Ukraine warns radiation could be released from Chernobyl nuclear power plant after power cut

The 1986 Chernobyl explosion was the worst nuclear disaster in history Credit: AP

Radioactive substances could be released from Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power plant because it cannot cool spent nuclear fuel after its power connection was severed, Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company has said.

Work to repair the connection and restore power to the plant, which has been occupied by Russian troops, has not been possible because fighting is underway, Energoatom said.

Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba called on the international community to "urgently demand Russia to cease fire and allow repair units to restore power supply."

In a Facebook post, Energoatom said emergency diesel generators had been turned on to restore power, but they said this would only last 48 hours.

The government said the power outage was due to a high-voltage line to Kyiv had been damaged by the Russians and was offline.

The State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine said about 20,000 spent fuel assemblies are stored in the spent nuclear fuel storage facility-1.

It took an international effort to get Chernobyl under control. Credit: AP

They said: "They need constant cooling. Which is possible only if there is electricity. If it is not there, the pumps will not cool. As a result, the temperature in the holding pools will increase."

If the temperature gets high enough "evaporation will occur, that will lead to nuclear discharge."They warned if this happens radioactive clouds could spread across Belarus, Russia and Europe.

They also said all personnel in the area would receive a dangerous dose of radiation.

The government said the fire extinguishing system was also offline, which drastically increased risks.

On Tuesday, the UN nuclear watchdog warned the systems monitoring nuclear material at the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl had stopped transmitting data.

The nuclear watchdog said the loss of power does not have a critical impact on safety.

"Heat load of spent fuel storage pool and volume of cooling water at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant sufficient for effective heat removal without need for electrical supply," the IAEA said in a statement.

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The still-radioactive site of the world's worst nuclear disaster lies 62 miles from Kyiv.

Its fourth reactor exploded in April 1986 during a botched safety test, sending clouds of radiation billowing across much of Europe.

The world reacted with outrage when Russian forces invaded through Belarus and seized Chernobyl last month.

There was a fierce battle at the site, with numerous reports of fires breaking out, although no reports of excess radiation were recorded.

Russia was condemned again at the end of last week for seizing Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at an emergency session of the UN Security Council the world "narrowly avoided nuclear catastrophe."