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Ukrainian officials say Chernobyl site is now off the power grid

Chernobyl
Posted at 5:53 AM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 07:57:30-05

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities say the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, has been knocked off the power grid.

Emergency generators are now supplying backup power.

The state communications agency says the outage could put systems for cooling nuclear material at risk.

The cause of the damage to the power line serving Chernobyl was not immediately clear, but it comes amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian grid operator Ukrenerho said that according to the national nuclear regulator, all Chernobyl facilities are without power and the diesel generators have fuel for 48 hours. Without power the “parameters of nuclear and radiation safety” cannot be controlled, it said.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the grid supplying electricity is damaged and called for a cease-fire to allow for repairs.

The site has been under the control of Russian troops since last week. Soon after Russia took control of the site, Ukrainian officials reported a 20-fold rise in radiation levels, likely caused by military vehicles stirring up contaminated soil in the zone surrounding Chernobyl.

The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency also warned earlier this month that Chernobyl staff was facing "psychological pressure and moral exhaustion" while under the command of Russian invaders.

"I remain gravely concerned about the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, especially about the country's nuclear power plants, which must be able to continue operating without any safety or security threats," IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Thursday said last week. "Any accident caused as a result of the military conflict could have extremely serious consequences for people and the environment, in Ukraine and beyond."

The disaster at the Soviet Union-run Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 left a 1,000-square mile area around the plant uninhabitable. While a shelter has been constructed around the decommissioned power plant to prevent the leakage of nuclear emissions, an 18-miles radius around the site has been declared an "exclusion zone."

Since invading Ukraine late last month, Russia has also seized control of Europe's largest nuclear power plant, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar. As Russian troops closed in, shelling caused a building on the plant's campus to briefly catch fire, though no radiation was released.