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Ukraine sounded the alarm on Saturday, revealing that two crucial power lines linking its electricity grid to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were severed overnight. This unprecedented blackout put the nuclear facility at the brink of a potential “nuclear and radiation accident,” according to Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator.
Plant’s Struggle Amidst Conflict
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been a focal point of conflict since its capture by Russian forces last year. Both sides have traded accusations, blaming each other for compromising the safety of the plant. The recent blackout exacerbated the precarious situation at the facility, intensifying concerns about its nuclear safety and security.
Emergency Measures Taken
In response to the blackout, the nuclear power plant had to resort to powering its essential needs using 20 diesel generators. The incident marked the eighth time the plant experienced an external power outage since the conflict’s onset, as highlighted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
While Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator issued a statement asserting that the plant was on the verge of a nuclear accident before Ukrainian specialists intervened to restore off-site power, AFP was unable to immediately verify these claims. The Russian-installed operator of the plant confirmed the use of diesel generators but maintained that it operated within safe limits, with no reported safety violations.
Ongoing Safety Concerns
The IAEA, which has been actively monitoring safety at the Zaporizhzhia plant since last year, raised serious concerns about the facility’s nuclear safety and security. Rafael Grossi, the chief of IAEA, emphasized that the recent blackout serves as a stark reminder of the precarious situation at the plant, vulnerable to events beyond its immediate surroundings.
Urgent Plea for Caution
Grossi urged all parties involved in the conflict not to take any actions that could further endanger the plant. The IAEA has consistently worked to prevent a nuclear accident, emphasizing the need for collective responsibility in safeguarding the facility.
Ongoing Challenges and Conflict Impact
Since September 2022, the Zaporizhzhia plant has ceased supplying electricity to Ukraine’s grid. Throughout the 21-month conflict, the facility has been subjected to shelling and drone attacks, further compromising its stability and safety.
The international community closely watches the developments at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, highlighting the critical need for cooperation to prevent a potential nuclear disaster.