Ukraine says blackout at N-plant risked ‘accident’

Published December 3, 2023
A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia region. — Reuters
A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia region. — Reuters

KYIV: Ukraine said on Saturday that two power lines connecting its electricity grid to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were cut overnight, putting the plant at risk of an “accident”.

The plant has been at the centre of fighting since it was captured by Russian forces last year, and both sides have accused each other of compromising its safety.

“Due to the complete blackout, the nuclear power plant switched to powering its own needs from 20 diesel generators,” Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator said in a statement.

It said the plant was on “the verge of a nuclear and radiation accident” before Ukrainian specialists were able to promptly restore off-site power. The plant’s Russian-installed operator confirmed it resorted to diesel generators overnight, but said that it had operated within safe limits and that no safety violations were reported.

The incident marks the eighth time the plant has been cut off from external power since the conflict began last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned.

“The most recent external power outage is yet another reminder about the precarious nuclear safety and security situation at the plant, which can be affected by events far away from the site itself,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said.

“The IAEA continues to do everything it can to help prevent a nuclear accident. I also call on all parties not to take any action that could further endanger the plant,” he added. Since last year IAEA officials have been on the ground monitoring safety at the plant, which requires constant maintenance to prevent overheating.

It stopped supplying electricity to Ukraine’s grid in September 2022, and has been repeatedly rocked by shelling and drone attacks throughout the 21-month conflict.

Russian shelling

Russian shelling killed one civilian and destroyed two houses in the eastern Ukrainian town of Chasiv Yar on Saturday, the interior ministry said.

Chasiv Yar is less than five kilometres west of the frontline city of Bakhmut, which Russia claimed to have captured in May after a devastating, months-long assault.

“A civilian was killed and two houses were destroyed in Chasiv Yar during the enemy shelling,” Ukraine’s interior ministry said on social media.

The Ukrainian army said fighting also continued around the industrial town of Avdiivka further south, where Kyiv’s army has been clinging on despite a renewed Russian offensive. Although the frontlines have barely shifted in over a year, fighting has remained intense, with both sides hurrying to gain ground as temperatures plunge below freezing.

Fight for ghost town

Control over Maryinka, a town in eastern Ukraine all but destroyed by more than a year of fighting, remained uncertain on Friday, with unofficial reports suggesting Russian forces had registered some gains.

Most accounts of Maryinka, southwest of the Russian-held regional centre of Donetsk, des­cribe it as a ghost town amid daily reports of Ukrainian forces defending different districts.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2023

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