Zaporizhzhya NPP shut down after disconnection of last reactor

11 September, 03:05 PM
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant completely ceased operations in the early hours of Sept. 11 (Photo:energoatom.com.ua)

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant completely ceased operations in the early hours of Sept. 11 (Photo:energoatom.com.ua)

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), occupied by Russian military forces, completely ceased operations in the early hours of Sept. 11, after the 6th reactor was disconnected from the power grid, the Ukraine’s nuclear operator, Energoatom, reported on Telegram.

"Today, Sept. 11, 2022, at night at 03:41 a.m., ZNPP reactor 6 was disconnected from the power grid,” Energoatom stated.

“Preparations are underway for its cooling and transfer to a cold state.”

For the last three days, the 6th reactor has been operating in an “island” mode - feeding only the ZNPP's own needs at a critically low power level (from 114 to 140 MW), since all lines linking the ZNPP with the Ukrainian electrical grid had been damaged due to Russian shelling.

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Last night, after the restoration of one of these lines, it became possible to supply ZNPP with power from Ukraine’s grid. As a precaution, Energoatom decided to shut down reactor No. 6 and transfer it to the safest state — a cold shutdown, the operator explained.

They noted that in case of repeated damage to power lines — the risk of which remains high — the ZNPP will be supplied with power from diesel generators for its needs, the service life of which is limited by the volume of available diesel fuel, and durability of the generators themselves.

Energoatom added that they are taking all possible measures to organize the supply of additional diesel fuel to ZNPP.

"To prevent an emergency situation at the plant, it is necessary to stop the rascist shelling of ZNPP communication lines with the power system and create a demilitarized zone around it,” the statement reads.

“After that, it will be possible to repair the communication lines, ensure the launch and further safe operation of ZNPP.”

On Aug. 25, for the first time in history, the ZNPP was completely disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid. President Zelenskyy said that invading Russian forces were attempting to reconnect it to the Russian grid, but unsuccessfully. The next day, the plant resumed electricity production for the needs of Ukraine.

On Sept. 3, the ZNPP was again disconnected from the grid. The facility continued to supply electricity to the power system of Ukraine through a backup power line, but due to its insufficient capacity, as well as the continuous shelling by the Russian military, it was necessary to shut down reactor No. 5.

Only the 6th reactor remained in operation, which provided a limited supply of electricity to Ukraine’s grid through the reserve line, and provided for its own needs — in particular, cooling the reactors. A meltdown risk is possible if these cooling systems fail.

On Sept. 9, the International Atomic Energy Agency stated that it was "no longer confident in the restoration of an external power supply" and that it was considering the possibility of shutting down the only operating reactor. In this case, the operator will not be able to restart the reactors without a reliable restoration of external power supply.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said that the situation at the ZNPP is becoming more and more dangerous and called for an immediate cessation of all shelling in the area of the plant, without specifying who is responsible.

Earlier, President Zelenskyy said that Ukraine would not consider the option of a controlled closure of the nuclear plant to prevent radiation leakage, as the plant provides energy to two oblasts of Ukraine.

Russian troops seized the ZNPP, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, near the beginning of the full-scale war, on March 4. Employees of the plant are being held hostage and forced to work under incredibly high-pressure conditions. There are Russian military and Rosatom, the Russian nuclear operator, employees at the plant.

The Russian army have deployed military equipment onto ZNPP premises, in particular in the turbine hall of the first reactor. In addition, Russian forces have set up firing positions at ZNPP and are shelling Ukrainian cities from there, using the plant as a "nuclear shield".

The situation at ZNPP has been in the spotlight since early August, when the Russian military began to regularly shell the plant, creating the risk of a nuclear disaster.

By shelling the territory of ZNPP, Russia is trying to disconnect the plant from Ukraine's grid and gain full control over it. To do this, in particular, the Russian military is breaking the power lines connecting ZNPP with the power system of Ukraine, blaming it on the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Amid the ongoing shelling, Ukraine called on the UN to send an IAEA mission as soon as possible and establish a demilitarized zone on the territory of ZNPP.

Following the visit, the IAEA head said that the physical integrity of the Zaporizhzhya NPP had been violated several times, which is unacceptable. Grossi promised an "impartial" and "neutral" assessment of the situation.

On Sept. 6, the IAEA published their report of the situation at the plant. The agency called for temporary measures to prevent a nuclear accident, in particular to establish a safe zone around the plant.

Zelenskyy stressed that the world needs the IAEA representatives to "force" the aggressor country to demilitarize the territory of the nuclear power plant and return it to full control of Ukraine, and for this, according to him, "the world must have the appropriate means".

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