The international press reported today that there was an incident at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. Most reports were light on actual information. We have compiled what we were able to find out about the incident.
Greenpeace reports that if the plant itself has lost offsite power, the cooling towers would lose power. This could create a situation where they can not adequately cool the reactor units.
Ukraine apparently needs to keep all 15 of their nuclear reactors in operation to keep enough power going to the grid to prevent blackouts. There have also been recent struggles over obtaining nuclear fuel to power those reactors. Russia had been the main supplier with some coming from US Westinghouse. Ukraine has also been building their own nuclear fuel fabrication plant. The power plant website currently shows only 4 of the 6 reactors are generating power.
WNN is reporting that the damage was to the power distribution side of the plant (not the reactor itself) but gave no source for the specifics that apparently has been given to none of the press.
“The short circuit was caused by damage to the “winding voltage section of the auxiliary transformer and switch block transformer,” it added. The unit was transferred to a cold state.”
If this is the case it is still a problem but less so than an incident with the reactor itself. Right now there is no reliable independent confirmation of this set of specifics, but most press reports cite the power distribution side as where the incident happened. If the power distribution system was damaged, this is a fairly common occurrence at US nuclear plants where power distribution yards have equipment failures. It is not known how the power grid near the plant is designed and managed. Keeping power coming into the plant would be critical to assure they can keep power to the cooling towers.
The actual outage occurred on Nov 28th according to multiple reports. Why it took 6 days for Ukraine to admit the incident is not explained.
“The UNIAN news agency reported that the block was disconnected on 28 November at 19.24 local time (17.24 GMT)”
The incident shows how fragile Ukraine’s energy systems are. Nuclear power plants require offsite power to adequately cool reactors, even upon shutdown. Details of the safety systems for the VVER reactor are hard to come by to determine what if any safety systems exist at these plants. This incident also raises new questions about the logic of having a huge nuclear power system in an unstable and financially broke country.
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