Russian-held nuclear plant disconnects from Ukraine grid for first time – Energoatom

FILE PHOTO – A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 22, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

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KYIV, Aug 25 (Reuters) – Ukraine's Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was completely disconnected from the Ukrainian grid for the first time ever on Thursday after nearby fires interfered with power lines, state nuclear company Energoatom said.

It said that fires broke out in the ash pits of a coal power station near the Zaporizhzhia reactor complex – Europe's largest nuclear facility – and interfered with power lines connecting the plant to the grid.

“As a result, the station's two working power units were disconnected from the network,” Energoatom said in a statement.

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“Thus, the actions of the invaders caused a complete disconnection of the (nuclear power plant) from the power grid – the first in the history of the plant,” it said.

The vast nuclear power plant supplied more than 20% of Ukraine's electricity needs and its loss would pile new strain on the government, which is already bracing for a difficult wartime winter of potentially crippling energy shortages.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February, captured the Zaporizhzhia plant in March and has controlled it since, although it continues to be operated by Ukrainian technicians from Energoatom.

Energoatom said the nuclear plant was still being supplied with power from Ukraine's energy system through a final power line between the plant and the coal power station.

But an energy official who declined to be identified told Reuters that the two reactors that had been disconnected were being powered by diesel generators.

Each power unit, which includes a reactor, a cooling system and other equipment, has three Soviet-era diesel generators that “are not able to work for weeks”, the source said.

A spokesperson for Energoatom denied the diesel generators had been switched on.

Energoatom said the plant's security systems were working normally and work was under way to reconnect one of the reactor blocks to the grid.

The power plant has six reactors in total.

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the site, fuelling international fears of the potential for a disastrous nuclear accident.

That has prompted calls for an urgent mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the site.

Officials from the U.N. nuclear watchdog are “very, very close” to being able to visit Zaporozhzhia, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said on Thursday.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Max Hunder, Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Catherine Evans, Tom Balmforth and Angus MacSwan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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