Ukraine said on Wednesday Chernobyl – the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986 – could be 48 hours away from leaking radiation, and called on Russia to observe an urgent ceasefire to allow for repairs to be made.
The country’s nuclear company Energoatom earlier warned that radioactive substances could be released if an electricity outage at the site continues any longer, as it makes it impossible to cool spent nuclear fuel.
The company said there were about 20,000 spent fuel assemblies at Chernobyl that could not be kept cool amid a power outage.
Their warming could lead to “the release of radioactive substances into the environment. The radioactive cloud could be carried by wind to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and Europe,” it said in a statement.
Without power, ventilation systems at the plant would also not be working, exposing staff to dangerous doses of radiation, it added.
Russian forces captured the plant and cut the power in the early days of the invasion. It has not been possible to make repairs at the plant since then.
“Reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power the Chornobyl NPP,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a warning on Twitter.
“After that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent.”
The only electrical grid supplying the Chornobyl NPP and all its nuclear facilities occupied by Russian army is damaged. CNPP lost all electric supply. I call on the international community to urgently demand Russia to cease fire and allow repair units to restore power supply 1/2
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 9, 2022
IAEA calms fears over Chernobyl
However, in a statement issued on Wednesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sought to calm fears.
“Due to time elapsed since the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the heat load of the spent fuel storage pool and the volume of cooling water contained in the pool is sufficient to maintain effective heat removal without the need for electrical supply.”
Meanwhile, radiation levels around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – the largest in Europe – which was seized by Russian forces last week, are said to be normal.
Ukraine said that a Russian attack on the nuclear plant caused one of the buildings at the plant — a five-story training facility — to catch on fire. The plant itself wasn’t affected but it was feared that the fire could spread if it wasn’t quickly contained.
#Ukraine has informed IAEA of power loss at #Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, @rafaelmgrossi says development violates key safety pillar on ensuring uninterrupted power supply; in this case IAEA sees no critical impact on safety.
— IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) March 9, 2022
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