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UN body seeks urgent visit to Ukrainian nuclear plant after it suffers power outage

Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed its grave concern “over a new incident at or near the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant almost every day” while underlining the urgent need its expert mission to travel to the facility.

On Thursday, Ukraine informed IAEA that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant – currently controlled by Russian forces but remains operated by its Ukrainian staff – temporarily lost connection to its last remaining operational 750 kilovolt (kV) external power line.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday to discuss the threat posed by the ongoing war on Ukrainian civilian nuclear facilities, Kyiv informed the agency that ZNPP lost connection to the power line twice during the day but that it was currently up again.

The Director General said that Ukraine informed the IAEA that as a result of the cuts in the 750 kV power line, the ZNPP’s two operating reactor units were disconnected from the electricity grid and their emergency protection systems were triggered, while all safety systems remained operational.

All six units remained disconnected from the grid also after the power line was restored, Ukraine said, adding that the ZNPP remained connected to a 330 kV line from the nearby thermal power facility that can provide back-up electricity if needed.

According to the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, the six-reactor ZNPP normally has four external power lines, but three of them were lost earlier during the ongoing conflict.

In the case of a loss of external power, the ZNPP – like other nuclear power plants around the world – still has diesel generators available to provide back-up power.

Thursday’s incident comes after a series of shelling incidents this month in the area of the ZNPP that caused some damage at the plant and sparked deepening concern about nuclear safety and security at the facility.

Nuclear Power Plant
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday (Image courtesy: Elysee.fr)

Grossi reiterated that a secure off-site power supply from the grid is essential for ensuring nuclear safety.

“Almost every day there is a new incident at or near the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. We can’t afford to lose any more time. I’m determined to personally lead an IAEA mission to the plant in the next few days to help stabilise the nuclear safety and security situation there,” said the IAEA Director General.

In his meeting with the IAEA chief on Thursday, French President Macron confirmed that the Director General could count on the support of France so that the IAEA mission can access the plant, in complete safety and without obstacles, and carry out its mission without interference.

Ukraine Russia
Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev and the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in Istanbul on Thursday (Image courtesy: Twitter/@Amb_Ulyanov)

On Wednesday, Grossi had met with Alexey Likhachev, the Director General of Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom in Istanbul to discuss  preparations for the forthcoming visit of IAEA mission to Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Permanent Representative of Russia to Vienna, had described the meeting as “businesslike discussion”.

Accusing Ukraine of shelling the ZNPP, Moscow on Tuesday had expressed “deep regret” that the mission has not yet taken place.

“Russia, like no one else, is interested in the IAEA representatives being at the station, seeing with their own eyes the devastating consequences of shelling by the Ukrainian side and giving an objective – tough – assessment of what is happening. We call on Western countries to stop indulging the geopolitical ambitions and whims of the V. Zelensky regime, and to put the interests of nuclear security at the forefront,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.

Also Read: India backs IAEA visit to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya atomic power plant to prevent nuclear disaster