The last operating reactor at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station has been shut down and the plant “completely stopped”, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator has said.
The six-reactor Zaporizhzhia plant was disconnected from the grid last week after all its power lines were disconnected as a result of fighting in the area, and was operating in “island mode” for several days, generating electricity for crucial cooling systems from its only remaining reactor in operation.
Energoatom, the state-run operator of all four of Ukraine’s nuclear power stations, said one of the power lines was restored on Saturday night, allowing plant operators to shut down the last reactor.
“A decision was made to shut down power unit No 6 and transfer it to the safest state – cold shutdown,” the operator said.
Electricity supply to the plant has been cut with increasing frequency over the past few weeks, including at least three times last week.
Energoatom said the risk of continued damage to the supply line “remains high” and that it did not want to risk the plant being powered by diesel generators, “the duration of which is limited by the technological resource and the amount of available diesel fuel”.
The plant was disconnected from the Ukrainian grid for the first time in its history on 25 August. Energoatom has called for a demilitarisation of the plant by Russian forces, who took control of the area in early March.
On Friday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said the situation at the plant was increasingly precarious, after its offsite electricity supply line was cut again.
Russia and Ukraine have traded blame over shelling of the plant and the nearby area. Ukraine claims Russia is carrying out attacks as part of a false-flag operation to blame Ukraine. Russia blames Ukraine’s forces.
Researchers and journalists have pointed to some evidence that supports part of Ukraine’s claims. However, the Guardian could not independently verify events at the power plant.
Rafael Grossi, the IAEA’s director general, warned last week that Ukraine was considering shutting down the plant because it “no longer had confidence in the offsite power”. Grossi did not apportion blame for the shelling of the plant.
Grossi said that if Ukraine decided not to restore the offsite supply, the entire power plant would be reliant on emergency diesel generators to ensure supplies for the nuclear safety and security functions. “As a consequence, the operator would not be able to restart the reactors unless offsite power was reliably re-established,” he said.
Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report