Planet Labs PBC via AP
KYIV, Ukraine – The nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, controlled by Russia and at the center of many international concerns, has announced the shutdown of the last working reactor.
In a message on Sunday morning, nuclear operator Energoatom said power lines had been restored to the Zaporizhzhia plant but they were shutting down the No. 6 reactor, preparing it to be cooled and transferred to a safer state.
Due to shelling in and around the area, the entire plant was cut off from the power grid for several days, with the single reactor operating, in “island mode”, essentially powering the rest of the plant’s crucial cooling systems.
The owners discussed closing the plant due to electricity problems and the condition of Ukrainian workers.
NPR understands that it believes the shutdown solution is the “best option available, but temporary.” There are fears that the power lines accessing the network could be damaged again.
In this case, the plant would have to turn on emergency diesel generators to keep the reactors cool and avoid a nuclear meltdown. The head of the company said on Thursday that the plant only had diesel fuel for 10 days.
The plant, one of the 10 largest nuclear power plants in the world, has been occupied by Russian forces since the start of the war. Ukraine and Russia blamed each other for bombing the plant which damaged the power lines connecting it to the grid.
In a statement issued on Sunday morning, Energoatom urged Russian forces to leave the Zaporizhzhia plant and allow the creation of a “demilitarized zone” around it.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog that has two experts at the plant, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday. Its manager called for a safety zone around the factory to avoid a disaster.
Material from The Associated Press has been included in this report.