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All contact with Chernobyl power plant has been lost, Ukraine tells UN's nuclear watchdog

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has heard from Ukraine that it has lost all contact with Chernobyl’s power plant.

As part of their invasion in Ukraine, Russian forces took over the plant, which was the site of the worst nuclear accident in the world in 1986.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, (IAEA), staff at the plant used email to communicate with Ukrainian regulatory authorities. However, “all communications” were lost the day after the Russian-controlled site lost power supplies.

Image: Chernobyl from 10 March, just days after the Russians took control. Photo by Maxar Technologies

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The Russians effectively disconnected the power grid from the site after destroying both of its power lines.

IAEA stated that the site’s essential safety should not be compromised because there was enough cooling water in the spent fuel facility to remove heat without the need for electricity.

The IAEA stated that emergency diesel generators power vital safety systems, but they would need more diesel to be delivered in a matter of days.

Yevgeny Grabchak (Russia’s deputy energy minister) said that power had been restored on Thursday, but Rafael Mariano Grossi, IAEA director general, stated that the agency was still trying to verify this.

Grossi expressed concern for the workers at the plant who have not been able rest properly for several days. This has left them unable to make decisions while they are tired, under pressure and without communication.

Image There are still people working at Chernobyl’s power plant, and there are concerns about Russian takeover

They would also be at risk of radiation monitoring and ventilation problems if they lost power in an emergency.

On Thursday night, Mr Grossi stated to reporters in Vienna that the agency had “scheduled a physical inspection” of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. However, he did not give any further details.

He said the agency had a “number remote monitoring devices” and added: “We are trying not to have any more suffering due to any radioactive releases or anything related to nuclear facilities.”

Grossi stated that there is no immediate threat of power interruptions at the decommissioned plant. He also said that there would be ample time to repair the situation before something dangerous can happen.

There are 15 reactors at the four power plants of Ukraine and one defunct Chernobyl.

Image In 2016, the “New Safe Confinement”, was established to contain the remains of the number 4 reactor unit.

According to the IAEA, eight reactors were still operational, but there was some damage to the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant. There were also problems with delivering spare parts or personnel.

According to Anton Gerashchenko (an adviser to Ukraine’s minister for internal affairs), Russian forces also bombed an educational facility which is home to a nuclear reactor.

Gerashchenko stated that Kharkiv’s Institute of Physics and Technology contained “sources of radiation used to scientific purposes”, and that radiation could be released if it is damaged.

The attack also caused the firebombing of a nearby five-storey hostel.


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