14 March 2022

External electricity returned to Chernobyl

Ukrainian specialist teams have repaired a power line needed to resume external electricity supplies to the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), four days after supply was lost at the Russian-controlled site.

Outline of Ukraine coloured Blue and yellow
© Tareq Ajalyakin/Unsplash

One of two damaged lines has been repaired.

‘This is a positive development as the Chornobyl NPP has had to rely on emergency diesel generators for several days now,’ International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said, ‘However, I remain gravely concerned about safety and security at Chornobyl and Ukraine’s other nuclear facilities.’

On 13 March, the Ukrainian regulator informed the IAEA that staff at the Chornobyl NPP were no longer carrying out repair and maintenance of safety-related equipment, in part due to their physical and psychological fatigue after working non-stop for nearly three weeks.

The staff of 211 technical personnel and guards have still not been able to rotate from the facility since the day before Russian forces entered the site on 24 February, the regulatory authority said, also voicing security concerns about transporting staff outside the Exclusion Zone set up after the accident. The regulator has no direct communication with the staff but receives information from off-site NPP management.

Grossi has proposed a framework that would enable the IAEA to deliver technical and other assistance for the safe and secure operation of all of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, which he discussed last week with the Ukrainian and Russian Foreign Ministers Dmytro Kuleba and Sergei Lavrov, respectively.

‘We can’t afford to lose more time. The IAEA stands ready to act immediately, based on our proposed framework that requires agreement from the parties of the conflict before it can be implemented. We can only provide assistance to Ukraine’s nuclear sites once it has been signed. I’m doing everything I can to make this happen very soon,’ he said in a statement.

Ukraine’s regulatory authority also said that it was closely monitoring the situation in the Chornobyl NPP Exclusion Zone ahead of the annual fire season when spontaneous fires often occur in the area, still contaminated by radioactive material from the accident 36 years ago next month.

Regarding the Zaporizhzhya NPP, controlled by Russian forces since 4 March, the regulator said the power supply situation had not changed. It has four high voltage (750 kV) offsite power lines plus an additional one on standby. Two of the four have been damaged.

On the status of Ukraine’s operational nuclear power plants, the regulator said eight of the country’s 15 reactors remained operating, including two at the Zaporizhzhya NPP, three at Rivne, one at Khmelnytskyy, and two at South Ukraine. Radiation levels remain normal and safety systems are intact.

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