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Ukraine warns of radiation leak risk after power cut at occupied Chernobyl plant

Randy Mancini 2 Mar 9
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the New Safe Confinement structure over the old sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, in Chernobyl
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure over the old sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine November 22, 2018. Picture taken November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo

March 9, 2022

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) -Radioactive substances could be released from Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant because it cannot cool spent nuclear fuel after its power connection was severed, Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company Energoatom said on Wednesday.

It said fighting made it impossible to immediately repair the high-voltage power line to the plant, which was captured by Russian forces after the Kremlin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Energoatom said there were about 20,000 spent fuel assemblies at Chernobyl that could not be kept cool amid a power outage.

Their warming could lead to “the release of radioactive substances into the environment. The radioactive cloud could be carried by wind to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and Europe,” it said in a statement.

Without power, ventilation systems at the plant would also not be working, exposing staff to dangerous doses of radiation, it added.

On Tuesday, the U.N. nuclear watchdog warned that the systems monitoring nuclear material at the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl had stopped transmitting data.

The still-radioactive site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster lies some 100 km (62 miles) from Kyiv.

Its fourth reactor exploded in April 1986 during a botched safety test, sending clouds of radiation billowing across much of Europe.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Writing by Alessandra Prentice, Editing by Timothy Heritage)