UN nuclear watchdog loses contact with Ukrainian power plant monitoring equipment

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A view shows a damaged administrative building of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, in this photo released March 4, 2022. News service of the National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

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VIENNA, March 9 (Reuters) – The United Nations nuclear watchdog has lost contact with its remote systems monitoring nuclear material at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, it said on Wednesday.

Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, has been in Russian hands since last week when a fire broke out in a building on the site after clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Read more

The announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) came a day after it said the same thing happened at the Chernobyl radioactive waste facility, near the former power station which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

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Both sites are under the control of Russian forces but are operated by Ukrainian personnel under conditions which, according to the IAEA, endanger the security of the installations.

The head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, is “concerned by the sudden interruption of these data flows to the IAEA headquarters in Vienna from the two sites, where large quantities of nuclear material are present in the form spent or fresh nuclear fuel and other types of nuclear material,” the IAEA said in a statement.

It is unclear what caused the disruption, the IAEA said, adding that transmissions from other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, including its three other operational nuclear power plants, were continuing. The condition of the equipment that had stopped transmitting was “uncertain”, he said.

The agency said the Zaporizhzhia operator informed it that two of its four high-voltage external power lines had been damaged, so only two were now available. It only takes one, and there’s a fifth on standby, plus backup diesel generators.

A unit’s transformer was also under emergency repair after damage to its cooling system was discovered ‘following the events’ of March 4, when the fire and clashes took place, he said. added.

“These recent developments have added to the IAEA’s growing concerns about the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on the safety, security and safeguards at the country’s nuclear facilities,” the IAEA said.

Grossi called for a trilateral meeting with Ukraine and Russia to ensure the safety of Ukrainian nuclear facilities. He said Wednesday he would travel to the Turkish city of Antalya on Thursday, where the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are due to meet. Read more

Earlier Wednesday, Ukraine said power to Chernobyl had been cut, but the IAEA said spent fuel could still be safely cooled. Read more

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Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Leslie Adler and Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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