Ukraine announced a power cut at the Chernobyl nuclear plant as the IAEA said the blackout had no ‘serious impact’ on safety.
Ukraine has called on Russia for a temporary ceasefire to allow repair of power lines to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and warned that a radioactive leak could result if the blackout continued.
Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said on Wednesday that fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces had led to the immediate repair of a high-voltage power line to the plant that had been seized by Russian forces.
Energoatom said radioactive substances could be released if the plant could not cool spent nuclear fuel, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said reserve diesel generators could power the factory in just 48 hours.
After that, “the spent nuclear fuel storage facility’s cooling system will shut down, causing a radioactive leak to be imminent,” he wrote on Twitter.
The reserve diesel generator has a capacity of 48 hours to power Chornobyl NPP. The spent nuclear fuel storage facility’s cooling systems will then stop, making a radioactive leak imminent. Putin’s barbaric war puts the whole of Europe in danger. He must stop it immediately! 2/2
– Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 9, 2022
“The only power grid supplying Chernobyl NPP and all of its nuclear facilities has been [the] by the Russian military was damaged,” Kuleba said in another Tweet.
He added: “I call on the international community to urgently demand that Russia cease fire and allow repair units to restore power.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog said the event did not pose a serious safety hazard.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wrote on Twitter that “the heat load of the spent fuel storage tank and the volume of cooling water at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant [are] enough to remove heat effectively without [the] power supply is required”.
In one Note released on 3 March, the IAEA has said that the site has a backup emergency diesel generator available “in the event of a total blackout”.
The Chernobyl plant was seized by Russian forces on February 24, the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The IAEA reports the heat load of the spent fuel tank and the volume of cooling water at #Chornobyl Nuclear power plants are sufficient to remove heat efficiently without supplying electricity. IAEA update from March 3: https://t.co/x5IlduZQOn
– IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) March 9, 2022
But Energoatom says there are about 20,000 spent fuel clusters at Chernobyl that cannot be kept cool during a power outage, and their warming could lead to “the release of radioactive substances into the environment.
“The radioactive cloud could be carried by wind to other parts of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Europe,” it said in a statement.
Without electricity, ventilation systems at the plant would also fail to function, exposing employees to dangerous doses of radiation, it added.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi raised concerns on Tuesday over reports that 210 plant employees have been on non-rotating duties since the day before the war began.
Ukraine’s nuclear regulator has previously warned that employees have limited access to food, water and medicine, and the situation for them is getting worse.
“I am deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation faced by employees at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and the potential risks this poses to nuclear safety,” said Grossi. speak. “I urge the forces that effectively control the site to urgently facilitate the safe movement of personnel there,” he added.