Ukraine update: Energoatom reports leak, blackout at Zaporizhzhia

November 16, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Image: Energoatom

Blaming “the criminal actions of the ruscists,” Ukraine nuclear plant operator Energoatom this morning reported a primary-to-secondary reagent leak at Unit 5 of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), as well as a partial blackout at the facility earlier this week. (The term “ruscist” [рашизм] is a portmanteau of the words “Russian” and “fascist.”)

The leak: According to Energoatom, the leak is a result of moving Unit 5 to a hot-shutdown state from cold shutdown. “Due to the incompetence of the Russian staff, in particular the chemistry service shift supervisor, who lost control over the saturation of the water cleanup filters, the borated water of the primary circuit enter[ed] the deaerator of the turbine hall and from there again to all steam generators,” the company stated in a lengthy post on LinkedIn.

Under Russian control since early March 2022, ZNPP ceased producing electricity for Ukraine’s power grid that September. By the following April, five reactors were in cold shutdown. Unit 4 alone remained in hot shutdown to generate steam to process liquid radioactive waste and for other safety-related functions. Last month, however—despite a June regulatory order from Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate to limit operation of all six ZNPP units to cold shutdown—plant operators began moving Unit 5 to hot-shutdown status. The transition was completed on October 16.

The blackout: In an earlier LinkedIn post, Energoatom reported that a partial blackout at the plant had occurred on November 14, resulting in diesel generators and safety systems operating for 90 minutes. “At that time, the occupying management of the power plant was investigating the reasons for the blackout and deciding what to do with the consequences of their incompetence,” Energoatom said, adding, “As a reminder, since the beginning of the occupation of the Zaporizhzhia NPP by the ruscists, seven full blackouts occurred there. Such events threatened the entire continent, given the occupationists are not responsible for the nuclear and radiation safety of the power plant.”

From the IAEA: In its November 13 Ukraine update, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that 21 natural gas boilers have been installed at the industrial zone near the ZNPP as a measure to provide additional heating during the winter, including for the nearby city of Enerhodar. According to the IAEA team at the plant, the new boilers can provide an extra 57 megawatts of energy for heating.

The team also reported that the three large-capacity diesel boilers at the Zaporizhzhia thermal power plant and at the industrial zone are to be converted to natural gas within the next month. “Additional heating is provided by the ZNPP Units 4 and 5 in hot shutdown, which also produce the steam required for nuclear safety- and security-related activities at the ZNPP, and by over 50 mobile boilers located throughout the city of Enerhodar,” the IAEA noted in its update.

“As a result of the ongoing conflict, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, has not been able to maintain a comprehensive systematic maintenance programme, especially due to the reduction of experienced maintenance staff,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said. “Nuclear safety and security remain at risk the longer the plant has reduced levels of trained and experienced staff. It is not a sustainable situation for Europe’s largest nuclear power plant”.

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