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Ukraine warns radiation could ‘leak’ from Chernobyl if damaged power lines aren’t restored

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.
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. Copyright Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP
Copyright Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP
By Rosie Frost
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The IAEA says that the loss of power at the plant will not have a critical impact on safety.

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A Ukrainian minister has warned that Chernobyl could leak radiation if power isn’t restored to the facility.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for an urgent temporary ceasefire to allow for repairs to power lines that supply the plant.

“The entire power supply line of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and all its nuclear facilities controlled by the Russian army has been damaged,” he said on Twitter.

The minister added that diesel generators will power the plant and its facilities for 48 hours.

“Then the cooling system of the spent nuclear fuel storage will be shut down, which will threaten the leakage of radiation.”

Chernobyl was the location of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986 and the site has been under the control of Russian troops since 24 February. When forces took control of the power plant, radiation levels rose due to military vehicles stirring up contaminated soil.

Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
A view of the ghost town of Pripyat with a shelter covering the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the background, Ukraine.Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Now energy operator Ukrenergo says that the plant is “fully disconnected from the power grid” and military operations mean “there is no possibility to restore the lines.”

“As far as we currently know, a large number of utilised fuel assemblies are stored at the nuclear fuel storage facility,” it said in a statement on its Facebook page.

“Without a working cooling system, they will cause significant damage to the environment due to an increase in the radiation background.”

Ukrenergo is calling for Russian troops to leave the site in order for its teams to enter and carry out “necessary repair works.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Ukraine has informed them about the loss of power at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. But the UN nuclear watchdog adds that there is “sufficient” cooling water for the spent nuclear fuel at the site without an electricity supply.

The IAEA says the loss of power does not have any critical impact on safety.

Director General of the IAEA Rafael Mariano Grossi has warned, however, that the situation for staff who have been working at the site since the Russian military took control is worsening.

“I’m deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the potential risks this entails for nuclear safety.”

He called on Russian forces to urgently allow a rotation of the staff who have effectively been living on the site for the last 13 days.

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