26th Sep 2022

Backup generator deployed to prevent Ukraine nuclear disaster

  • 'If our station staff had not reacted after the blackout, then we would have already been forced to overcome the consequences of a radiation accident," Ukraine president Volodmyr Zelensky said (Photo: Al Jazeera screengrab)
Listen to article

Electricity to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was cut off for several hours which could have resulted in nuclear disaster, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address on Thursday evening (25 August).

Zelensky blamed Russian forces for shelling in the area, which caused a fire in a nearby coal power station, causing blackouts in the power grid.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Zelensky said the plant's Ukrainian staff prevented disaster by quickly switching on the backup diesel generators.

"If our station staff had not reacted after the blackout, then we would have already been forced to overcome the consequences of a radiation accident," he said.

Ukrainian officials told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, that Europe's largest nuclear power plant lost connection to its primary power source "at least twice" on Thursday.

Its backup generator can power its cooling systems, but its two operating reactor units remain disconnected from the electricity grid.

If emergency power to the plant's security systems is disrupted, water used to cool down spent fuel rods will heat up and evaporate. Without coolant, the fuel rods become vulnerable to catching fire, causing explosions which would release radiation into the atmosphere.

According to the Ukraine state nuclear company Energoatom, this was the first complete disconnection in the plant, which was captured by Russian forces in March but is still operated by Ukrainian technicians.

The facility normally has four external power lines, but three of them were lost earlier during the conflict.

"Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans in a situation one step away from a radiation disaster," Zelensky said, urging that UN officials be given access to the site.

IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi said he would personally lead a visit to the site in the "next few days."

"Almost every day, there is a new incident at or near [the Zaporizhzhia facility]", he tweeted on Thursday. "We can't afford to lose any more time."

"Russia should agree to the demilitarised zone around the plant and agree to allow an International Atomic Energy Agency visit as soon as possible," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told press.

But writing on Telegram, Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in the occupied town of Enerhodar near the plant, denied any wrongdoing on Russia's part and said that the blackout was caused "as a result of provocations by Zelenskiy's fighters."

France, Germany, UK and US discuss Ukraine nuclear plant

The leaders of the United States, Germany, France and the UK held a conference call on Sunday, where they discussed Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, amid an evacuation of some 1,000 nearby residents.


How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes

A Special Tribunal on Russian war crimes in Ukraine must be convened, because no permanent or existing international judicial institution is endowed with jurisdiction over Russian high-ranking officials, writes the head of the Ukraine delegation to the Council of Europe.

EU sanctions hamstrung by threat to food security

The EU has lifted some restrictions on the trade and financing of Russian coal and chemical to avoid an energy and food security crisis in poorer countries, but the upcoming ban on oil may have an even deeper impact.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. 'Grazie Italia': Far-right wins power in Rome
  2. How the EU is failing to help the hippo
  3. Germany sued over air pollution levels
  4. Meloni mood and energy in focus This WEEK
  5. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  6. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  7. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  8. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us