The Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine lost connection to its last external power line due to shelling while International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were present, according to the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog.
A statement from the IAEA on Saturday added that the facility is continuing to supply electricity through a reserve line. The ZNPP previously had four main lines providing external power, but three have been destroyed in the fighting. Only one of the six reactors is still in operation at the plant.
“Our team on the ground received direct, fast and reliable information about the latest significant development affecting the plant’s external power situation, as well as the operational status of the reactors. We already have a better understanding of the functionality of the reserve power line in connecting the facility to the grid. This is crucial information in assessing the overall situation there,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said.
“The great value of finally having the IAEA permanently present at the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant is already abundantly clear. It is a game changer,” he added, saying that he is in close contact with Ukrainian and Russian authorities.
A reserve line that connects the ZNPP with a nearby thermal power plant is being used to supply the ZNPP’s generated electricity to the power grid. The Ukrainian staff told IAEA inspectors that this line can also be used to supply backup power if needed, per the statement from the U.N. nuclear watchdog. The one remaining reactor itself is also providing energy for cooling and other essential functions at the plant.
The newest developments come just days after Russia claimed to have repelled several assaults by Ukrainian special forces, who they asserted were trying to seize control of the plant in advance of the arrival of IAEA inspectors.
“On September 2, at about 11.00 PM (Moscow time), two groups of a total of 42 cutters and motor boats with over 250 servicemen from special operation forces and foreign mercenaries on board made an attempt to disembark at the shore of Kakhovka reservoir near Energodar and Dneproprudnoye,” a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense said, referring to the town adjacent to the ZNPP. “The manpower (sic) was attacked by 4 Su-30 and 2 Ka-52 helicopters of Russian Aerospace Forces that has resulted in the elimination of 20 cutters and boats. The rest of the vessels turned back and headed towards the Ukrainian coast.”
Russia made a similar claim on Sept. 1, claiming that a surprise attempted landing by Ukrainian forces near the ZNPP was repulsed.
Ukraine has not commented on the allegations.
The IAEA inspectors at the ZNPP aim to “assess the physical damage to the plant’s facilities, determine the functionality of the main and back-up safety and security systems and evaluate the staff’s working conditions, in addition to performing urgent safeguards activities on the site,” the statement from the IAEA read. They are also preparing a detailed report on the situation at the plant, to be released in the coming days.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and provides a quarter of Ukraine’s electricity. It was seized by Russian forces early in the war and has since been the site of continuous shelling. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for attacks on the plant.