Australian news, and some related international items

Ukraine Considers Shutting Nuclear Plant After Loss of Backup Power

After shelling destroys key electricity supply, Zaporizhzhia facility may have to rely on generators with 10 days of fuel left

WSJ, By Drew Hinshaw and Laurence Norman Sept. 9, 2022

Ukraine is considering shutting down the sole remaining reactor at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday, after shelling left the plant without a safe and sustainable source of backup power.

The plant, which has already shut down five of its six reactors, risks having only one remaining source of electricity to power its systems in case the sixth reactor has to go offline, said Director General Rafael Grossi in a statement..

Normally, if the plant can’t supply itself power,
it can draw electricity from a nearby thermal-energy plant. But shelling
overnight Thursday destroyed a switchyard that carries electricity out from
that coal-fired plant, Mr. Grossi said.

It is unlikely that it will be
repaired, he added, given the constant artillery fire, meaning the nuclear
plant would have no off-site emergency source of power. The plant could
turn to back up generators, but those only have enough fuel for about 10
days, according to Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company, Energoatom. The
plant, occupied by Russian soldiers who patrol with grenades dangling off
their belts, is still operated by the company’s Ukrainian workforce.

Plant workers, meanwhile, have no electricity in their homes and the
shelling risks accelerating an exodus of essential staff. “This is an
unsustainable situation and is becoming increasingly precarious,” Mr.
Grossi said. “The power plant has no off-site power, This is completely
unacceptable. It cannot stand. ”The Zaporizhzhia plant is now producing a
minimal 250 megawatts, enough to monitor and sustain the temperature of its
cooling ponds, to pump water through the station, to clean the air inside
the plant, and to perform other basic safety functions, said Petro Kotin,
interim president of Energoatom.

If the last operating reactor goes down,
he said, the staff will need to supply 200 tons of diesel daily to the
generators. The IAEA said in a report Tuesday Ukraine had 2,250 tons of
diesel fuel available for the whole site. Procuring more would require
several truckloads of fuel to cross through an active conflict area
subjected to continual artillery fire, many times a day. Nuclear experts
said it could make sense to shut down the last reactor and work off backup
generators, because the earlier that is done, the cooler the reactor core
would be if Zaporizhzhia’s generators run out of fuel and there is an

Workers reached by The Wall Street Journal have blamed the
artillery fire on Russia. Plant technicians, backed by European officials
and independent nuclear analysts, have said the shelling serves the
Kremlin’s broader goal of severing Zaporizhzhia’s power connection to
Ukraine’s remaining territory and eventually rerouting it into
Russian-held areas. Russian soldiers have laid land mines around the
plant’s cooling ponds, parked heavy artillery near its reactors, and
turned its safety shelters—meant for plant workers to flee to in an
emergency—into a bunker for themselves, workers say.

When IAEA inspectors
visited the plant last week, they found that the alternative emergency
center that Russian soldiers offered the staff didn’t have its own
ventilation system to filter out radiation from the air, or its own source
of power—or even an internet connection.

Shutting down the plant, in the
midst of an active conflict, would pose enormous and unprecedented
challenges for the nuclear industry. Defunct or dormant nuclear plants
still require electricity and careful maintenance by trained staff to
monitor and safeguard spent nuclear fuel, among other safety operations.
The plant currently suffers obstacles sourcing the spare parts and fuel
that would be required. Compounding difficulties, the Zaporizhzhia plant
has seen a considerable amount of its workforce flee, slipping out through
Russian checkpoints to Ukrainian-held ground.

 Wall Street Journal 10th Sept 2022

September 12, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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