Wind forecasts a factor as Ukraine warns of ‘imminent’ Chernobyl radiation leak

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident in 1986 is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history. Ukraine officials are warning of another meltdown.


Ukraine's officials are sounding the alarm of a possible radiation leak from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant after Russian attacks have knocked out the power grid to the facility and its running on generators.

The 1986 Chernobyl disaster is still considered one of the worst nuclear incidents. More than 100 radioactive elements were released into the atmosphere when Chernobyl's fourth reactor exploded. The nuclear site has been undergoing decommissioning since the disaster.

Wind and storm patterns moved the radioactive plume over much of the Northern Hemisphere but most decayed very quickly, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"Most of the released material was deposited close by as dust and debris, but the lighter material was carried by wind over Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and to some extent over Scandinavia and Europe," according to the World Nuclear Association.

The contamination zone was considered the 93,000 square miles around the site in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. 

The 18 miles around the plant is still uninhabited. Most recently, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was used by Ukrainian forces in early February to train for the Russian invasion that happened a few weeks later.

According to the IAEA, no studies have found health problems outside of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia tied to Chernobyl. 

The FOX Weather graphic at the top of this story shows the estimated wind forecast through Saturday.

The IAEA and Ukraine leaders have sounded the alarm about the fallout of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which is home to 15 nuclear reactors. 

Power was cut off to Chernobyl early Wednesday, and the facility is running on diesel generators that can provide power for 48 hours, according to Ukraine's power grid operator Ukrenergo. The backup generators are only powering "systems important for safety," according to Ukrenergo.

Combat operations in the area have made restoring the power grid impossible.

Minister of Energy of Ukraine Herman Galushchenko said a failure of equipment could lead to "irreversible consequences."

Ukraine minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba called international leaders to demand Russia cease-fire to repair the power grid.

"Reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power the Chornobyl NPP," Kuleba wrote in a tweet. "After that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent."

However, the IAEA says despite the power plant running on generators and the site being under Russian control since Feb. 24, the IAEA "sees no critical impact on safety."

According to the IAEA, "since the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the heat load of the spent fuel storage pool and the volume of cooling water contained in the pool is sufficient to maintain effective heat removal without the need for electrical supply."

The IAEA statement is at odds with the head of Ukrenergo, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, who has been providing live updates on the situation on social media.

He warned in a Facebook Live on Wednesday that without a working cooling system numerous processed fuel collections pose a danger to the environment and a risk of increased radiation.

"This is extremely important for the safety of the entire planet!" he said.