What a power outage could mean for Chernobyl nuclear waste

Unlike an operating nuclear power plant, which may use some of the electricity it generates to power its operation, Ukraine’s long-defun...


Unlike an operating nuclear power plant, which may use some of the electricity it generates to power its operation, Ukraine’s long-defunct Chernobyl power plant relies entirely on outside electricity sources.

So when that electricity is cut off, as Ukrainian officials and the International Atomic Energy Agency say it was by Russian troops, problems can arise.

Since Wednesday, Chernobyl, the scene of the worst nuclear disaster in history when one of its four reactors exploded and burned 36 years ago, has been running mainly on the power of diesel generators. A longtime former factory employee familiar with the conditions there said some equipment was also running on battery power and firefighting systems, as well as radiation monitoring, had been affected.

The IEAE said on Wednesday it saw “no critical impact on the security” of the complex. But what could happen if all those backups failed and Chernobyl was left with no power at all?

The Chernobyl power plant was commissioned in the late 1970s, with the completion of its first two reactors. In 1983, the third and fourth units were operating, including the one that was destroyed three years later.

This accident, the result of an ill-advised and poorly executed test, killed more than two dozen people immediately afterwards, most from exposure to high levels of radiation. The burning reactor core produced a plume of radioactive particles that spread across parts of Europe, and many more people suffered long-term effects, including cancers, from the exposure .

Contamination was worse in much of Ukraine and Belarus around the plant, which has been declared an “exclusion zone” and remains largely off-limits. Villages and a city are definitively abandoned.

The plant’s three remaining reactors were eventually shut down, the last in 2000. Nuclear fuel was removed from all of them, and turbines and other equipment that produced power were mostly removed.

In the absence of operating reactors in the plant, there is no risk of core meltdown as there would be if an operating plant lost energy and could no longer circulate water in the reactor. This is what happened at Fukushima reactors in Japan in 2011when an earthquake and tsunami wiped out backup power systems.

But Chernobyl carries other risks related to the large amount of nuclear waste on the site.

The fuel inside a reactor eventually runs out and is replaced. As is common practice in the nuclear power industry, fuel removed from Chernobyl’s four reactors over the years, more than 20,000 assemblies in all, is stored in pools of water that dissipate the heat produced during the radioactive decay of the fuel. When fuel has just been removed from a reactor and is still highly radioactive, there is a lot of decomposition and therefore a lot of heat, so power plants need energy to run the pumps that make circulate storage water, removing excess heat in the process.

If the water in the storage tanks became so hot that it boiled, the fuel would be exposed to the air and could ignite. This too was part of the risks of the Fukushima catastrophe.

The IAEA said the spent fuel assemblies at Chernobyl are old enough and have deteriorated enough that circulation pumps are not needed to keep them safe.

“The heat load of the spent fuel storage pool and the volume of cooling water contained in the pool are sufficient to maintain efficient heat removal without the need for electrical power,” the agency said.

Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, workers had begun transferring some of these fuel assemblies to a long-term dry storage facility, which began operating in 2020. The fuel assemblies are ready for dry storage when they have cooled enough to be safely exposed to air. .

The other main source of nuclear waste, which is unique to Chernobyl, is the ruins of the destroyed reactor itself. About 200 tonnes of fuel remain there, in a lava-like mixture with melted concrete, sand and chemicals that were dumped on the reactor during the disaster.

This highly radioactive mixture is found in the remains of the reactor, after passing through doors and drain pipes and in stairwells and other parts of the structure before hardening. Some of these combustible materials, as they are called, are found in completely inaccessible places and have only been studied by drilling them.

In the chaotic and confused remains of the destroyed Chernobyl reactor, there is no cooling system to be affected by a loss of power.

But in recent years, there have been episodes in which nuclear reactions started spontaneously in pockets of these fuel-containing materials, leading to spikes in radiation levels. They have been monitored and will need to be dealt with one day.

Without monitoring of both humidity and radiation, workers would not know if a new episode was occurring. The former employee familiar with the conditions at the plant said the ventilation systems that helped control humidity levels had stopped working.

Since 2017, the destroyed reactor has been covered with a large vaulted structure, intended to confine the waste and to guard against any release of radiation. The structure is also intended to allow work to begin to evacuate the waste to long-term storage, a process that is expected to take decades.

The facility only got an operating license from the Ukrainian authorities last year, so work was just beginning. There are several large cranes and other specialized equipment to allow crews to work safely. Without power, most, if not all of this work could not continue.

Source Link

COMMENTS

Name

Africa,957,Americas,4374,Art & Culture,16176,Arts,6814,Arts & Design,1919,Asia,3599,Automobile,572,Baseball,837,Basketball,683,Books,4228,Business,5705,Celebrity,2633,Cricket,648,Crime,158,Cryptocurrency,2166,Dance,715,Defense,836,Diplomatic Relations,2496,Economy,1394,Editorial,260,Education,1515,Elections,308,Energy & Environment,3190,Entertainment,23696,Environment,3970,Europe,4557,Faith & Religion,235,Family & Life,817,Fashion & Style,3670,Finance,21881,Food & Drink,4144,Football,1311,Games,97,Gossip,10289,Health & Fitness,4495,Health Care,967,Hockey,272,Home & Garden,920,Humour,994,Latin America,49,Lifestyle,18576,Media,527,Middle East,1758,Movies,2053,Music,2979,Opinion,4079,Other,13210,Other Sports,5485,Political News,11324,Political Protests,2324,Politics,18863,Real Estate,2305,Relationship,106,Retail,3116,Science,2975,Science & Tech,11192,Soccer,382,Space & Cosmos,450,Sports,13592,Technology,3797,Tennis,729,Theater,1970,Transportation,313,Travel,2853,TV,4023,US,1565,US Sports,1481,Video News,3531,War & Conflict,1069,Weird News,998,World,18219,
ltr
item
Newsrust - US Top News: What a power outage could mean for Chernobyl nuclear waste
What a power outage could mean for Chernobyl nuclear waste
https://static01.nyt.com/images/2022/03/09/science/09cli-chernobyl-explainer3/09cli-chernobyl-explainer3-facebookJumbo.jpg%20
Newsrust - US Top News
https://www.newsrust.com/2022/03/what-power-outage-could-mean-for.html
https://www.newsrust.com/
https://www.newsrust.com/
https://www.newsrust.com/2022/03/what-power-outage-could-mean-for.html
true
732247599994189300
UTF-8
Loaded All Posts Not found any posts VIEW ALL Readmore Reply Cancel reply Delete By Home PAGES POSTS View All RECOMMENDED FOR YOU LABEL ARCHIVE SEARCH ALL POSTS Not found any post match with your request Back Home Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat January February March April May June July August September October November December Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec just now 1 minute ago $$1$$ minutes ago 1 hour ago $$1$$ hours ago Yesterday $$1$$ days ago $$1$$ weeks ago more than 5 weeks ago Followers Follow THIS PREMIUM CONTENT IS LOCKED STEP 1: Share to a social network STEP 2: Click the link on your social network Copy All Code Select All Code All codes were copied to your clipboard Can not copy the codes / texts, please press [CTRL]+[C] (or CMD+C with Mac) to copy Table of Content