Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the world had narrowly avoided a “radiation catastrophe” as the last regular line supplying electricity to Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was restored hours after it was cut by shelling.
Officials of the Ukrainian President International Atomic Energy Agency said Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, should be granted emergency access to the site.
Zelenskiy blamed a fire in the ash pits of a nearby coal-fired power plant after Russia’s military shelled it on Thursday, cutting the nuclear reactor complex, Europe’s largest facility, off the grid. He said back-up diesel generators ensured power supply and kept the plant safe.
“Had our station staff not acted after the blackout, we would have already been forced to deal with the consequences of the radiation accident,” he said in an evening speech. “Russia put Ukraine And all Europeans are in a situation one step away from a radiation disaster.
IAEA officials must access the site within days, “before the occupiers take the situation to the point of no return,” he said.
Negotiations are underway for the UN’s nuclear watchdog to visit the site, and Ukraine’s top nuclear official told the Guardian that IAEA inspectors could arrive by the end of the month.
Until then, the fight continues to put the plant, and the most possible Europe, at risk. A nuclear accident could spread radiation across the continent.
Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said Thursday’s incident marked the plant’s first complete shutdown in nearly 40 years of operation. Electricity is used for cooling and security systems.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February, seized the plant in March and took control of it, although Ukrainian technicians still operate it.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling each other, fueling fears of a nuclear holocaust. The White House made the call Russia After Joe Biden spoke to Zelensky on Thursday, he must agree to a demilitarized zone around the plant.
The US State Department warned Russia against diverting energy from the site.
“The electricity it produces rightfully belongs to Ukraine and any attempt to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid and redirect it to the occupied territories is unacceptable,” spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters. “No country should turn a nuclear plant into a serious war zone, and we oppose any Russian efforts to weaponize or divert energy from the plant.”
The IAEA said Ukraine reported the plant had temporarily lost connectivity, “further underlining the urgent need for an IAEA expert mission to travel to the facility”.
“We can’t lose any more time. I am determined to personally lead the IAEA mission to the plant in the next few days,” said the agency’s director-general, Raffaele Grassi.
Writing in Telegram, Vladimir Rokov, a Russian-appointed official in the occupied town of Enerhodar near the plant, said satellite photos showed local forest fires. He said towns in the region were without power for several hours on Thursday.
“This was due to the disconnection of power lines from the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant as a result of provocations by Zelensky’s militants,” Rokov said. “Fire and short circuit in power lines caused disconnection.”
Nuclear experts have warned of the risk of damaging the plant’s spent nuclear fuel pools or its reactors. Cuts in electricity needed to cool ponds can cause catastrophic meltdowns.
Concerns are growing internationally Safety at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. It has been occupied by Russian forces since the beginning of the war, and now they use it to house military vehicles and equipment.
The complex supplies more than 20% of Ukraine’s electricity needs and its loss would pile new pressure on the government.
President of Energoatom told the Guardian Russian engineers on Wednesday drew up a plan to permanently disconnect the plant from the national grid and connect it to the Russian power grid instead. Petro Godin said he aimed to maintain power to the plant if all connections to Ukraine were severed by the fighting, as was the case on Thursday. But Ukraine fears that Russia could deliberately cross the lines.
Russian and Ukrainian forces have reached a relative stalemate in recent months, in part after the West provided new long-range missiles, blocking Russia’s supply lines and its ability to continue its offensive. Ukraine says it does not have the weapons it needs to launch a decisive counterattack.
With Reuters and Agence France-Presse