Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has been reconnected to Ukraine’s power grid, allowing engineers to shut down the last operational reactor in a bid to avoid a radiation disaster as fighting rages in the area.
The six-reactor power plant in Zaporizhzhya lost its external power source a week ago after all power lines were disconnected due to shelling. It operated in “island mode” for several days, generating electricity for critical cooling systems from the only remaining operational reactor.
Nuclear operator Energoatom said one of those power lines was restored to operational capacity late Saturday, making it possible to run the plant’s safety and other systems on electricity from Ukraine’s electricity system.
“Therefore, it has been decided to shut down power source No. 6 and transfer it to its safest state – cold shutdown,” the company said in a statement.
Energoatom said the risk remains that external power will be cut again, in which case the plant would have to start emergency diesel generators to keep the reactors cool and prevent a nuclear meltdown. The chief of the company told The The Bharat Express News on Thursday that the factory has only had diesel for 10 days.
The factory, one of the 10 largest nuclear power plants in the world, has been occupied by Russian troops since the beginning of the war. Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for shelling around the factory that damaged the power lines connecting the plant to the grid.
Energoatom renewed its call for Russian troops to leave the factory in Zaporizhzhia and allow the creation of a “demilitarized zone” around it.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog that has two experts at the plant, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday. The director has called for a safe zone around the factory to prevent disaster.