Ukraine warns of Chernobyl radiation risk after power connection was severed, making it impossible to cool spent nuclear fuel
The state-run nuclear company Energoatom said it cannot cool spent nuclear fuel after its power connection was severed to the site of the world’s biggest ever nuclear disaster.
Work to repair the connection and restore power to the plant has not been possible because fighting is under way, it said.
Russia took control of the defunct atomic plant on the first day of the invasion and has since captured a second nuclear site, the biggest in Europe.
Energy operator Ukrenergo also said their power has been entirely cut to the plant and its security systems.
Ukraine has warned that radioactive substances could be released from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Pictured: the giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor
The plant ‘was fully disconnected from the power grid,’ Ukrenergo said in a statement on its Facebook page, adding that military operations meant ‘there is no possibility to restore the lines’.
On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine and seized the defunct plant, site of a 1986 disaster that killed hundreds and spread radioactive contamination west across Europe.
On Tuesday the UN atomic watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the site was no longer transmitting data and voiced concern for staff working under Russian guard.
The situation for the staff ‘was worsening’, the IAEA said, citing the Ukrainian nuclear regulator.
The defunct plant sits inside an exclusion zone that houses decommissioned reactors as well as radioactive waste facilities.
More than 2,000 staff still work at the plant as it requires constant management to prevent another nuclear disaster.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi on Tuesday called on ‘on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there.’
Systems monitoring nuclear material at the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl in Ukraine have stopped transmitting data to the UN’s nuclear watchdog
He also repeated his offer to travel to Chernobyl or elsewhere to secure ‘the commitment to the safety and security’ of Ukraine’s power plants from all parties.
‘The Director General indicated that remote data transmission from safeguards monitoring systems installed at the Chernobyl NPP had been lost,’ the IAEA said in a statement yesterday.
Safeguards keep track of nuclear material and waste products generated by nuclear power plants.
The IAEA urged Russian authorities to allow the 210 staff members who are being held captive at Chernobyl to leave, arguing that although radiation levels in the area are relatively low, it is necessary to ensure a ‘safe rotation’ of staff.
It comes after the Vienna-based UN body said Ukrainian authorities reported an attack on a nuclear facility in Kharkiv on Sunday – though no increase in radiation levels had been reported at the site.
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