Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant disconnects from power grid after nearby fires

The complex was disconnected on Thursday due to fires in nearby ash pits, causing the last remaining power line connected to Ukraine’s power grid to be disconnected twice, Energoatom said in a statement.

“The actions of the invaders caused a complete disconnection of the ZNPP (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant) from the power grid – the first in the history of the plant,” he wrote.

Later Thursday, the Russian-installed regional governor said that “for now, the power supply to all towns and districts in the Zaporizhzhia region has been restored” from the plant after earlier disruptions.

The official, Yevhen Balytskyi, blamed Ukrainian military action for the previous blackouts. “As a result of a strike of Ukrainian armed formations on power lines in the area of ​​​​the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the territory of the security zone of the 750 kV overhead line caught fire. The fire was caused by a short circuit on the power lines,” he said.

In a separate statement, Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate, citing nuclear operator Energoatom, said a power line to the plant had been disconnected due to hostilities in the region.

As a result, one of the plant’s nuclear power plants was also disconnected, he added.

The complex has six reactors, but only two are operational at the moment.

It is not clear if there is currently an interruption in the power supply to the plant. CNN has previously been informed that there are 18 diesel generators at the plant as backup power sources for the reactors.

The nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe, has been under Russian control since March. Clashes around the compound have sparked widespread concern and fears of disaster.

Ukraine has accused Russian troops of using the plant as a shield, risking a potential disaster at the plant. The Kremlin in turn has repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of bombing the plant.

Calls have also increased for inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the plant. “We are very, very close to this [an agreement with Russia]”, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told France 24 on Thursday.

A “dangerous situation”

But Thursday’s disconnect raised concerns that Moscow is trying to divert the electricity produced in Zaporizhzhia to parts of Ukraine occupied by Russia.

This view was advanced on Monday by Energoatom chief Petro Kotin, who accused Russia of trying to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian grid “and then trying to reconnect it to the Russian system”, in an interview. at CNN.

He said that the only way to achieve this would require a complete shutdown of the plant “and a complete shutdown of all lines that are connected to the Ukrainian system. Because the frequencies are currently different, the Russian frequency and the Ukrainian frequency — we’re in sync with the European system, and they’re in sync with Russia.”

He warned, however, that once the fourth line is damaged, “then we will have more power cuts throughout the plant”, he said, describing it as a “dangerous situation” because the plant would not depend than diesel generators, which are unreliable “because they need fuel for their work, and also…they have a limited ability to be constantly in work mode”.

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Bonnie Jenkins, a senior US State Department official, warned on Thursday that Russia’s actions at the plant “have created a serious risk of a nuclear incident, a release of dangerous radiation that could threaten not only the population and the environment of Ukraine, but also affect neighboring countries and the entire international community.”

Jenkins, who is the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, called on Russia to cease its military activities around the plant, stressing the importance of an IAEA visit.

Although it was unable to confirm that the plant had been disconnected from the grid, it reiterated its concerns “about the shutdown of one of the other power stations”.

CNN’s Sam Kiley, Bex Wright and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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