Russian forces have damaged all the power lines connecting the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) with Ukraine’s power system, thereby threatening the world with six reactors with nuclear material, the head of the Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom, Petro Kotin, told Radio NV on Aug. 25.
Energoatom reported in the afternoon of Aug. 25 that for the first time in its history, the Zaporizhzhya NPP had been completely disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid due to Russia’s actions. The next day it resumed operations, yet the situation there remains unstable. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe remains a hostage to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian nuclear energy operator Energoatom said that fires at the Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant’s ash dumps, which are located next to the ZNPP, on Aug. 25 led the last (fourth) power line between the ZNPP and Ukraine’s energy system being cut off at least two times. Three out of four connecting power lines at the ZNPP had previously been damaged by Russian troops stationed at the nuclear plant. Due to this, two operating reactors were disconnected from the electricity grid.
Kotin explained how such incidents threaten the world and what is happening at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
NV: The United Nations held a Security Council meeting dedicated to safety at the Zaporizhzhya NPP. You must have been following it very closely, the speeches. How important do you think it is to de-occupy the nuclear plant and ensure its safety?
Kotin: This is already the second meeting of the UN Security Council, the second in the last two weeks. It was initiated by Russia, this time they staged provocations at the ZNPP, and brought their propagandists there who filmed these provocations.
All this is aimed at convincing the world that it’s Ukraine that is shelling the ZNPP. But none of those present at the meeting believed in their propaganda. Instead, there was an unequivocal demand to free the ZNPP, to create a demilitarized zone around the nuclear plant, around the town of Enerhodar.
The actions of Russian invaders who are on the territory of the ZNPP is the main threat to nuclear and radiation safety, both to the nuclear plant itself and to the whole world.
NV: Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, suggested that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) consider a permanent presence for its representatives at the ZNPP. How has it been received and how do you think it can be implemented?
Kotin: As you know, the IAEA is planning a mission to the ZNPP, very soon, within one to two weeks. I think this mission will be on the territory of the ZNPP. This mission will include (IAEA Director General Rafael) Grossi himself, his deputies, his entourage, and several nuclear and radiation safety experts who are the main people who should be there to assess nuclear and radiation safety at the facility. First of all, its physical security, which has been completely violated.
We also expect they will assess the violation of safety standards on which the entire safety of the operation of these nuclear facilities is based, and which are the basis of the safety (standards) monitored by the IAEA. Six of them have been violated – we have evidence of that, and we hope this mission will document all violations.
After that, the decision to de-occupy the ZNPP and transfer control over it to the Ukrainian side should be the main result of this mission for us.
NV: Tell us, please, will Russian representatives be part of the IAEA mission?
Kotin: There are no Russian experts on the list. There are only experts from Western countries.
NV: That is, we can hope that the IAEA’s conclusions will be objective.
Kotin: Of course, we don’t just hope, we think that’s the only way it should happen, there’s no other way. Either the world is be threatened with a nuclear, radiation disaster due to the fact that the Russian invaders continue to stage their provocations there, remaining on the nuclear plant’s site, or, based on the results of the mission, we all together remove them from the territory of the ZNPP, and this will be the ultimate solution to the issue of restoring the safety of the ZNPP and ensuring its further operation.
NV: The last time we spoke with you, you said that there were two power lines left at the ZNPP, through which the nuclear plant transfers power, generated energy, to the power grid. What is the situation now?
Kotin: Only one out of four power lines are operating now. After we spoke to you, another line was damaged. The situation is very difficult there, since the nuclear plant produces its power only through this one line. There’s also a communication line between the Zaporizhzhya NPP and a thermal power plant. Then, electricity is transferred to the Ukrainian power grid along the lines that connect the thermal power plant with the power system.
But it’s very dangerous if these lines are damaged, and this line, the last one I talked about, it has already been damaged. It has now been restored, but it’s not 100% restored, it still requires additional work to bring it to full operational condition. If these two lines are damaged, the nuclear plant goes into blackout mode and a further scenario with diesel generators (to provide power for) fuel cooling is possible, which may lead to problems. And if there are problems with fuel cooling, there may already be consequences in the form of radioactive emissions from the nuclear plant itself.
This is a very dangerous scenario, and in fact we are very close to it. Compare it to peacetime, when the station operates, when there are four lines, all backup lines are connected, there are no alarms and everything works as usual: Now three lines are damaged, it’s crazy – power delivery is being carried out only through one line. If we lose this line due to shelling, there will be trouble.
NV: And what do you know about what caused the damage to the lines we’re talking about now?
Kotin: Two lines were damaged at the beginning of the Russian hostilities, there was shelling from the Russian side and the lines were damaged. One of the damaged lines, the Pivdenno-Donbas (South-Donbas) one, was damaged near Mariupol, while another one, connecting the ZNPP with Zaporizhzhya, was damaged on the contact line between Ukrainian troops and the Russian invaders.
It is in the direction of Zaporizhzhya, near Orikhiv. Another line, the Kakhovka line, was damaged directly at the Kakhovka substation, and it was also damaged near the ZNPP due to mortar shelling carried out by the Russian side, after which they accused the Ukrainian side of the provocations we have already talked about.
NV: At the same time, the Main Intelligence Directorate hs recently reported that the Russians are preparing false flag attacks at the ZNPP. In particular, all employees of Russian nuclear agency Rosatom stationed at the nuclear plant have been taken out from there. What do you know about such actions of the invaders, which are also sufficiently disturbing from the point of view of ensuring the authorized operation of the nuclear plant?
Kotin: Rosatom is at the scene at the plant, in a bunker that functions as a shelter for personnel in case of an emergency situation at the nuclear plant. Thus, our personnel at the nuclear plant remain unprotected, because this crisis center, where they remain now, (if full of) personnel from Rosatom, and there are also Russian soldiers, there are a lot of them there, they are constantly there.
As for shelling, they have two or three mortar brigades, which constantly change their location in the territory of the industrial zone of the town of Enerhodar and the nearby villages.
They move from place to place and just shell the industrial zone, the vicinity of Enerhodar to create a picture of the alleged shelling of the ZNPP and Enerhodar by the Ukrainian armed forces. In fact, everyone understands these are mortar attacks from the Russian invaders, because the time interval between the shot itself and after the explosion is from one to three seconds. When you are there on the spot, you can hear a shot, and you can also hear an explosion at the nuclear plant in one to three seconds.
Thus, it’s within a one-to-three kilometer radius of Enerhodar. Of course, there are no Ukrainian troops in this radius. It’s done by the invaders to create provocative actions. After that, as a rule, they start with mortar shelling and then start shelling Nikopol, Marhanets with Grad multiple launch rocket systems as a “response” to these false flag attacks after their accusations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Of course, this is Russia’s usual tactic, to lie and then blame the other side, and then actually punish it. This is exactly the same as their stories about Ukrainian Nazis here, etc. This characterizes them, they don’t change, they continue as they were.
NV: What do you know about the presence of Russian troops on the territory of the nuclear plant itself and technological premises?
Kotin: They’ve captured all the basements at the nuclear plant, they’re also in the crisis center, this is a shelter for personnel. It’s underground, at a depth of two meters – it’s very well protected, so that’s why they’re there. In addition, they’ve seized another premises of the same type, which is located on the territory of the nuclear plant, and which is used for the same purposes.
This is a technical assistance center, which is also provided so that in case of an emergency situation, personnel will gather there and manage the elimination of the consequences of such an emergency. The Zaporizhzhya NPP is now inoperable, the emergency response system at the nuclear plant is broken due to the fact that the facilities have been captured by these invaders.
In addition, they captured the premises of canteen No. 18, as well as partially seized the laboratory and household building No. 2. And the worst thing is that they’ve actually parked their military equipment inside the turbine halls of Reactors No. 1 and No. 2, under overpasses, near special buildings. There are up to 50 pieces of military equipment there, including infantry fighting vehicles. Three days ago, they brought in additional forces, including additional IFVs, additional radar stations, and manpower. All this was driven into the territory of the nuclear plant.
NV: There have been reports that the Russian invaders have mined the ZNPP. If an explosion or fire occurs there, the possible consequences will be 10 times greater than the consequences of the disaster at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. Please assess this threat, do you agree with this assessment and is the nuclear plant being mined, do you know of it?
Kotin: Of course, we know that the coastline where the station connects with the Kakhovka water reservoir is completely mined, the station is actually open to the Kakhovka water reservoir, its territory. It’s mined along the entire nuclear plant, the entire coastline. This is what they did from the very beginning, they’re still doing it, they’re fortifying their positions there.
As for the reactors themselves, yes, there is military hardware in the turbine halls, in the repair zone of the turbine halls, in the rear part of these turbine halls. They deployed 14 pieces of military equipment near reactor No. 1, all access is completely blocked there by these trucks.
Of course they are loaded, but we don’t know with what. Most likely, there are weapons, explosives, everything in those trucks. If there’s an accidental detonation, there will be a big fire and it will be impossible to put it out, because our fire teams won’t be able to get there, because they (Russians) have blocked the entrances with these vehicles. Firefighters won’t be able to get to the source of the fire to extinguish it.
Here is the situation, and this in itself is the mining of reactors. If there’s a fire, it will be impossible to put it out, there will be a fire in a large turbine hall, which will then spread to the reactor, after that we’ll have all the consequences. The nuclear fuel won’t cool due to the fact that the pumps will fail after the fire. After this, the reactor cores will melt and release radioactive substances into the air. And here it depends only on how much nuclear material is damaged – and there is a lot of nuclear material at the ZNPP.
There are six fully loaded reactors, and the spent fuel pools near each reactor are also fully loaded with nuclear material. And behind them, there’s is also an at-reactor dry storage facility, with 174 containers and 24 fuel assemblies in each container. This is a very large amount of nuclear material. If the Rashists (Russian fascists) set it as their goal, then it’s possible to cause a disaster there on a scale 10 times greater than what happened in Chornobyl.