Ukrainian nuke plant operating tenuously as war persists

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Europe’s largest nuclear power plant embroiled in Russia’s war in Ukraine is operating in emergency mode at a higher level of risk, Ukraine’s state nuclear energy operator said Friday.

The six-reactor Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant came under the control of Russian forces early in the war that started in February, but is being operated by Ukrainian staff. The plant and surrounding areas have been repeatedly hit by shelling that Russia and Ukraine blame on each other’s forces.

The last power line connecting the plant to the Ukrainian electricity grid was cut on Monday, leaving the plant without an outside source of electricity and receiving power for its own safety systems from the only one of the six reactors that remains operational.

Energoatom, the state nuclear operator, said Friday that repairs to the outside lines are impossible because of the shelling and that operating in the so-called “island” carries “the risk of violating radiation and fire safety standards.”

“Only the withdrawal of the Russians from the plant and the creation of a security zone around it can normalize the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP. Only then will the world be able to exhale,” Petro Kotin, the head of Energoatom, said Friday on Ukrainian TV.

Kotin explained in an interview with The Associated Press Thursday that the only operating reactor “can be stopped completely” at any moment and as a consequence of that, the only power source would be a diesel generator.

There are 20 generators on site and enough diesel fuel for 10 days. After that, about 200 tons of diesel fuel would be needed daily for the generators, which he said is “impossible” while the plant is occupied by Russian forces.

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