The nuclear risk from the conditions at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is ‘not absent, but small’. Also, in the event of a nuclear accident in Chernobyl or Zaporizhia, Belgium is not in immediate danger. Geert Biermans, an expert with the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy Agency (FANC), says Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a warning about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the nuclear power plant will be further and further disconnected from the outside world. In addition, about 210 technical and security personnel have been working continuously for two weeks. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian grid operator also reported a power outage, but according to the IAEA, this would not have posed a major security risk.
Was the Chernobyl nuclear power plant stationary? Absolutely not, Biermans explains. After the fourth nuclear reactor exploded in 1986, a concrete sarcophagus and a metal sarcophagus were placed on top of the reactor. Beneath those layers is the molten fuel in the remains of the reactor. The Chernobyl site has storage facilities for radioactive materials and three reactors. The last reactor was shut down in 2001. Around the site, within a radius of 30 km, is the exemption zone, which was completely destroyed.
Although the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is not operational, people are still working: they check the measurements and carry out necessary maintenance to ensure safe storage of radioactive material. “These people must be released, and that is the concern of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Piermens explains. ‘If those people get tired and make mistakes, it first causes a problem for the security of the site and the staff there.’
The power outage announced by the Ukrainian grid operator may lead to the failure of some measurements and the existing staff is not properly informed. ‘With these types of installations, there are always active and passive backup systems. But we do not currently have complete information on exactly what is happening on the site.
Zaporizhia, a Ukrainian city in the southeast of the country, has an active nuclear power plant with six reactors. ‘Two reactors are working, four reactors are cooled or shut down. But there is fuel that needs to be cooled vigorously to avoid problems, ‘says Byrmans.
The International Atomic Energy Agency distinguishes between the seven pillars of nuclear safety, including the physical integrity of the nuclear power plant, operational safety systems and monitoring systems, safe and free working conditions for employees, safe electricity and reliable communication with regulators. The shoe pinches there. Because of the deteriorating security, the risk is ‘not absent, but small,’ says Bearmans.
In the event of a nuclear accident in Chernobyl or Zaporizhia, Belgium based its response on international guidelines, Biermans continues. “A perimeter is set from a specific site. Activities such as shelter and evacuation are carried out within a radius of 20 to 30 km. After all, the effects of published radiation are much greater there. It is recommended to use iodine tablets within a radius of 100 km. ‘
So risk management will take place in the territory of Ukraine or its neighbors. ‘There is no immediate danger to Belgium: shelter, eviction and iodine pills are not an issue,’ concludes Byrmans. Furthermore, he pointed out that Belgium has a Deloitte network. This telemetering network measures radiation in air, water and aerosols at 254 stations in the Belgian region. The increase continues with an announcement and analysis. Other European countries have a similar network. ⁇Belgium⁇
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