Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear plant operator, is reporting that Units 5 and 6 at the Zaporizhzhia plant—currently the facility’s only operational reactors—were disconnected from the country’s power grid early in the morning of August 25.
The Zaporizhzhia site has been under the control of the Russian military since March 4, just days after Russia commenced its invasion of Ukraine.
According to Energoatom, fires at the nearby Zaporizhzhia thermal power plant’s ash dumps—the result, said the utility, of Russian shelling—damaged the nuclear plant’s sole working 750-kV external transmission line connecting it to Ukraine’s grid. (Three other transmission lines were damaged during earlier shelling of the plant.)
“The actions of the invaders caused a complete disconnection of the ZNPP from the power grid—for the first time in the history of the plant,” Energoatom stated. “The [plant’s] in-house power needs are currently provided by the power system of Ukraine through the [Zaporizhzhia thermal plant] transmission line. . . . Startup operations are underway to connect one of the power units to the grid.”
At this writing, power to the nuclear plant is believed to have been restored.
The IAEA weighs in: In a statement on this latest episode in the Zaporizhzhia saga, the International Atomic Energy Agency noted that a secure off-site power supply from the grid is one of the seven indispensable nuclear safety and security pillars that IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi outlined at the beginning of the conflict.
Grossi added, “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 stabilize the nuclear safety and security situation there.”
ANS comments: "There is no reported damage of the nuclear power plant itself," according to a spokesperson for the American Nuclear Society. "Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant’s reactors have hardened containment structures that protect its modern reactors and equipment. They are designed against a wide variety of severe scenarios, including earthquakes, high-wind events, and airplane crashes. These containment structures are designed to retain any radioactive materials should an accident occur. Like nuclear plants in the West, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant possesses many redundant layers of safety procedures and backup equipment including emergency backup generators to supply electricity to the reactors and to keep the reactors cool, including when the reactors are shut down. In the extremely unlikely scenario of a radiological release, the real threat is to the lives of the plant workers and not the public. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which a release of radiation from the plant results in direct harm to the public.”