Situation deteriorating at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant chimney stacks (ukraine)
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (Image: Shutterstock)

Petro Kotin, CEO of Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power company, said the situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is deteriorating in the wake of continued shelling as part of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Worldakkam reports.

Operations at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine have been fully stopped as a safety measure, Energoatom said.

The agency disconnected the number 6 power unit from the grid at 3:41am local time on Sunday, with preparations underway for its cooling and transfer to a cold state.

Related article: Europe’s largest nuclear plant ablaze after Russian attack

Last week, Kyiv called for residents of Russian-occupied areas around the plant, Europe’s largest, to evacuate for their own safety.

Ukrainian engineers at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant rely on one operating reactor to power the plant’s critical safety and cooling systems. In an interview, Kotin said the facility’s “degradation” was “getting worse and continues to get worse”.

An inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, visited the plant last week and called for a safe zone to be created around the facility.

The reactor itself is designed to survive a plane crash, but power is needed for critical cooling systems that are highly vulnerable. And since Monday, the plant has been operating in so-called island mode, using a single “hot” reactor to pump out 140MW of electricity (less than half the normal output) to power critical plant equipment.

Four high-voltage cables run from the power plant to the Ukrainian power grid, with one low-voltage backup line connected to a nearby fossil fuel power plant. However, shelling around the plant caused Ukraine and Russia, which they accuse each other of continuing shelling, to cut their connections, and his two transmissions leading to a small power plant on the premises. Power lines were also cut.

“The continued deterioration of the situation, the long-term lack of electricity supply from external sources will force us to deploy backup diesel generators,” nuclear and radiation safety chair Olev Korikov said.

Zaporizhzhia has 20 diesel generators and enough fuel to run the cooling systems and spent fuel pools of all six reactors for 10 days. However, they have not been tested to run for more than a day, and keeping them refuelled can be difficult.

Related article: Fire quashed at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

“We need four huge diesel fuel tanks a day,” said Korikov.

“Potentially, you could end up in a situation where there is no diesel fuel. It could cause an accident.”

“These are the last lines of defense before the core melts,” he said, explaining that if the station lost all power, a meltdown could begin within hours.

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