Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company warned Wednesday that radioactive material could be released from the defunct Chernobyl plant because it can’t cool spent fuel after its power connection was severed.
Russian forces have taken the Ukrainian plant — the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986 — off the grid, according to Energoatom.
“Because of military actions of Russian occupiers the nuclear power plant in Chornobyl was fully disconnected from the power grid,” the system operator NPC Ukrenergo said, according to Interfax Ukraine.
“The nuclear station has no power supply. The military actions are in progress, so there is no possibility to restore the lines,” it said.
The system operator warned that without electricity, the cooling systems necessary for the fuel will stop.
“As a result, the temperature in the spent fuel radioactive substances into the environment. By wind, a radioactive cloud can be transferred to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Europe,” the company said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday called on international leaders to pressure 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,” he wrote on Twitter.
“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!”
Ukrainian authorities do not know what the radiation levels are at Chernobyl, Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said Wednesday.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi “indicated that remote data transmission from safeguards monitoring systems installed at the Chornobyl NPP had been lost,” the agency said in a statement.
“The Agency is looking into the status of safeguards monitoring systems in other locations in Ukraine and will provide further information soon,” it added.
The IAEA uses the term “safeguards” to describe measures it employs to nuclear material and activities — with the objective of deterring the spread of nuclear weapons via early detection.
More than 200 workers and guards remain trapped at the site, where the situation for the staff “was worsening,” the IAEA said, citing the Ukrainian nuclear regulator.
The UN agency called on Russia to allow staffers to rotate because rest and regular shifts were vital to the site’s safety.
“I’m deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and the potential risks this entails for nuclear safety,” Grossi said.
“I call on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there,” he added.
The plant has been under Russian control since day one of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.
On Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it lost contact with the plant’s safeguards monitoring system. The site currently isn’t operational, according to CNN.
More than 2,000 employees still work at the plant because it requires constant management to prevent another nuclear disaster, which killed hundreds and spread radioactive contamination west across Europe.
The defunct plant is in an exclusion zone that houses decommissioned reactors as well as radioactive waste facilities.
Last week, Russia also seized Europe’s largest atomic power plant, Zaporizhzhia, drawing accusations of “nuclear terror” from Kyiv.
Zaporizhzhia has six reactors of a more modern, safer design than the one at Chernobyl.
The IAEA said two of those reactors were still operating, the plant’s personnel were working in shifts and radiation levels remained stable.
With Post wires