For the sixth time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has shut down the power grid.
After another blackout at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has asked for a safe zone, saying he was “amazed by the complacency” of the organization he heads, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Russian troops on Thursday bombed several Ukrainian cities while people slept, killing at least six civilians, shutting off power and forcing Europe’s largest nuclear power plant offline for the sixth time since they began invading Moscow last year.
The last power outage at the site was on November 23, 2022, Rafael Grossi told the IAEA Board of Directors at a meeting on Thursday.
“What are we doing to prevent this? [from] Event? We are the IAEA, we are supposed to take care of nuclear safety,” he said.
“Every time we roll the dice. And if we keep letting that happen, one day we will run out of luck.”
The agency has deployed expert teams at all four of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants to reduce the risk of major accidents.
ZNPP, held by Russia, can run diesel generators for 10 days. Nuclear power plants require constant energy to run cooling systems and avoid a meltdown, and fears remain about the possibility of a disaster in Zaporizhia.
As with previous attacks, Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the recent blackout.
Grossi has long tried to get both sides into a deal, promising not to fire on or off the facility and removing heavy weapons.
After the attack, the plant lost all external power and relied on diesel generators, a last line of defense to prevent a meltdown from reactor fuel overheating, the IAEA confirmed.
“Around 5 a.m. local time this morning, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant lost all external power supply when its last remaining 750 kilovolt line was disconnected, the only remaining 330 kilovolt backup line was damaged a few days ago and is being repaired.” The shared the IAEA on Thursday.
In his statement to the IAEA Executive Board, Grossi stressed: “This is the sixth time – let me say it again, the sixth time – that the ZNPP has lost all external power and has had to operate in this emergency mode. I would like to remind you that this is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. What do we do? How can we sit here in this room this morning and allow this to happen? It can not go on like this.”
The first major volley of missile attacks since mid-February shattered the longest period of comparative calm since Russia launched a campaign to attack Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure five months ago.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said infrastructure and residential buildings in 10 Ukrainian regions were hit.