Chernobyl Plant sees power outage. Ukraine highlights radiation leak risks
Ukrainian authorities have warned of radiation leaks from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after a power cut in the region has allegedly impacted operations at the premises, Reuters reported.
The Chernobyl facility, the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters on the planet, was taken out of Ukrainian control within hours of the Russian invasion that began a fortnight ago. The facility has since been operational with the same personnel that was present on the day of the Russian attack and has been working ever since to keep the situation under control.
Issues flagged by the nuclear regulator in Ukraine
In a Facebook post, the State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation in Ukraine (SINRU), has raised a host of issues to highlight all that is wrong at Chernobyl. The plight of the personnel handling the plant is first among them as is the regulatory body's inability to contact the staff as cellular and phones lines are cut off at the site.
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The regulator also said that the automated radiation monitoring system at the exclusion zone is not functional at the moment and with rail and road connectivity to the site lost, regulators are unable to perform their onsite functions as well.
All routine maintenance and repair at the facility have been stalled since the day of the invasion and a number of radiation sensors at the site remain non-operational leading to risks of system failures in the future.
A March 9 update states that the failure of a 750kV high power line to the facility has resulted in a blackout at the plant and backup diesel generators are holding the safety systems in place in an emergency. The generators have a backup of no more than 48 hours following which cooling systems will stop working, and radiation leak will be imminent, a warning Ukraine's Foreign Minister reiterated on Twitter.
Reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power the Chornobyl NPP. After that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent. Putin’s barbaric war puts entire Europe in danger. He must stop it immediately! 2/2— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 9, 2022
IAEA's response to Ukraine's warnings
Responding to the Ukrainian alarm, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that it was crucial for personnel at power plants to get sufficient rest and work in regular shifts as well as work without pressure to ensure nuclear safety and security.
Director-General of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, has expressed willingness to travel to Chernobyl or any other nuclear facility in Ukraine to secure the safety of these sites from conflict. Previously, the IAEA has acknowledged that the systems monitoring nuclear waste at Chernobyl had transmitting data, Reuters reported.
On its Twitter account, the Agency explained,
IAEA says heat load of spent fuel storage pool and volume of cooling water at #Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant sufficient for effective heat removal without need for electrical supply. IAEA update from March 3: https://t.co/x5IlduZQOn— IAEA - International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) March 9, 2022
Hence, the Agency saw no critical impact on safety at the facility.