The infamous site of one of the worst peacetime manmade disasters in history, Chernobyl nuclear powerplant has been thrust back into the spotlight – here’s what you need to know about its radiation risks
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
On April 26, 1986, the world held its breath as news broke that Chernobyl reactor 4 had been damaged, destroying the building it was housed in – a large fire burned and radioactive debris spurted out into the air.
Chernobyl is now raising concern again, some 36 years later, as reports claim invading Russian forces have completely disconnected the nuclear power plant from the grid. The plant has been captured by the advancing Russian army, the national nuclear energy provider Ukrenergo said.
“Because of the military actions of the Russian occupiers, the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl was fully disconnected from the power grid,” the provider said.
“The nuclear station has no power supply. The military actions are in progress, so there is no possibility to restore the lines. Slavutich city is also out of power supply.”
This has sparked fears about the safety of the site, which was home to the worst nuclear power-related disaster in history and claimed the lives of over 30 people. Here’s everything you need to know about Chernobyl.
Is Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant reactor safe?
RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE/HANDOUT HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
At the time of writing, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said enough water should be in the spent fuel pools to sufficiently cool down the reactor’s rods and prevent an accident. Therefore, the Chernobyl power plant is currently deemed to be safe.
On the agency’s website it said: “Due to time elapsed since the 1986 Chornobyl accident, the heat load of the spent fuel storage pool and the volume of cooling water contained in the pool is sufficient to maintain effective heat removal without the need for electrical supply.”
Concerns have been raised by Ukraine’s national energy organisation, Energoatom, who have sounded the alarm that materials will be unable to be cooled without power and this could cause the release of radioactive substances.
Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said that Ukrainian authorities had no information on the radiation levels in the area and that no information had been gathered since the facility had been captured by Russian troops, of which there are believed to be around 400.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog has reported that monitoring systems are no longer coming from the plant, with the workers there have been unable to leave for two weeks.
Ukrainian officials are thought to be increasingly worried about the safety of the 210 workers who were at the site, who have had to live at the facility since February 24.
Where is Chernobyl?
Russian Defence Ministry/TASS)
Chernobyl lies towards the north of Ukraine, close to the Belarussian border, in the northern Kyiv Oblast.
It is a 95-mile or roughly 3-hour drive north of the capital, Kyiv, a little inland from the banks of the Pripyat River.
Immediately to the northwest of the plant is the town of Pripyat, one of the hardest hit by the 1986 disaster and the scene of a mass evacuation.
Due to the plant’s northerly location inside Ukraine, it was one of the first major landmarks Russian troops advancing from Belarus reached.
It is around 450 miles from Warsaw, Poland, and a little under 900 miles from London.