Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear plant has been disconnected from the electricity grid and lost its supply of external power, Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo and state-run nuclear company Energoatom said Wednesday.
It comes two weeks after Russian forces seized control of the plant, which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986.
Here’s what we know:
What happens if Chernobyl loses power?: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had been told by Ukraine that Chernobyl had lost power, but that it saw “no critical impact” on the plant’s safety.
“Specifically, regarding the site’s spent fuel storage facility, the volume of cooling water in the pool is sufficient to maintain effective heat removal from the spent fuel without a supply of electricity. The site also has reserve emergency power supplies with diesel generators and batteries,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.
Is Chernobyl still active? The Chernobyl site is not currently operational and handling of nuclear material has been halted, the IAEA said, citing information from Ukraine’s nuclear regulator. The facility holds decommissioned reactors as well as radioactive waste facilities.
However, the lack of power “is likely to lead to a further deterioration of operational radiation safety at the site,” Grossi said.
Chernobyl radiation leak warning: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the country’s security and intelligence service warned of a possible radiation leak after the plant was disconnected.
“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,” Kuleba said in a tweet Wednesday.
Ukraine’s technical security and intelligence service echoed Kuleba’s concerns, warning that “all nuclear facilities” in the Chernobyl exclusion zone were without power, and that if the pumps could not be cooled, a “nuclear discharge” could occur.
Neither Kuleba nor the intelligence service commented on whether the diesel generators could be sustained beyond the 48-hour period.
Lines down: On Tuesday, the IAEA said it had lost contact with remote data transmission from safeguard monitoring systems at Chernobyl.
Staff pushed to the limit: The loss of power at Chernobyl has raised further concerns for some 210 personnel that have been working for two weeks straight at the site since Russian forces seized control of the facility. Grossi said they have been effectively living there, working around the clock and unable to rotate shifts.
“From day to day, we are seeing a worsening situation at the Chornobyl NPP, especially for radiation safety, and for the staff managing the facility under extremely difficult and challenging circumstances,” Grossi said. “I repeat my urgent appeal to the forces in effective control of the plant to respect internal radiation protection procedures, to facilitate the safe rotation of staff and to take other important steps to ensure safety.”
Eight of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors are currently operating, including two at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya — which is also now under Russian control — and that radiation levels still appear normal, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator told IAEA.
About 6,000 Russian troops may have been killed in Ukraine, US official says