Battle-battered Ukraine nuclear power plant cooling systems hang by a thread, officials say:

“This is an unsustainable situation and is becoming increasingly precarious.”

Not good

Put bluntly, the situation at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant Zaporizhzhya is bad. Very bad.

The New York Times reports that shelling around the Russian-controlled factory destroyed the energy infrastructure that fuels the surrounding town of Enerhodar, where the facility’s intractable workers live — leading to widespread power outages, no running water or sewage, and, dangerously, no external power supply for reactor cooling and safety systems.

“This is an untenable situation and is becoming increasingly precarious,” Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director-general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement calling for a safe zone around the facility.

“The power plant has no external power supply,” he continued. “And we’ve seen that once the infrastructure is repaired, it gets damaged again.”

backup

This isn’t the only time the plant has been cut off from outside power in recent weeks. According to the NYT, the plant lost its connection to outside power for the first time in history on Aug. 25, when it fought with severed high-voltage cables between Zaporizhzhya and a nearby fossil fuel pan. Engineers were able to repair the line 14 hours later, although the factory had to rely on its backup diesel generators in the meantime.

But the unstable situation has only gotten worse and this cable and others have been cut again. While the factory remains operational, it once again relies on that spare diesel system – which, like the NYT emphasizes is particularly dangerous in a war zone, where conflict can limit access to fuel and other supplies.

However, even if fuel was easier to obtain, this is not a normal way for a factory to operate. The NYT reports that the factory has never relied on safety measures for more than a few hours, let alone several days in a row.

Taken together, it shows the myriad dangers of the outbreak of war in a country with active nuclear power plants. According to the NYTthe factory, not sure that those cables can be repaired again, is considering switching to diesel entirely — something the UN is very, very concerned about.

“This dramatic development demonstrates the absolute need to establish a nuclear safety and security zone now,” Grossi continued. “This is the only way to make sure we don’t have a nuclear accident.”

READ MORE: Conditions at Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant are ‘unsustainable’, UN watchdog warns [The New York Times]

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