Battle at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant raises global alarm

A fire broke out at the site of Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant during an apparent Russian attack, Ukrainian officials Recount the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The fire at the Zaporizhzhia power plant was extinguished and did not affect the safety systems of nuclear reactors. Radiation levels at the plant remains the samereported the IAEA early in the morning of March 4.

The fire started when a projectile hit a training building near one of the plant’s reactors, the agency said. The incident heightened concerns about the vulnerabilities of Ukrainian nuclear facilities during the Russian invasion. This is the first time that a war has broken out in a place so heavily dependent on nuclear energy. Ukraine typically gets more than half of its electricity from four nuclear power plants with a total of 15 reactors, each of which now faces vulnerabilities. Six of these reactors are in Zaporizhzhia.

“I am extremely concerned about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and what happened there overnight. Firing shells in the area of ​​a nuclear power plant violates the fundamental principle that the physical integrity of nuclear facilities must be maintained and kept safe at all times,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said. in a March 4 press release.

Most likely the greatest potential threat the fire could have posed there was damage to the plant’s electrical and cooling systems – which are critical to preventing a disastrous meltdown. Reactors must be constantly cooled to prevent the fuel from melting and releasing radioactive emissions. Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, most reactors in Zaporizhzhia have been shut down so that they no longer supply power to the grid. Turning them off reduces the amount of energy and water needed to keep them cool. Others operate at reduced capacity or in “low-power mode”, according to the IAEA. But every reactor, including those that have been shut down, still needs juice from the grid or some other external power source to run its cooling systems.

“Certainly an out of control fire is one of the greatest threats to a nuclear power plant,” said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear energy safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The edge. He could cut the electrical cables and bring down the plant’s control and security systems.

If a nuclear plant’s cooling systems fail, there are still several safety nets that would have to fail before a catastrophic fuel meltdown. It might be able to rely on diesel generators or portable water pumps, for example, to keep the reactors safe. But it will also depend on the accessibility of the site throughout the fights and fires.

“The situation naturally continues to be extremely tense and difficult due to the circumstances,” Grossi told a news conference today. Regulators were unable to access the entire site to assess all of its operating systems.

One of the biggest concerns now is the welfare of Zaporizhzhia staff. Although Russia has control of the site, it is still operated by regular personnel. Their safety and ability to concentrate on their work is crucial to plant safety. Two people were reportedly injured overnight, according to the IAEA. Russia also likely controls the village where most of the factory workers live, Grossi told a March 2 news conference. Fighting for control of the area around the plant has been raging since the beginning of the week.

Ukraine this week asked the IAEA for “immediate assistance” to secure its nuclear facilities, including urging NATO to deny access to airspace above nuclear facilities. The biggest threats, according to the IAEA and experts who The edge with whom we spoke, there remain grid outages and ordnance strikes that could destroy cooling systems or otherwise compromise fuel inside reactors or in cooling pools used to store spent materials. The IAEA “continues to consult with Ukraine and others” on how to provide assistance, the intergovernmental agency said in a March 3 statement.

Ukraine is already the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, at Chernobyl – where a reactor exploded in 1986. Russia took control of Chernobyl last week. Workers there are under “psychological pressure and moral exhaustion”, Ukrainian nuclear power company Energoatom reported on March 3.


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