Volodymyr Zelensky said the world had averted a “radiation catastrophe” after the last regular line supplying electricity to Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was restored hours after it was cut by shelling.
The Ukrainian president told the International Atomic Energy Agency Energy The agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, needs immediate access to the site.
Zelensky on Thursday blamed Russia’s military for a fire in the ash pits of a nearby coal power station that disconnected the reactor complex, the largest of its kind in Europe, from the power grid. He said a back-up diesel generator ensured power supply and kept the plant safe.
“If our station staff had not reacted after the blackout, we would have already been forced to overcome the consequences of the radiation accident,” he said in an evening speech. “Russia has put Ukraine And all Europeans are one step away from a radiation disaster in such a situation.
IAEA officials should be allowed access to the site within days, he said, “before the situation becomes irreversible”.
Negotiations are underway for the UN’s nuclear watchdog to visit the site, and Ukraine’s top nuclear official told the Guardian that IAEA inspectors could arrive by the end of the month.
Until then, the constant battle keeps the plant, and potentially more Europe, there is danger. A nuclear accident could spread radiation across the continent.
Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said Thursday’s incident marked the plant’s first complete disconnection in nearly 40 years of operation. Electricity is used for cooling and security systems.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February, seized the plant in March and has controlled it since, although Ukrainian technicians still operate it.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of firing, raising fears of a nuclear disaster. The White House called Russia After Joe Biden spoke with Zelensky on Thursday, to agree to a demilitarized zone around the plant.
The US State Department warned Russia against redirecting energy from the site.
“The electricity produced by it belongs to Ukraine and any attempt to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid and redirect it to the occupied area is unacceptable,” spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters. “No country should turn a nuclear power plant into an active war zone, and we oppose any Russian efforts to weaponize or divert energy from the plant.”
The IAEA said Ukraine reported a temporary loss of contact with the plant, “underscoring the urgent need for an IAEA expert mission to further access the facility”.
“We cannot lose any more time. I am determined to personally lead an IAEA mission to the plant in the next few days,” said the agency’s director general, Raphael Grossi.
Writing on Telegram, Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in the occupied town of Enrhodar near the plant, said satellite photos showed the local forest in flames. He said towns in the region lost power for several hours on Thursday.
“This happened because the power line at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was cut due to provocation by Zelensky’s soldiers,” Rogov claimed. “Electrical wires were disconnected due to fire and short circuit.”
Nuclear experts have warned of the risk of damage to the plant’s spent fuel pool or its reactors. A reduction in the electricity needed to cool the pool can lead to catastrophic breakdowns.
There has been increased concern at the international level Safety at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. It has been occupied by the Russian army since the beginning of the war and is now being used to store military vehicles and equipment.
The complex supplied more than 20% of Ukraine’s electricity needs, and its loss would put new strain on the government.
Head of Energoatom told the Guardian On Wednesday, Russian engineers drew up a blueprint to permanently disconnect the plant from the national grid and instead connect it to the Russian power network. Petro Kotin said the plan was intended to maintain power supply to the plant if all connections to Ukraine were cut by the fighting, as was the case on Thursday. But Ukraine fears that Russia will deliberately cut the lines.
Russian and Ukrainian forces have reached a relative stalemate in recent months, in part because the West’s supply of new long-range missiles has hampered Russia’s supply lines and ability to continue its offensive. Ukraine says it does not even have the weapons it needs to launch a decisive counteroffensive.
With Reuters and Agence France-Presse