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THE RISK of “a heavy accident” at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant “is growing all the time”, Olga Kosharna, a Ukrainian nuclear energy expert and former member of the Board of the State Inspection of Nuclear Regulation of Ukraine, told EFE News on Tuesday.
The expert warned that an accident “similar to what happened in Fukushima” could happen if the plant loses the electricity supply that is needed to cool off the active zone of the reactors. In this case, the reactors will start melting, leading to a radioactive leak.
Europe’s largest power plant was cut off from the Ukrainian grid Monday after all power lines were damaged by shelling and fires in the area. The repeated unplanned changes in the nuclear plant’s output are compromising its security systems, Kosharna said.
The expert added that diesel electricity generators are supposed to provide backup electricity supply for 10 days but warned that it was not clear whether the generators have enough fuel given the disruption around the station.
Kosharna urged for all the reactors of the plant to be switched to the so-called “cold stop” mode immediately. This would decrease the risks of a nuclear accident by giving the personnel additional 24 hours in the event of a power cut to ensure it is restored.
The expert said, however, that Ukrainian authorities may be reluctant to do this because they want to avoid electricity blackouts and also hope to continue exporting electricity to the EU to support the damaged economy.
“Security concerns must override everything else,” Kosharna said.
The expert said she hoped the recent mission by United Nations inspectors would have collected more information about the situation at the station, where she added that the Geneva convention and UN resolution on nuclear terrorism have been broken numerous times.
Russia is “not even bothering that much to cover them up,” she said.
According to Kosharna, Russia is using Zaporizhzhia as a shield in an attempt to force Ukraine’s partners to negotiate and end support for Kyiv. She says the International Atomic Energy Agency mission was an important step to “provide moral support to the personnel” that have been hostages for the 6 months of occupation of the station.
Kosharna, who is in contact with some of the personnel at Zaporizhzhia, said the constant stress they are living in also increases the chances of a mistake.
“The plant’s diver was killed and an electrician was shot by Russians”, she told EFE News, adding that some of the personnel have left the occupied areas, which puts additional pressure on the remaining specialists.