RUSSIA/UKRAINE: The last regular line supplying electricity to Ukraine’s Russia-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is back in service after being cut earlier on Thursday, the United Nations said, an outage that underscores the potential danger posed by fighting in the area.
Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said earlier that the fires broke out in the ash pits of the coal plant near the Zaporizhia reactor complex, the largest such facility in Europe, and severed lines connecting the plant to Ukraine’s electricity grid.
“As a result, two working power units of the station were disconnected from the grid,” Energoatom said in a statement.“So the actions of the attackers caused a complete shutdown…, the first in the history of the plant,” he added.
The last supply of electricity to the plant was restored later in the day, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog, said in a statement.
Ukraine told the IAEA that “the ZNPP… lost connection to the power line at least twice during the day, but is currently back in operation,” it said, adding that information on the direct cause of the outage was not immediately available.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February, captured the Zaporizhia power plant in March and has controlled it ever since, although it is still operated by Ukrainian technicians from Energoatom.
Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling the site, fueling fears of a possible nuclear disaster.Nuclear experts warned of the risk of damaging the plant’s spent nuclear fuel pools or its reactors. Another concern is the power outages needed to cool the pools to prevent catastrophic collapse.
The United Nations is seeking access to the plant and has called for the area to be demilitarized. IAEA officials are “very, very close” to visiting Zaporizhzhia, the agency’s director general Rafael Grossi said Thursday.
As the war entered its seventh month, Russia said its forces had attacked a railway station in eastern Ukraine the previous day, confirming an attack that Kyiv said also hit a residential area and killed 25 civilians as the nation celebrated Independence Day.
The Russian Defense Ministry said an Iskander missile hit a military train at the Chaplyne station, which was ready to deliver weapons to Ukrainian forces on the frontlines in the eastern Donbas region.
Ukrainian officials said 21 people were killed when the station was hit and five carriages caught fire, and a boy died when a missile hit his house nearby. The death toll rose to 25 on Thursday after three more bodies were pulled from the rubble, they said.
The Russian ministry said 200 Ukrainian soldiers died in the attack. Moscow denies targeting civilians and has said rail infrastructure is a legitimate target because it is used to supply Ukraine with Western weapons.
But the UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine said she was shocked by the attack, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it “fits a pattern of atrocities”.
The fighting in the area around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant has been a reason of concern for the whole world. The sprawling complex supplied more than 20% of Ukraine’s electricity consumption, and its loss would pile new pressure on the government.
Energoatom previously said the plant’s safety systems were operating normally and work was underway to reconnect one of the reactor units to the grid. The power plant has a total of six reactors.
Russia’s Novosti news agency reported that security systems in Zaporizhzhia were activated on Thursday after power outages were reported in Russian-controlled territories.
The Ukrainian Minister of Energy stated that representatives of the IAEA could travel to the power plant in Zaporizhia in the coming days.
“The visit is planned,” German Galushchenko told Reuters in Kyiv. “Definitely the beginning of September at the latest.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke over the phone with US President Joe Biden on Thursday, who reiterated the US’s support for Ukraine against Russia, the White House said.
“We discussed Ukraine’s next steps on our path to victory over the aggressor and the importance of holding Russia accountable for war crimes,” Zelensky tweeted.