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Ukraine says power completely cut to Chernobyl; IAEA downplays safety concerns

Energy operator says nuclear power plant ‘fully disconnected from grid,’ and military activity means ‘no possibility to restore the lines’; reserve generators have 48-hour capacity

An operator's armchair covered with plastic sits in an empty control room of the 3rd reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
An operator's armchair covered with plastic sits in an empty control room of the 3rd reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

KYIV, Ukraine — Power has been entirely cut to the Chernobyl power plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, and its security systems, Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo said Wednesday.

The plant “was fully disconnected from the power grid,” Ukrenergo said in a statement on its Facebook page, adding that military operations meant “there is no possibility to restore the lines.”

“Reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power the Chornobyl NPP. After that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent,” tweeted Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

“Putin’s barbaric war puts entire Europe in danger. He must stop it immediately,” charged Kuleba, calling for pressure on Russia to allow repairs to be made.

Ukrenerho said that without power, the “parameters of nuclear and radiation safety” cannot be controlled.

But The UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a tweet that while the development “violates (a) key safety pillar,” in this case it saw “no critical impact on safety.”

On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine and seized the defunct plant, site of a 1986 disaster that killed hundreds and spread radioactive contamination west across Europe.

On Tuesday the UN atomic watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the site was no longer transmitting data and voiced concern for staff working under Russian guard.

The situation for the staff “was worsening,” the IAEA said, citing the Ukrainian nuclear regulator.

A file picture taken on April 13, 2021 shows the giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (Sergei Supinsky / AFP)

The defunct plant sits inside an exclusion zone that houses decommissioned reactors as well as radioactive waste facilities.

More than 2,000 staff still work at the plant as it requires constant management to prevent another nuclear disaster.

Read more: Radiation expert: Ukraine war could pose greater nuclear threat than Chernobyl

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi on Tuesday called on “on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there.”

He also repeated his offer to travel to Chernobyl or elsewhere to secure “the commitment to the safety and security” of Ukraine’s power plants from all parties.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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