(Bloomberg) — The last operating unit at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been shut down after the facility was reconnected to the electric grid, dialing back the danger level cited on Friday the UN’s atomic agency.
Ukraine’s Energoatom, operator of the plant in the nation’s southeast, said on Telegram that the No. 6 generator will be cooled down and preserved.
The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday called the situation at the plant “increasing precarious” after layers of safety-backup systems were rendered ineffective by a power outage.
On Saturday, several transmission lines, destroyed by recent shelling, was restored. Energoatom used power from the national grid to cool the unit and put it in the safest possible mode.
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Energoatom said it’s attempting to stock up on diesel fuel in case the power transmission line is damaged again. Diesel could then be used to sustain the isolated power plant and keep reactors cooled.
The atomic plan in Energodar, Europe’s largest and with a replacement value in the tens of billions of dollars, is seen as a war prize for President Vladimir Putin, who would like to redirect its energy output to Russia’s grid.
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Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly blamed each other for over a month of shelling in the vicinity of the plant. It’s the first time a military conflict has ever been waged around an operating atomic power station.
The IAEA has urgently recommended that a “safety and security zone” be established around the plant. An agency team, led by director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi, visited the facility this month — crossing an active battlefield for the first time in the IAEA’s 65-year history — and two monitors remain at the plant, which Ukrainian technicians continue to operate under scrutiny from Russia’s Rosatom.
Shutting down Zaporizhzhia for the balance of the Russia-Ukraine conflict is the safest option, a former IAEA safety official told Bloomberg News on Thursday in an Q&A session on Ukrainian nuclear risk.
“Every day the plant is completely shut down the easier it is to cool, although spent fuel ponds will need cooling (or even water brought via fire hoses),” said Robert Kelley, former IAEA safeguards director and ex-head of the US Department of Energy’s emergency radiological response unit.
“Planned shut down and an extended outage until the war is resolved is the safest course of action,” Kelley said.