The International Atomic Energy Agency said that plant officials are looking for “alternative sources of cooling,” noting that there is a “large basin” that holds water nearby.
The Zaporizhia station, which is occupied by the Russian army, has become closer to the front line, after the partial destruction, on Tuesday, of a dam in southern Ukraine, whose water is used to cool the station and prevent a nuclear accident.
The attack, which Moscow and Kiev accuse of each other, led to floods that inundated about two dozen towns and the evacuation of thousands of people, which sparked an international outcry.
“There is no immediate nuclear threat”
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed, via Twitter, that there is no “immediate nuclear threat,” explaining that its experts at the site are “closely monitoring the situation.”
The same thing was confirmed by the French Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), at the same time ruling out “any risk of flooding near the station because the dam is downstream and not at the source,” 150 kilometers away, Deputy Director-General Karen Hervieux told Agence France-Presse. Press.
For its part, the Moscow-appointed administration in the region confirmed that the situation was under control.
“Currently, there is no threat to the safety of the Zaporizhia plant. The water level in the cooling basin has not changed,” stressed plant manager Yuriy Chernychuk.
This plant previously produced 20 percent of Ukraine’s electricity. It continued to operate during the first months of the Russian attack before it was shut down in September. Since then, none of its six reactors have been able to produce energy.
“The good news is that the reactors have been shut down for several months. So the power is lower,” Herview said, and the heat that is being discharged is less compared to that which comes from an operational site.
The tank empties quickly
But Ukraine seemed concerned. “The world once again finds itself on the verge of a nuclear catastrophe because the Zaporizhya plant has lost its cooling source. This danger is rapidly exacerbating,” Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said in a message to reporters.
For its part, the operating company, UkrHydroEnergo (the Ukrainian authority operating hydroelectric power stations), considered that “the dam’s reservoir should be operational within the next four days,” but its level is decreasing alarmingly.
The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said in a speech to the Board of Governors meeting this week in Vienna, that the damage to the dam “is currently causing a decrease of five centimeters per hour.”
In the morning, the water level of the reservoir was about 16.4 metres. Grossi warned that if the water level drops below 12.7 meters, it will not be possible to pump it to supply the station’s cooling circuit, and there are only “few days” left to find a solution.
What are the other options?
The International Atomic Energy Agency said that those in charge of the plant are looking for “alternative sources,” noting that there is a “large basin” that preserves water nearby.
Grossi noted that since the reactors are shut down, “that basin could be enough to provide water for a few months.”
He stressed that “it is essential that the basin remains intact,” noting that “nothing should be done to undermine its integrity.” He announced that he would visit the site again next week, after two previous visits since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
Also, the IAEA indicated other options, such as “access to deep holes in the area, or to the water distribution network in the neighboring town of Energodar, or even the use of fire engines to fetch water.”
It is necessary to constantly cool the fuel in the reactor cores, as well as the fuel in the storage ponds.
The French Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety said that “failure to refrigerate could lead to a melting accident and radioactive emissions into the environment,” a scenario similar to what happened in Fukushima in Japan during the strong earthquake that caused the tsunami in March 2011.
The Zaporizhia power station is located at the heart of the conflict, as it has been targeted several times by bombing and has been cut off from the electricity grid seven times since the Russian army seized it on March 4, 2022.