Ukrainians are once again troubled by the fate of a nuclear power plant in a country that caused the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, and alarm rose on Thursday. The plant operator said the facility was not operational after the power cut.
The largest nuclear power plant in Europe has been occupied by Russian forces since the first days of the war, and continued fighting near the facility has raised fears of a catastrophe that could hit nearby towns in southern Ukraine. A very wide area.
On Thursday, the plant was disconnected from the grid for the first time after a fire damaged the only working transmission line. It is not clear if the plant has been reconnected. As long as it is off-grid, it must rely on emergency diesel generators to power the cooling systems necessary for safe operation of the reactors.
The court underscored concerns about the plant, which the Kyiv government accuses Russia of essentially holding hostages, storing weapons there and staging attacks around. Meanwhile, Moscow accuses Ukraine of firing recklessly on a facility located in the town of Enerhodar.
“Anyone who understands nuclear security issues has been shaking for the last six months”Mycle Schneider, an independent policy consultant and coordinator of the World Nuclear Industry Report, said before the latest incident at the plant.
Ukraine cannot simply shut down its nuclear power plants during the war because it relies heavily on them, and its 15 reactors at four stations provide half of its electricity.. However, a collision near a working nuclear power plant worries many experts who fear the damaged facility could lead to disaster.
That fear is palpable across the Dnieper River in Nikopol, where residents have come under constant Russian shelling since July 12, killing eight people, damaging 850 buildings and displacing more than half the population of 100,000.
Lyudmila Shishkina, a 74-year-old widow, lived near the Zaporizhia plant before her husband was killed when her apartment was bombed. He believes the Russians are capable of deliberately causing a nuclear holocaust.
The fight in early March caused a small fire at the plant’s training complex that officials said did not cause radiation exposure. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia’s military actions are a “nuclear threat.”
No civilian nuclear power plant is designed for a combat environment, although the buildings that house Zaporizhia’s six reactors are protected by reinforced concrete that experts say could withstand a stray shell.
Nuclear operator Energoatom reported on Thursday that the power outage meant the plant’s two remaining reactors were taken offline.
The operator said he could not immediately comment on the operation of safety systems at the plant, where standby diesel generators are sometimes unreliable.
External electricity is essential not only to cool the two still-operating reactors, but also spent radioactive fuel stored in special facilities on site, and only one of the plant’s four power lines connecting it to the grid is operational.
“If we lose the last one, we’re at the complete mercy of the emergency power generators,” said Najmedin Meshkhadi, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California.
Another concern with close combat is that pools where spent fuel rods are kept for cooling are also vulnerable to explosions, which could lead to the release of radioactive material.
Kyiv told the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, that shelling earlier this week damaged transformers at a nearby conventional power plant and knocked out power to the Zaporizhzhia plant for several hours.
The head of the nuclear agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said on Thursday that he hoped to send a mission to the plant “within days”.
Negotiations on how to access the plant are complex but moving forward, he told France-24 television after meeting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, who called Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. UN Place.
“Kiev accepts it. Moscow accepts it. So we have to go there,” Krosi said.
The UN held on Tuesday. At the Security Council meeting, the UN Political leader Rosemary DiCarlo called for the withdrawal of all troops and equipment from the plant and an agreement on a demilitarized zone around it.
He and Schneider are concerned that Russian forces’ occupation of the plant is preventing safety inspections and replacing critical parts, and is putting enormous pressure on the hundreds of Ukrainian employees who operate the facility.
“The probability of human error is multiplied by fatigue”said Meshkati, who was part of a panel appointed by the US National Academy of Sciences to identify lessons from the 2011 nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant. “Fatigue and stress are unfortunately two major protective factors.”
If an incident at the Zaporizhzhia plant releases significant amounts of radiation, the extent and location of contamination will largely be determined by the weather, said Paul Dorfman, a nuclear safety expert at the University of Sussex who advised the researchers. Irish. Governments
The massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the Fukushima plant destroyed cooling systems that caused meltdowns in three of its reactors. Much of the contaminated material was dumped into the sea, which limited the damage.
April 26, 1986 Explosion and Fire A fire in one of the four reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant north of Kiev sends a cloud of radioactive material across Europe and beyond. As well as fueling anti-nuclear sentiment in many countries, the disaster left deep psychological scars on Ukrainians.
Zaporizhia’s nuclear reactors are modeled differently than Chernobyl, but unfavorable winds can spread radioactive contamination in any direction.Dorfman said.
“If something really went wrong, there is a large-scale radiological disaster that could reach Europe, reach the Middle East and certainly reach Russia, but the most significant contamination will be in the immediate area,” he said. . .
That is why the Nikopol Emergency Services Department has been taking radiation measurements every hour since the Russian invasion began. Before that, it was every four hours.
(With information from AP)
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