Update on Ukraine

March 18, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) informed the International Atomic Energy Agency yesterday that all safety systems at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine were fully functional, one day after the site lost connection to a third external power line linking it to the national electricity grid.

Zaporizhzhia has four high-voltage power lines, two of which were damaged earlier, and one standby line. The fourth line, plus the standby line, ensure the safe operation of the plant, according to SNRIU. The plant also has backup diesel generators should they be needed.

Two of Zaporizhzhia’s six 950-MWe VVER-1000/V320 units are currently operating. SNRIU told the IAEA that the power generation of the reactors had been reduced to 500 Mwe each, about half their maximum capacity, after a break in an on-site power line. The line was scheduled for repair that evening.

SNRIU also confirmed that representatives of Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, remain on-site at Zaporizhzhia but noted that plant operations continue to be carried out exclusively by authorized Ukrainian plant staff. “We emphasize that Ukraine has not made any request for advisory, technical, or any other support from the Russian Federation,” SNRIU stated on March 16. “The presence of Rosatom’s representatives on the territory of the ZNPP is illegal and in no way is related to the nuclear and radiation safety assurance. Zaporizhzhia NPP is staffed with highly qualified personnel to ensure the safe operation of the plant using its own resources. On the contrary, the uncontrolled presence of outsiders, including nuclear experts, at the ZNPP site poses a direct threat to the safety of the facility, personnel, the public, and the environment.”

Chernobyl update: SNRIU also updated the IAEA on the status of Ukraine’s Chernobyl plant, reporting that the facility remained connected to the national electricity grid three days after engineers succeeded in resuming regular power supplies. The site of the catastrophic 1986 accident lost all off-site power on March 9 and turned to diesel generators for backup power. Ukrainian specialists repaired one of the two damaged lines a few days later, and external electricity deliveries resumed on March 14.

Since Russian forces took control of Chernobyl on February 24, Ukrainian staff have continued to manage day-to-day operations at the site, where radioactive waste management facilities are located. According to SNRIU, they have not been able to rotate for more than three weeks.

“Given the psychological, moral, and physical fatigue of the personnel, as well as the absence of daytime and repair staff,” SNRIU stated, “maintenance and repair activities of equipment important to the safety of the facilities at the Chernobyl NPP site are not carried out, which may lead to the reduction of its reliability, which in turn can lead to equipment failures, emergencies, and accidents.”

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