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The specter of a nuclear disaster at the Zaporijjia power plant haunts everyone’s mind. The most powerful power plant in Europe and its six reactors, all shut down, have been under Russian control since March. Since the end of July, the site has been the target of strikes of which Ukrainians and Russians accuse each other. kyiv notably accuses Moscow of storing heavy weapons on the site and using it as a base for strikes on Ukrainian positions. The situation there is “untenable” according to the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and employees and our special envoys in Zaporijjia.
of our special envoys in Zaporijjia,
In the city, which is about fifty km from the power station, we are preparing for the worst.
” We are one centimeter, one millimeter from disaster. And the scale of this disaster will be such that it will affect Russia, Europe, and I’m not talking about Ukraine “. The woman who issues this cry of alarm was, until a few days ago, an engineer at the Zaporijjia power station, responsible, among other things, for nuclear safety.
She wishes to remain anonymous, her husband, himself an employee of the plant, being undoubtedly brought back there. ” A lot of people don’t understand what’s really going on there and how scary it all is. They fire at the site of the power plant, there are shells, craters. We are all stretched like bows, we are constantly under pressure. We were of course prepared to face stressful situations, but not at such levels! There are so many factors to consider. It is certain that these six reactors, if they are not cooled, we are heading for global catastrophe. God forbid ! »
The Ukrainian operator of the Energoatom power plant has announced yesterday, Sunday, the shutdown of the last reactor in operation. The decision was taken after the partial restoration of the site’s external electricity supply.
But should the power lines be bombed again, the plant will be entirely dependent on emergency diesel generators to provide vital nuclear safety and security functions.
For this other employee of the plant, also a refugee in Zaporijjia, the danger could also come from stocks of radioactive waste. ” If in the reactors, the nuclear fuel is protected, the used fuel is stored in sort of steel containers about 100 millimeters thick, with concrete on top, and that’s it. There are more than 150 of these containers in the open air, protected by a concrete enclosure 2 meters high, and nothing else… »
In Zaporijjia, Dmytro Orlov, the mayor in exile of Energodar, himself a former chief engineer of the turbines, before being elected in 2020, opened a center for humanitarian, social and medical aid, for all those who flee the city, bombarded, deprived of running water and electricity. Among them, more and more plant employees.
” The issue of personnel can significantly affect security, explainsDmytro Orlov. People cannot stay at their post 24 hours a day. To ensure rotation between teams, 5 people are needed per team. However, we find ourselves in situations where there were no longer 5 people but 4. This means that those who stay have to do fewer shifts and therefore less rest. If there are only three left, they will have to go to work every day “.
24 hour surveillance
About 50 km from the plant, the Zaporijjia authorities are monitoring the situation very closely. A mobile laboratory measures radiation levels 24 hours a day. ” We see numbers on the screen falling in real time, just after being analyzed by the sensors that measure the radiation rate. Currently, as seen on the screen, they are normal “.
If the figures are reassuring, the local authorities remain on their guard. ” All services in the Zaporizhia region are on standby, both the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the regional military administration, which for the past four weeks has been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, explains Taras Tyshchenko, representative of the Ministry of Health in Zaporijjia. She develops answers to all the hypotheses we have given her, in case the most serious scenario occurs “.
To prevent such a scenario from occurring, Ukraine, like the IAEA, reiterates its request for the constitution of a demilitarized zone around the plant. A request so far remained a dead letter.