Fires caused by ongoing Russian shelling in southeastern Ukraine knocked the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station offline Monday.
According to a statement from the plant’s operator, Energoatom, a fire from three days of constant Russian shelling closed a major transmission line, knocking the reactor off the grid.
“Today, Sept. 5, 2022, due to a fire caused by shelling, the 330 kV ZTPP — Ferosplavna power transmission line was disconnected, that is the last line linking the ZNPP/ ZTPP hub to the power system of Ukraine,” the statement Monday said. “As a result, power unit No. 6, currently powering the ZNPP’s in-house needs, was unloaded and disconnected from the grid.”
The company said the Russian forces have been “intensely” shelling the area for the last three days.
Energoatom, established in 1996 through Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers, operates four nuclear plants with a total capacity of 13,855 megawatts per hour in the country, providing between 55-70% of the country’s electric needs, according to the company.
The Zaporizhzhia reactor is the largest of the four, and the largest such facility in Europe.
“Any repair of the lines [is] impossible now — there are combat operations around the station,” Ukraine Minister of Energy German Galuschchenko said in a Facebook post Monday. “The world is once again on the brink of nuclear disaster. De-occupying the [Donetsk region], and creating a demilitarized zone around it, is the only way to ensure nuclear security.”
It is not the first time recently that the reactor’s electricity supply to the nation has been threatened during the fighting in that part of Ukraine since the Russian invasion Feb. 25.
Just two days ago, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafel Mariano Grossi said in a statement that the plant lost its connection to the “last external power line,” but was continuing to power the grid through a “reserve” line.
“Our team on the ground received direct, fast, and reliable information about the latest significant development affecting the plant’s external power situation, as well as the operational status of the reactors. We already have a better understanding of the functionality of the reserve power line in connecting the facility to the grid. This is crucial information in assessing the overall situation there,” Grossi, who was at the site Saturday, said in the statement. “The great value of finally having the IAEA permanently present at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is already abundantly clear. It is a game changer.”
He said having his agency at the site, will help “stabilize” the situation, he is still fearful about the conditions on the ground there.
“The difference between having the IAEA at the site and not having us there is like day and night,” he said. “I remain gravely concerned about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant — this hasn’t changed — but the continued presence of the IAEA will be of paramount importance in helping to stabilize the situation. I’m immensely proud of the critically important and courageous work the IAEA team is now able to perform at the ZNPP.”