October 1, 2022

The last reactor at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been shut down

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has been reconnected to Ukraine’s electricity grid after engineers allowed it to shut down its last operating reactor in an effort to avoid a radiation disaster as fighting in the region escalated.

The six-reactor Saporigia plant lost its external power a week ago after shelling cut all its power lines. It operated in “island mode” for days, generating electricity for critical cooling systems from its only remaining operational reactor.

Nuclear operator Energoatom said one of those power lines was restored to “its operational capacity” late Saturday, making it possible to run the plant’s safety and other systems on electricity from Ukraine’s power system.

“Therefore, it was decided to shut down Power Unit No. 6 and put it in a safe state – cold shutdown,” the company said in a statement.

Outside, the risk of another blackout is high, and if that happens, emergency diesel generators will need to be fired to keep the reactors cool and prevent a nuclear meltdown. The company’s president told The Associated Press on Thursday that the plant has only 10 days of diesel fuel.

The plant, one of the world’s 10 largest nuclear power plants, has been occupied by Russian forces since the early stages of the war. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of firing shells around the plant and damaging power lines.

Energoatom renewed its plea to allow Russian forces to leave the Zaporizhzhia plant and create a “militarized zone” around it.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog that has two experts on the plant, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday. Its director has called for a safe zone around the plant to avoid disaster.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine