A vital offsite electricity supply to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been destroyed by shelling and there is little likelihood a reliable supply will be re-established, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog chief has said.
Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said shelling had destroyed the switchyard of a nearby thermal power plant.
The plant has supplied power to the nuclear facility each time its normal supply lines had been cut over the past three weeks. The thermal plant was also supplying the surrounding area, which was plunged into darkness.
Local Ukrainian officials said work was under way to restore the connection, which has been cut multiple times this week.
Grossi, who said he had been informed of the situation by IAEA representatives at the plant, called for an “immediate cessation of all shelling in the entire area”. “This is an unsustainable situation and is becoming increasingly precarious,” he said, without apportioning blame for the shelling.
Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for shelling near Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine and within the perimeter of Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, which has six reactors.
The thermal supply has been cut and restored multiple times this week and Enerhodar, the nearby town, has suffered several complete blackouts.
When the thermal supply has been cut the plant has relied on its only remaining operating reactor for the power needed for cooling and other safety functions. This method is designed to provide power only for a few hours at a time. Diesel generators are used as a last resort. The constant destruction of thermal power supply has led Ukraine to consider shutting down the remaining operating reactor, said Grossi. Ukraine “no longer [has] confidence in the restoration of offsite power”, he said.
Grossi said that if Ukraine decided not to restore the offsite supply the entire power plant would be reliant on emergency diesel generators to ensure supplies for the nuclear safety and security functions.
“As a consequence, the operator would not be able to restart the reactors unless offsite power was reliably re-established,” he said.
Enerhodar’s mayor in exile, Dmytro Orlov, said on Friday that work was under way to fix the switchyard and restore the supply from the thermal plant to the town, most of which was still suffering a blackout.
The development came as diplomats from Canada and Poland prepare to submit a draft resolution to be voted on by the IAEA’s board of governors, according to Reuters. The IAEA acts the international nuclear watchdog under the United Nations.
The draft text, seen by Reuters, implores Russia to leave the power plant and for control over the plant to be given to the competent authorities within Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders. The text is expected to be passed, according to diplomats cited by Reuters.