Operations at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine have been fully stopped as a safety measure, Energoatom, the state agency in charge of the plant, said on Sunday, Sept. 11.
The plant “is completely stopped” after the agency disconnected the number 6 power unit from the grid at 3:41 a.m. (0041 GMT), it said in a statement. “Preparations are underway for its cooling and transfer to a cold state.”
Kyiv on Wednesday called for residents of Russian-occupied areas around the plant, Europe’s largest, to evacuate for their own safety.
Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling the nuclear plant, risking a nuclear disaster.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for the surrounding area to be demilitarized.
Energoatom said that on Saturday it restored to operational capacity a communications line to the power system, which it said had been damaged by Russian shelling, allowing the plant to be powered by Ukraine’s energy system.
“Therefore, a decision was made to shut down power unit No. 6 and transfer it to the safest state – cold shutdown,” it said. It said the risk of further damage to the line “remains high”, which would force the plant to be “powered by diesel generators, the duration of which is limited by the technological resource and the amount of available diesel fuel.”
Putin, Macron trade blame over nuclear plant security
The presidents of Russia and France held talks on Sunday regarding safety at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, with Vladimir Putin blaming Ukrainian forces while Emmanuel Macron pointed the finger at Russian troops.
Separate readouts from Russia’s Kremlin and the French leader’s Elysee Palace highlighted the difficulties in trying to find an accord to ensure safety at the site.
“The Russian side drew attention to regular Ukrainian attacks on the plant’s facilities, including radioactive waste storage, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences,” said a statement published on the Kremlin’s website.
It called for a “non-politicised interaction” on the matter with the participation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In its statement, the French presidency said the occupation by Russian troops of the plant was what was putting it at risk.
“He (Macron) asked that Russian forces withdraw their heavy and light weapons from it (Zaporizhzhia) and that the IAEA’s recommendations be followed to ensure safety at the site,” the Elysee said.
The IAEA has called for a security zone to be established around the site.
On Sunday, the agency said a backup power line to the plant had been restored, providing it with the external electricity it needs to cool its reactors and defend against the risk of a meltdown. State agency Energoatom had earlier said it halted operations at the plant as a safety step.
Macron would remain in contact with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “as well as the director general of the IAEA, and will speak again in the coming days with President Putin so that an accord to guarantee security at the power plant can be found,” the Elysee said.
By Reuters. (Reporting by Reuters; writing by Lidia Kelly and John Irish; editing by William Mallard, Guy Faulconbridge, John Stonestreet and Catherine Evans)