Ukraine Warns Chernobyl Might Release Radioactive Substances After Severed Power Connection

IAEA says it "sees no critical impact on safety."
Andreas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images

Reports out of Ukraine claim that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant could release radioactive substances because its severed power connection prevents it from cooling used nuclear fuel.

Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company Energoatom said Wednesday that the used fuel assemblies at the plant could not be cooled due to the power outage from a severed power connection, which could not be repaired due to fighting in the area.

Energoatom stated that if the fuel assemblies are not cooled, it would trigger “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,” Reuters reported, adding, “The IAEA had warned on Tuesday that the systems monitoring nuclear material at the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl had stopped transmitting data.”

But the U.N. nuclear watchdog countered Wednesday, “Heat load of spent fuel storage pool and volume of cooling water at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant sufficient for effective heat removal without need for electrical supply.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s state-owned grid operator Ukrenergo said, “Because of military actions of Russian occupiers the nuclear power plant in Chornobyl was fully disconnected from the power grid. Nuclear station has no power supply.”

“In a statement on its Facebook page, Ukrenergo also said emergency diesel generators have been turned on but that that fuel would last for only 48 hours,” The Washington Post reported.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted:

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.

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!

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, expressed his concern on Twitter, writing, “Spoke to  @rafaelmgrossi  about the very worrying situation regarding the Chernobyl powerplant.  I call on Russia to preserve safety of nuclear infrastructure in #Ukraine.  Full support to  @iaeaorg efforts to find an agreement on practical solutions in these dramatic circumstances.”

The AP reported on Wednesday:

The crisis is likely to get worse as Moscow’s forces step up their bombardment of cities in response to what appear to be stronger Ukrainian resistance and heavier Russian losses than anticipated.

Echoing the director of the CIA, British Defense Secretary said Russia’s assault will get “more brutal and more indiscriminate” as Putin tries to regain momentum.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said fighting continued northwest of Kyiv. The cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol were being heavily shelled and remained encircled by Russian forces.

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