IAEA: Ukraine has lost communications with Chernobyl nuclear plant

Ukrenergo, Ukraine's national electricity operator, said that the plant remains disconnected from the national power grid and will stay that way until Russian forces allow safe passage for repair workers. File Photo by Sergey Starostenko/UPI

March 11 (UPI) — Ukraine has lost all communications with the Chernobyl nuclear power station, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said Thursday, a day after heavy Russian shelling cut all external power to the plant.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the site had been able to communicate with the site by email, and before it lost the ability to do so the regulator said the plant’s power lines had been damaged in shelling from the day before, disconnecting it from the power grid.

However, there have since been reports that power has been restored at the site but IAEA said it was looking for confirmation.

State-run power company Ukrenergo has not commented on the reports but said earlier Thursday that the plant is running on emergency diesel generators, but the fuel is limited. Chernobyl’s cooling, ventilation and fire-extinguishing systems — all vital in the running of the nuclear power plant safely — are powered by the damaged line.

The regulator told IAEA that the generators hold a two-day supply of fuel and were powering systems important to safety, including those for spent nuclear fuel as well as water control and chemical water treatment.

Grossi said that in order to maintain power at the site, either the lines need to be repaired or supplies of diesel be delivered to refuel the generaters.

The IAEA assured that the plant being disconnected from the grid “will not have a critical impact on essential safety functions at the site” with the regulator also informing the watchdog that if the generators die and the power is not restored the safety systems would continue to be in place.

If all emergency power was lost, the regulator said it would be able to monitor the spent fuel pool, but under worsening radiation safety conditions due to a lack of ventilation at the facility.

The volume of cooling water used to remove heat from spent nuclear fuel was “sufficient” despite being without electricity, and the systems and structures for the pool were not damaged in the attack, the IAEA said.

Heavy Russian shelling damaged the high-voltage power lines to the plant on Wednesday, and crews have not yet been able to repair it due to sustained Russian assaults in the area.

Ukrenergo said that the plant remains disconnected from the national power grid and will stay that way until Russian forces allow safe passage for repair workers.

Ukrainian officials said it has declined an offer from Belarus, a chief Russian ally in the war in Ukraine, of helping to restore power to the station.

“Ukrenergo does not need the assistance of the Belarusian side in repairing the high-voltage line, damaged by the Russian shelling, that fed Chernobyl nuclear power plant,” the state-run power company said Thursday in a translated message on Facebook.

Soviet workers in protective gear take radiation measurements in the area surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which is in present-day Ukraine, after the explosion on April 26, 1986. UPI Photo/File/INS

“We need a cease-fire and the admission of our repair teams, who have been waiting for an agreement to leave for repairs since [Wednesday].

“We are ready to immediately repair the lines and restore power to Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which has been without electricity for more than a day. Just stop the shelling and let our teams do their job.

“Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has called for a safe corridor to allow utility workers to enter the area and make the repairs.

“We demand that a repair team immediately be allowed access to get rid of the damage,” Vereshchuk said, according to The Washington Post. “We ask the global community to focus its attention on this problem.”

Russian forces seized control of the Chernobyl plant immediately after launching its invasion on Feb. 24. And the workers at the site have not been able to rotate since, with Grossi having repeatedly warned that this is compromising “a vital safety pillar.”

Located about 70 miles northwest of Kyiv, the plant was the site of one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents in 1986 when a reactor exploded and sent radiation across Europe.


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