Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant relying on reserve line for power transmission, says IAEA

Warning comes hours after Turkey offered to mediate in dispute between Russia and Ukraine over the site

A Russian serviceman stands guard at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station. AP
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The global atomic energy watchdog says Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been disconnected from its last remaining main power line to the grid and is relying on a reserve line.

The plant, which has been seized by Russian troops, has become a focal point of the conflict, with each side blaming the other for nearby shelling. The other lines were lost earlier during the fighting.

“Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has once again lost the connection to its last remaining main external power line, but the facility is continuing to supply electricity to the grid through a reserve line,” the agency said on Saturday.

“Less than 48 hours after director general Rafael Mariano Grossi on Thursday established the presence of the IAEA support and assistance mission to ZaporizhzhIa at the facility in southern Ukraine, the agency's experts were told by senior Ukrainian staff that the ZNPP's fourth operational 750-kilovolt power line was down.”

“One reactor is still operating and producing electricity both for cooling and other essential safety functions at the site and for households, factories and others through the grid,” the IAEA said.

Explosions took place on Sunday at the Antonivsky bridge, near the occupied southern city of Kherson, according to posts on Telegram channels.

Ukraine began a counter-offensive last week targeting the south, particularly the Kherson region, which was seized by the Russians early in the conflict.

The bridge has been severely damaged by Ukrainian missiles over the past weeks, but Russian troops were trying to repair it or to set up a pontoon crossing or barges to maintain supplies to Russian units on the right bank of the Dnipro river.

A stand-off over Russian gas and oil exports intensified last week as Moscow vowed to keep its main gas pipeline to Germany shut and G7 countries announced a planned price cap on Russian oil exports.

Germany also on Sunday announced a relief plan worth €65 billion ($65 billion) for its people as it tries to slow rampaging inflation

The energy fight is a fallout from the invasion of Ukraine, underscoring the deep rift between Moscow and western nations as Europe steels itself for the cold months ahead.

“Russia is preparing a decisive energy blow on all Europeans for this winter,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on Saturday.

The IAEA report came hours after Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered on Saturday to mediate in the stand-off.

Mr Erdogan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that “Turkey can play a facilitator role in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as they did in the grain deal”.

Ukraine, one of the world's largest grain exporters, was forced to halt almost all deliveries after Russia invaded in late February, raising fears of a global food crisis.

Exports of grain across Black Sea ports resumed after Kyiv and Moscow signed a deal in July, with the UN and Turkey acting as guarantors.

There was no immediate mention of Mr Erdogan having also spoken to Mr Zelenskyy on Saturday to offer his mediation.

Last month, Mr Erdogan gave a warning about the risk of a nuclear disaster when he visited Lviv for talks with the Ukrainian leader.

The Turkish leader said he wanted to avoid “another Chernobyl”, referring to the world's worst nuclear accident in another part of Ukraine in 1986, when it was still part of the Soviet Union.

This week, a 14-strong team from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Zaporizhzhia, with Mr Grossi on Friday saying the site had been breached “several times” in fighting.

Ukraine has accused Russia of storing ammunition at Zaporizhzhia and stationing hundreds of soldiers there.

It also suspects Moscow is intending to divert power from the plant to the nearby Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014.

Updated: September 04, 2022, 6:02 PM