Zelensky Warns: 'One Step Away From Radiation Disaster'

Russian shelling forces plant to be disconnected from Ukraine power grid
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2022 1:00 AM CDT
Updated Sep 6, 2022 5:46 AM CDT
Zelensky's Warning: 'One Step Away From Radiation Disaster'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a news conference after the Crimea Platform Summit in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022.   (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko)

Russian shelling on Monday brought down "the last power transmission line connecting the [Zaporizhzhia nuclear power] plant to the energy system of Ukraine," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, leaving the facility—Europe's largest nuclear plant—"one step away from a radiation disaster." He asked the international community to recognize Russia as a terrorist state, the Hill reports. A backup power line was not damaged, but "was deliberately disconnected in order to extinguish a fire" caused by shelling, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it was informed by Ukraine Monday. Six IAEA experts arrived at the plant last week for an assessment and will soon report on their findings; two of them had already planned to remain on site to monitor the ongoing situation.

The AP reports that the disconnection of the backup power line knocked the plant off Ukraine's electricity grid, but the IAEA stressed that "the ZNPP continues to receive the electricity it needs for safety from its sole operating reactor." It continues, "After the ZNPP’s connection to its last remaining operational 750 kilovolt (kV) line was lost late on Friday, the 330 kV reserve line had been used to deliver electricity from the ZNPP to the grid. Ukraine informed IAEA that this back-up line will be re-connected once the fire has been extinguished. One of the ZNPP’s six reactors continues to produce the electricity the plant requires for cooling and other nuclear safety functions. The reactor will be connected to the grid when the 330 kV line is switched on again."

Outside experts did sound alarmed. "This is a real, dangerous situation. It’s not just Ukrainians who are worried about it," a former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) intelligence officer told Fox News. "International experts in nuclear security have been concerned for the past several months. Structurally the plant is degraded to the point where it’s on its last leg." An independent analyst tells the AP the plant is likely in “island mode,” meaning it is only producing electricity for its own operations, and says, “Island mode is a very shaky, unstable, and unreliable way to provide continuous power supply to a nuclear plant." (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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