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Power knocked out at Chernobyl nuclear disaster site hours after it was restored

Ukrainian officials say Russian forces damaged supply lines needed to prevent radiation leaks; state power company to attempt another repair

A man walks past a shelter covering the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, April 15, 2021. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
A man walks past a shelter covering the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, April 15, 2021. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

LVIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian state power company said the power line supplying the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster has been damaged by Russian forces again after it was repaired.

The Ukrenergo company said in a statement Monday that its technicians had started to supply power Sunday evening but “before the power supply was fully restored, the occupying forces damaged it again.” Ukrenergo said it will attempt another repair.

The power is used to feed pumps and other equipment that keep spent nuclear fuel at the former power plant cool to prevent radiation leaks.

The Chernobyl site is also equipped with diesel generators, and Belarusian authorities said last week that they had set up an emergency power supply from the nearby border.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has played down concerns over the safety of nuclear waste at Chernobyl, saying that cooling ponds there are large enough to keep the spent fuel in a safe condition even if the power supply is interrupted.

An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 killed hundreds and spread a radioactive cloud west across Europe.

Ukraine said on Wednesday power had been cut to the plant, but the UN’s atomic watchdog said there was “no critical impact on safety.”

Russian forces also shelled and captured the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s biggest atomic power plant, on March 4, causing a fire that raised alarm in Europe over a possible nuclear catastrophe.

Russian engineers arrived at Zaporizhzhia last week to check radiation levels.

Ukraine’s Energy Minister German Galushchenko has called on the international community to help secure Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and establish a 30-kilometer (18 miles) demilitarized protective zone around them.

“It is now extremely important to force the enemy to leave our our nuclear power plants,” he said earlier this month.

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