Chernobyl nuclear plant power cut Ukraine officials warn of new radioactive danger

Ukraine’s foreign minister demanded an immediate ceasefire in the area to “allow repair crews to restore electricity supply” to the Chernobyl plant “as soon as possible.”

by Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
A picture taken on April 13, 2021 shows the giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant ahead of the upcoming 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. (Photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)


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Ukrainian authorities warned Wednesday that radioactive material could leak into the atmosphere after the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant was reportedly disconnected from the power grid by Russian forces, raising the risk that spent nuclear fuel stored at the site may not cool properly.

“Because of military actions of Russian occupiers, the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl was fully disconnected from the power grid,” Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s state-owned power grid operator, said in a statement.

Ukrenergo added in a Facebook post that emergency diesel generators have been activated in response to the electricity shut-off, but noted the fuel would last for just 48 hours.

Energoatom, Ukraine’s national nuclear energy firm, cautioned Wednesday that without adequate electricity, “the temperature in the [spent fuel] holding pools will increase” and “release of radioactive substances into the environment may occur.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, characterized the state of the Chernobyl plant as “an extremely dangerous situation.”

In a social media post, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wrote that Wednesday’s development “violates a key safety pillar on ensuring uninterrupted power supply” to the Chernobyl plant.

But the agency added that it “sees no critical impact on safety at the moment,” explaining that the heat load of the spent fuel storage pool and the “volume of cooling water” at the facility are “sufficient for effective heat removal without the need for electrical supply.”

Russian military forces quickly seized control of the Chernobyl plant, the site of the 1986 nuclear catastrophe, soon after they invaded Ukraine late last month, heightening fears of a nuclear disaster stemming from possible damage to the facility.

In a pair of tweets Wednesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for an immediate ceasefire in the area to “allow repair crews to restore electricity supply” to the Chernobyl plant “as soon as possible.”

“Spare diesel generators will power the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and its facilities for 48 hours,” Kuleba wrote. “Then the cooling system of the spent nuclear fuel storage will be shut down, which will threaten the leakage of radiation. Russia’s barbaric war threatens the whole of Europe. Putin must stop it immediately.”

This article was published by Common Dreams on March 9, 2022, here

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