Mar 12, 2022 - World

UN nuclear watchdog: Technicians starting to repair Chernobyl power lines

Satellite image of the Chernobyl nuclear station from above
Satellite image of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine on March 10. Credit: 2022 Maxar Technologies

Ukraine has told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that technicians have begun repairing damaged power lines at the Chernobyl nuclear plant to try to restore electricity supplies, IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi said Friday.

Why it matters: Chernobyl lost electricity after Russian forces attacked and took control of the site early on in the invasion. The loss of power could disrupt the cooling of radioactive material contained in the plant and risk radioactive leakage.

Details: Technicians have successfully repaired one section of the plant, but off-site electrical power remains down, Ukraine's regulatory authority told the IAEA.

  • The plant has been running on backup power from emergency diesel generators since March 9. Additional fuel was delivered but fixing the power lines as soon as possible remains the priority, the IAEA said.
  • "[T]he disconnection from the grid will not have a critical impact on essential safety functions at the site," the UN nuclear watchdog noted.
  • Ukraine's regulator lost communications with Chernobyl on March 10 and has not been able to provide information on the radiological monitoring at the facility, but senior off-site management has been able to send updates.
  • Repair efforts are set to continue despite the Russians' takeover of the plant, according to the IAEA.

The big picture: Russian forces have since seized another plant — Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power station.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian tanks shot at the facility's nuclear blocks and accused Russian forces of "nuclear terror."
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