Ukraine lost all communications with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on March 10, the country’s regulatory authority informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Just a day earlier, the site had lost all external power supply, following which, the plant made use of emergency generators. The loss in communication means that the Ukraine operator cannot provide IAEA with updated information about the site.
Prior to the loss of communication, power lines on the site were damaged, disconnecting it from the electric grid. To ensure the site receives continuous power, either the power lines have to be repaired or diesel deliveries must be made. The generators have a capacity of two days’ worth of fuel.
“The diesel generators were powering systems important for safety, including those for spent nuclear fuel and water control and chemical water treatment,” the agency said in a March 10 press release. However, “the operator was not able to maintain some functions such as radiation monitoring, ventilation systems, and normal lighting.”
The operator confirmed that there would be no impact on “essential safety systems” of the spent fuel storage facility even in case of a complete power loss. This includes the scenario where even the diesel generators fail.
The operator also stated that spent fuel storage pool systems and structures have not suffered any damage at present. However, the loss of emergency power is not encouraging for staff members as they have to continue working under worsening radiation safety conditions.
“I’m deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chernobyl 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 had said on March 8.
Though the Chernobyl plant no longer produces nuclear power, the radiation at the site is consistently monitored.
Located around 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv, Chernobyl was taken over by the Russian military during the first day of the invasion. There are about 210 technical experts and guards who have been living at the site ever since Russia took control. The staff has access to water, food, and medicine.
Foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine held talks in Turkey which failed to produce any positive result on Thursday. However, Grossi met with both ministers after the Turkey meeting, and is hopeful that both nations can arrive at an agreement as to how to manage nuclear sites.
“I am quite encouraged on one important thing—Ukraine and the Russian Federation want to work with us and agreed to work with us,” Grossi said in a news conference. “We have to move fast.”
The Russian energy minister claimed on March 10 that specialists from Belarus had restored power to the Chernobyl plant. Grossi has not yet received confirmation regarding the issue.