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Bryan Smith via PA
Chernobyl

Power cut at Ukraine's Chernobyl but experts say no 'critical' safety impact

Russian forces seized the defunct plant on 24 February.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 9th 2022, 1:49 PM

POWER HAS BEEN cut to the Chernobyl power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Ukraine said today, but the UN’s atomic watchdog said there was “no critical impact on safety”.

The plant “was fully disconnected from the power grid,” Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo said in a statement on its Facebook page, adding that military operations meant “there is no possibility to restore the lines”.

It said that there was also no power to the site’s security systems.

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.

The UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a tweet that while the development “violates (a) key safety pillar”, in this case it saw “no critical impact on safety”.

Yesterday, the IAEA had 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.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted today that “reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power” the plant but added that “after that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop”.

Experts on nuclear power have said that there is not an immediate danger of a radioactive leak but urged caution. Director of Nuclear Power Safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists said there is not an imminent danger.

Lyman added: “Hydrogen resulting from radiolysis will also accumulate at the ISF-1 spent pool at #Chernobyl when power is lost because the hydrogen removal system cannot function. It’s unclear to me from the stress test results whether or not a hydrogen explosion is credible.”

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 called “on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there”.

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.

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