capacity of 48 hours to supply the Chernobyl nuclear power plant,” he added. “After that, the cooling systems of the spent nuclear fuel storage facility will shut down, making radioactive leaks imminent. Putin’s barbaric war puts all of Europe in danger. He must stop it immediately!”
The wind can transfer the radioactive cloud to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Europe, according to Energoatom. The facility’s ventilation will also not work without electricity, so some 210 captured technicians and guards who have worked to maintain the facility since Russian forces took control of the site two weeks ago risk to be exposed to radiation.
The fire suppression system is down, posing a dangerous risk if missiles were to hit the plant. Fighting is currently underway, making it impossible to carry out repairs and restore power, Energoatom said. The town of Slavutych is also without electricity.
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Ukraine informed them of the blackout at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the development violated a pillar of safety key to ensure uninterrupted power supply. For the moment, the IAEA does not see any critical impact on safety.
The IAEA had warned on Tuesday that the same shift had been in operation at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant since the day before the Russian military entered the site of the 1986 accident on February 24, meaning that the staff have actually been living there for two weeks.
Grossi has repeatedly stressed that personnel operating nuclear facilities must be able to rest and work in regular shifts, saying this is crucial for overall nuclear safety, the IAEE said. Their ability to make decisions “without undue pressure is one of the seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security”, he stressed during a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors on March 2.
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“I am deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing personnel at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the potential risks this entails for nuclear safety,” Grossi said in a statement. “I call on the forces effectively controlling the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel on site.”
Regarding the state of operational Ukrainian nuclear power plants, the regulator said that eight of the country’s 15 reactors were working, including two at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant controlled since last week by Russian forces, and that the personnel of the plants were working in shifts. .