Ukraine Cuts Off Occupied Nuclear Plant’s Reactors Over Safety Concerns

On Thursday, the last two operational reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were briefly disconnected from Ukraine’s electrical system, officials in Kyiv said.

According to Ukraine’s nuclear agency, the move responded to concerns about adjacent fires that destroyed the area’s overhead power lines.

The news coincides with allegations from Ukrainian authorities that Russia had attempted to transfer power from the facility it has occupied to its own system.

Concerns about fighting near the plant, considered the largest in Europe, have also mounted.

On Thursday, Ukraine’s state nuclear agency said the flames at a nearby coal power plant interfered with the electrical lines, briefly cutting Zaporizhzhia off the national grid for the first time in its history.

In consequence, the station’s two operating power units had to be disconnected from the grid, the agency added.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned that having a secure off-site power source from the grid was essential to maintain nuclear safety.

At the same time, power outages were reported in nearby Russian-occupied towns and villages. Ukraine’s government accused neighboring Russia of intentionally trying to disconnect the Zaporizhzhia plant from the country’s network in order to reconnect it to its territory.

On Wednesday, satellite pictures from the area around the nuclear complex showed a large fire raging.

In his nighttime speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of pushing Europe and Ukraine “one step away” from calamity by bombarding the country. He blamed Russian aggression for the devastation.

However, Russian-appointed local governor Yevgeny Balitsky said the attacks had been caused by the Ukrainian military.

Local officials reported that radiation in the surrounding areas had remained at normal levels even though the nuclear plant had lost its power supply.

The IAEA released a statement on the matter, saying that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex had “remained connected to a 330kV line from the nearby thermal power facility that can provide back-up electricity if needed.”

The US government condemned any attempt by Russia to divert power generated by the nuclear plant out of the Ukrainian national grid, saying the electricity produced there rightfully belonged to Ukraine.

“No country should turn a nuclear power plant into an active war zone,” Washington officials said.