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Ukrainian repair team awaits safe corridor to restore power to Chernobyl nuclear power plant

By on March 10, 2022 0

Earlier, Ukraine’s national electricity grid operator Ukrenergo said it had a team ready to restore power to the closed Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was waiting for a safe corridor to be created. He also rejected an offer from neighboring Belarus to send specialists to help repair the high-voltage power line.

The site of a catastrophic nuclear accident in 1986 has been disconnected from the grid by Russian forces, Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday, potentially jeopardizing the cooling of nuclear materials still stored at the site and sparking global concern.

“Ukrenergo expects a safe corridor that will allow reconstruction of the line to supply Chernobyl,” he said in a statement. Facebook post Thursday, using Ukrainian spelling for factory. “Our repair crews are ready to restore the line immediately, despite the threat of being shot down by the enemy, and are awaiting clearance.”

The controversy over the repairs of the transmission line is part of another, over the poor and stressful working conditions at the Chernobyl power plant: limited access to Medicationno mobile or landline Connections and now a blackout. Some 210 technical experts and guards inside the inactive Chernobyl site face “increasingly severe” conditions, unable to leave the facility since Russian forces took control of it two weeks ago, Ukrainian officials said.

More than 540 km southeast of Chernobyl, workers at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, part of which was set on fire by Russian forces when they seized the complex last week, are in “very bad psychological conditions”. , according to Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine. public atomic energy company Energoatom. Nuclear technicians are forced to work at gunpoint, Kotin told local media on Wednesday, adding that the plant was completely locked down by Russian forces.

Nuclear experts have raised concerns about the conditions facing employees at the two facilities as their occupation continues. The IAEA, a nuclear watchdog for the United Nations, says adequate rest is a pillar of nuclear safety. Employees must be able to rest and work regular shifts and be able to make decisions without “undue pressure”, he said.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk also appealed in a video posted Thursday on Telegram for crews to be allowed into Chernobyl to repair a “special power transmission line” it said was damaged by Russia.

“We demand that a repair crew be granted immediate access to repair the damage,” Vereshchuk said. “We call on the global community to focus its attention on this issue.”

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday he had commissioned Belarusian specialists to provide power to the Chernobyl power plant, Belarusian news agency BelTA reported. according to at Reuters.

Ukrenergo rejected the offer in a post online on Thursday and said he did not need Belarusian help to repair power lines.

“All the Russian and Belarusian media reports about the repair/restoration of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant by Belarus are a provocation aimed at aggravating the situation,” Ukrenergo said.

“We need a ceasefire and the admission of our repair teams, who have been waiting since yesterday for permission to leave for repairs. … Just stop the bombings and let our teams do their job! the added utility.

Oil was already very expensive coming out of the pandemic, with high demand and tight supply. The war in Ukraine only aggravated the situation. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)

Electricity is required for cooling, ventilation and fire extinguishing systems at the closed site. Backup diesel generators are powering the plant for now but have limited fuel, according to Ukrenergo.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday demanded a ceasefire with Russia to allow for repairs.

He warned that once the standby diesel generators run out of fuel, “the spent nuclear fuel storage facility’s cooling systems will shut down, making radiation leaks imminent.”

However, the International Atomic Energy Agency noted Wednesday that the power outage “violates [a] key security pillar to ensure uninterrupted power supply,” but added that “in this case, the IAEA sees no critical security impact.”

The UN nuclear watchdog said factors such as the volume of cooling water at the Chernobyl site were “sufficient for efficient heat removal without the need for electrical power”.

Ukraine’s parliament reiterated its demands for a ceasefire on Thursday and made a formal appeal to IAEA specialists to come to Ukraine to “assess the situation”. He said repairs at Chernobyl are “currently impossible”.

“The situation at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is difficult. … We don’t know what to expect from the occupants. They are monkeys with a grenade,” said Andrii Herus, chairman of Ukraine’s parliamentary committee on energy and housing. telegram post.

“We invite IAEA specialists to Ukraine not only to learn from our words what is happening in Ukrainian nuclear power plants, but also to see for themselves what the occupiers are doing.”

Energoatom officials said in a message on Telegram Thursday that two of the four power lines of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in the country, were also “damaged by the occupants”. He warned that if the other two power lines were damaged it could lead to a “disaster”.

“At the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which, like Chernobyl, is under the control of the occupying forces, personnel continue to work under the cannons of machine guns,” said Kotin, director of Energoatom. Recount local media.

Nuclear experts have raised concerns about the conditions faced by the hundreds of technical workers and guards at the Zaporizhzhia and Chernobyl sites as the Russian invasion continues, with reports of limited access to food, Medication and communications.

The IAEA has also noted On Wednesday, it “lost the transmission of data from its safeguards systems” installed to monitor nuclear materials in the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants. Grossi, head of the IAEA, tweeted that he was in Antalya, Turkey, on Thursday, joining diplomatic officials to discuss the “urgent matter” of ensuring the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.

The Chernobyl disaster is ranked as the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident, after explosions and fires in 1986 sent a huge radioactive cloud over parts of Europe and left contaminated soil and other fallout, which remain dangerous on the plant site.

The Chernobyl zone is still one of the most radioactively contaminated places in the world despite its decommissioning. A small number of people still live in the area – mostly elderly Ukrainians who refused to evacuate. Robots inside the shelter work to dismantle the destroyed reactor and recover the radioactive waste. It is expected to take until 2064 to complete the safe dismantling of the reactors.

Last month, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that its forces had taken control of the area near the site as part of Russia’s wider invasion of Ukraine, triggering global alarm.

The IAEA this week reiterated an offer to both sides for its teams to travel to Chernobyl and other sites in Ukraine to help protect nuclear facilities amid the ongoing conflict.

Steven Mufson contributed to this report.