After the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s electricity was switched off on Wednesday, Ukraine stated there was a risk of a radiation leak, but the UN nuclear inspector said there was “no severe impact on security.”
A high-voltage power cable was broken during fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian forces occupying the defunct plant, according to state-run nuclear company Energoatom, and it was shut off from the national power system.
It stated that if there was no power to cool spent nuclear fuel held at the plant that suffered the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe in 1986, “radioactive compounds” may be released, posing a threat to other parts of Ukraine and Europe.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, claimed reserve diesel generators could only power the plant for 48 hours.
“After that, the cooling systems of the spent nuclear fuel storage facility will shut down, causing radiation leaks,” he wrote on Twitter. “I encourage the international community to press Russia to stop firing and enable power to be restored by repair units.”
If there is no power to cool spent nuclear fuel stored at the plant that suffered the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, “radioactive elements” could be released, posing a threat to other parts of Ukraine and Europe.
Chernobyl is around 100 kilometres from Kyiv and is still radioactive. In April 1986, after a bungled safety test, the fourth reactor exploded, sending clouds of radiation sweeping across much of Europe.
According to a nuclear specialist familiar with the plant’s operation, the situation is concerning, and a critical question will be how quickly power can be restored. “Power outages at nuclear sites might be extremely dangerous,” he stated.