WAR IN UKRAINE: Breakthrough Institute Analysts Dr. Stein and Franovich Release Statements on Loss of Offsite Power at Chernobyl

Berkeley, Calif. — Today, Breakthrough Institute Director for Nuclear Energy and Innovation Dr. Adam Stein and Senior Policy Advisor Rani Franovich shared insights into the impacts of the loss of offsite power at Chernobyl.

At present, the analysts offer these comments on the current situation. Dr. Stein and Franovich continue to monitor developments and sources, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They are available for interview and comment.

Dr. Stein and Franovich are available for interview and comment

“While much of the news focuses on radiation and spent fuel on the premises, all indications are that the site remains safe,” said Dr. Stein. “However, safeguards monitoring is degraded which presents challenges with monitoring and accounting for radioactive material. The situation continues to evolve and I’m keeping abreast of reports from IAEA.”

“The current news out of Ukraine highlights the importance of nuclear safety and security, while also emphasizing the role of the international community to continue to actively monitor developments on the ground,” said Franovich. “One of my chief concerns remains for the safety of plant personnel as this is a very stressful situation for them and their families.”

  1. Safety of plant personnel – medium concern
    Operations at the Chernobyl site are under the control of a Russian military commander. Plant personnel are forced to operate under hostile working conditions and do not have the freedom to communicate effectively with plant management or the Ukrainian regulator or conduct routine activities.
  2. Fatigue of plant personnel – medium concern
    The mental and physical stress of continuous duty under duress since February 24, 2022, is of concern. Human error is a high contributor to risk in any industry, and fatigue of plant workers can increase human error rates.
  3. Spent fuel pool – very low safety concern
    Safety considerations are limited to cooling of used fuel from the Chernobyl reactor units 1, 2, and 3. In 2000, unit 3 was the last unit to permanently shut down.
  4. Radiation from site – very low safety concern
    At present, the primary source of radiation exposure to the public is the used fuel in the spent fuel pool. The potential for used fuel damage is very low.
  5. Safeguards monitoring – medium security concern
    The objective of safeguards monitoring systems is to deter the spread of nuclear weapons through early detection of the misuse of such material. Loss of offsite power to this monitoring capability at the Chernobyl degrades control and accountability of radioactive material.