Ukraine warns of risk of radioactive leak at occupied Chernobyl nuclear power plant

A general view shows the new safe containment structure (NSC) above the old sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine November 22, 2018. Picture taken on November 22, 2018 .REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo

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LVIV, Ukraine, March 9 (Reuters) – Ukraine on Wednesday called on Russia for a temporary ceasefire to allow repairs to a power line at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, warning there could be a leak radiation if the blackout continued.

Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company Energoatom said fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces made it impossible to immediately repair the plant’s high-voltage power line, which was captured by Russian forces. Read more

Energoatom said radioactive substances could be released if the plant could not cool spent nuclear fuel, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said standby diesel generators could only power the plant for 48 hours.

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“After that, the spent nuclear fuel storage facility’s cooling systems will shut down, making radiation leakage imminent,” Kuleba said on Twitter.

“I call on the international community to urgently call on Russia to cease fire and allow repair units to restore power.”

The UN nuclear watchdog said the loss of power did not have a critical safety impact.

“The heat load of the spent fuel storage pool and the volume of cooling water at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant are sufficient for efficient heat removal without the need for electrical power,” the IAEA said in a statement.

But Energoatom said there were around 20,000 spent fuel assemblies at Chernobyl that could not be kept cool during a power outage, and that heating them up could lead to “the release of radioactive substances into the environment”.

The radioactive cloud could be carried by the wind to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Europe,” he said in a statement.

Without electricity, the plant’s ventilation systems would also not work, exposing staff to dangerous doses of radiation, he added.

On Tuesday, the IAEA warned that nuclear material monitoring systems at the Chernobyl radioactive waste facilities had stopped transmitting data. Read more

The still-radioactive site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster is about 100 km (62 miles) from Kiev.

Its fourth reactor exploded in April 1986 during a botched safety test, sending clouds of radiation across much of Europe.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Writing by Alessandra Prentice, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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