Russian forces have disconnected the Chernobyl nuclear plant from Ukraine's power grid, the state-owned grid operator Ukrenergo said on Wednesday.
In 1986, Chernobyl was the site of the world's worst nuclear power plant accident; for days, radioactive substances were released into the air, with deposits falling across Europe. Chernobyl is closed, but the facility, which stores nuclear material, needs electricity so cooling, ventilation, and fire-extinguishing systems can operate.
In a statement on its Telegram page, Ukrenergo said "because of military actions of Russian occupiers," Chernoybl has been "fully disconnected" from the power grid and "has no power supply." On its Facebook page, Ukrenergo said emergency diesel generators have been turned on, but only have enough fuel to run for 48 hours, The Washington Post reports.
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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that the "only electrical grid" supplying the Chernobyl plant "and all its nuclear facilities" has been damaged, and it's up to the "international community to urgently demand Russia to cease fire and allow repair units to restore power supply."
Once the emergency diesel generators run out of fuel, "cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent," Kuleba added. "[Russian President Vladimir] Putin's barbaric war puts entire Europe in danger."
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tweeted that it does not see the power loss having a "critical impact on safety," as the volume of cooling water at Chernobyl is "sufficient for effective heat removal without need for electrical supply." Still, Russian forces have violated a "key safety pillar on ensuring uninterrupted power supply."
Since Russian forces seized Chernobyl late last month, the same 210 technical employees and guards have been working at the plant. IAEA Director General Mariano Grossi said Ukrainian authorities have told him it is "increasingly urgent" that these workers get rotated out to ensure "safe management" amid "worsening" conditions.
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