UN nuclear monitor says no contact with Chernobyl safeguarding systems under Russian control

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In what could be a potentially ominous development, Russian Federation army troops have reportedly severed the Chernobyl nuclear plant from Ukraine’s electric power grid, and a key international watchdog agency no longer has contact with the facility’s safety systems to monitor nuclear material.

In a social media post about the purported blackout, state-owned grid operator Ukrenergo said, “Because of military actions of Russian occupiers, the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl was fully disconnected from the power grid. The nuclear station has no power supply. The military actions are in progress, so there is no possibility to restore the lines.”

“Electricity is needed for cooling, ventilation and fire extinguishing systems at the closed site,” where nuclear waste materials are still stockpiled,  The Washington Post reported.

The plant has enough diesel fuel to operate for just two days. According to Dmytro Kuleba, the war-torn country’s foreign minister (roughly equivalent to the U.S. secretary of state) who described the plant as “damaged” in a tweet on Wednesday, once the emergency diesel generators run out of fuel, “cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent,” and thereby putting Europe at risk.

Kuleba called upon “the international community to urgently demand Russia to cease fire and allow repair units to restore power supply.”

Located about 60 miles north of Kyiv, Chernobyl was the site of the catastrophic April 1986 nuclear reactor accident which is said to be the worst nuclear disaster in world history.

As alluded to above, according to the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency, “remote data transmission from safeguards monitoring systems installed at the Chornobyl [Nuclear Power Plant] had been lost. The Agency is looking into the status of safeguards monitoring systems in other locations in Ukraine and will provide further information soon.”

The IAEA also noted that Ukraine says that the same shift of approximately 200 staff and guards has been on duty continuously since the Russian military entered the facility.

“I’m deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and the potential risks this entails for nuclear safety. I call on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi asserted.

Grossi also expressed willingness to travel to Chernobyl to help protect the safety of all of Ukraine’s nuclear plants.

The IAEA separately indicated that the loss of power “violates key safety pillar,” but the agency added, however, that “in this case IAEA sees no critical impact on safety.”

Russian soldiers seized the plant on or about February 24, 2022.

Russia’s state-owned news agency TASS insists that the situation is not dire:

“Currently, control over the situation at the Chernobyl NPP is being exercised jointly by Russian servicemen, Ukrainian specialists, the plant’s civilian personnel, and that country’s National Guard,” [Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova] said, adding that Ukraine’s allegations about 20-fold radiation increase at the Chernobyl plant are not true.”

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