Officials: Sole power source to Ukraine plant damaged in shelling

February 22, 2024, 12:01PMNuclear News
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Photo: DOE)

Russian shelling is being blamed for damage to the single remaining power source to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, located on the front lines of the ongoing military conflict.

“After another attack by the Russians, the line that provided the energy supply to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear station was damaged,” Ukraine's power grid operator Ukrenergo said in a February 21 statement.

Emergency restoration work is being attempted but is dependent on security in the areas surrounding the plant, the statement further explained.

“It’s my job not to panic, but at the same time I have to tell the truth of what is happening,” Rafael Mariano Grossi, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general, told NBC Nightly News. “When you have a blackout, the cooling function of the reactors is lost, and you could have a meltdown.”

Background: Zaporizhzhia, one of the 10 largest nuclear plants in the world, has been under Russian control since 2022. Its six reactors have been off line for months but still require electricity and staff to continue cooling the stalled reactors. Officials have reported that since the start of the war, all but one of the plant’s power lines have been taken out of commission, and the last remaining line is faulty.

Ukrenergo’s statement said bandwidth of its high-voltage networks still sufficient to cover the available demand, but the situation has heightened fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

IAEA direction: Grossi visited the plant earlier this month and cited serious concerns over the stability of operations and reduced staffing at the site. Of this latest report of shelling near the plant, Grossi reiterated his call for maximum restraint and strict observance of five concrete principles the IAEA established at a 2023 meeting of the United Nations Security Council. They are as follows:

  1. There should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant, in particular targeting the reactors, spent fuel storage, other critical infrastructure, or personnel.
  2. Zaporizhzhia should not be used as storage or a base for heavy weapons (i.e., multiple rocket launchers, artillery systems and munitions, or tanks) or military personnel that could be used for an attack from the plant.
  3. Off-site power to the plant should not be put at risk. To that effect, all efforts should be made to ensure that off-site power always remains available and secure.
  4. All structures, systems, and components essential to the safe and secure operation of the plant should be protected from attacks or acts of sabotage.
  5. No action should be taken that undermines these principles.

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