The head of Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator on Thursday accused Russia of trying to steal Europe’s largest nuclear power plant by cutting it off Ukraine’s power grid and leaving it on the brink of a radiation disaster.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been without an external power source since Monday, drawing power for its own safety systems from the only one of its six reactors still operational, Enerhoatom chief Petro Kotin told The Associated Press.
We’re trying to keep that unit running as much as possible, but eventually it’ll have to shut down and then the station will switch to diesel generators, he said, adding that such generators are “the station’s last defense against a radiation accident.” .
Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for the shelling that damaged parts of the plant as well as the transmission lines that connect it to Ukraine’s power grid and provide power for the critical cooling systems needed to prevent a meltdown.
The head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, warned the UN Security Council this week that something very, very catastrophic could happen at the plant and called on Russia and Ukraine to establish a nuclear safe and secure zone around them .
Kotin said the Russians have a crazy idea to switch the ZNPP to the Russian power system; In fact, they are trying to steal the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine and steal all the electricity it produces.
He said the Russians gave plant management a 10-page plan about three or four weeks ago to connect the plant to the Crimean power grid, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.
On the same day, the Russians began shelling the power lines connecting the power plant to the Ukrainian grid, and on Monday the final line was cut, Kotin said.
This left the power plant in island mode, meaning it receives power from its only operational reactor, a highly unusual and unstable way of operating a nuclear power plant that he said shouldn’t last more than two hours, but for now has been in effect for more than 3 days.
The unit can be shut down completely at any time, after which the sole power source for the entire nuclear power plant will be a diesel generator, he said. While there are 20 generators on site, if one of these diesel generators fails, the consequences can be very deplorable and bad for the ZNPP’s radiation hazard.
Kotin said the facility has enough diesel fuel for 10 days. After that, around 200 tons of diesel fuel for the generators had to be brought in every day, which he said was impossible while the plant was occupied by Russian forces.
He said connecting the plant to Russia’s power grid is also virtually impossible given the hostilities in the region.
Kotin told AP that there was no solution other than disbanding the ZNPP, handing over the facility to the control of the Ukrainian side or international security organizations.
The ZNPP was seized by Russian forces early in the war, but it is still run by Ukrainian engineers who, according to Kotin, work under intense psychological pressure.
I can say that most of the people working there are pro-Ukrainian. Anyone who openly expressed this pro-Ukrainian position was grabbed, abused, beaten, he said.
Meanwhile, fighting near the plant continued as the towns of Nikopol and Marhanets, which face the plant across the Dnieper, came under Russian shelling overnight, damaging apartment buildings, a school, some industrial plants and power lines, governor Valentyn of the Dnepropetrovsk province said Reznichenko.
The nuclear threat is not abating because of Russia’s insane actions, and we must consider all possible scenarios, including the worst, Reznichenko said in a televised address.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk called on residents of Russian-held areas near the power plant to evacuate, adding that Ukrainian authorities had asked the Russians to set up humanitarian corridors to evacuate residents, but no response would have received.
In the northeastern Kharkiv region, Ukrainian forces have retaken parts of Russian-held territory as a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south drained some of Moscow’s resources in the region, according to a report released on Wednesday.
Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region are likely to take advantage of the redeployment of Russian forces to areas near the occupied southern city of Kherson to stage an opportunistic but highly effective counteroffensive in the province, the Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War said.
Ukrainian forces likely used a tactical surprise to advance at least 12 miles (20 kilometers) into Russian-held territory in the Kharkiv region on Wednesday and retake about 155 square miles (400 square kilometers), the report said.
Brig. General Oleksiy Gromov, the head of the Main Operations Branch of the General Staff of Ukraine’s military, said at a briefing on Thursday that Ukrainian troops had regained control of over 20 settlements in the Kharkiv region and forged their way up to 50 kilometers deep into those of Russia this week occupied territories.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday Balakliya, a town of 25,000 people and a major rail hub, is one of the municipalities recaptured by Ukrainian forces.
Everything is in its place. The flag of Ukraine in a free Ukrainian city under a free Ukrainian sky! he told news app Telegram.
The gains came as Ukraine continued to launch a counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region.
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