Military action continues around Zaporizhzhia NPP as Ukrainian troops try to seize the plant

20 October 2022

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has restored the connection to its last remaining operating 750 kV power line after it was lost for the third time in ten days, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said.

IAEA experts present at the ZNPP site were informed by senior Ukrainian operating personnel that the connection was re-established at 9:30pm local time on 17 October, almost 18 hours after the line was disconnected by a protection system that automatically takes such action when the voltage drops too low.

The repeated outages show how precarious the nuclear safety and security situation continues to be at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant during the current military conflict in Ukraine. They also underline the need to establish a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the facility, following frequent shelling at or near the plant in recent months, Grossi said.

During the ZNPP’s previous two external power cuts – on 8 and 12 October, respectively – the plant’s emergency diesel generators provided the back-up electricity needed for reactor cooling and other essential safety functions. However, on 17 October, the ZNPP continued to receive power from an off-site 330 kV line that supplies electricity through a back-up system that was restored late last week.  With today’s re-connection of the 750 kV line, the ZNPP now has both available, although its power situation remains fragile, Grossi noted.

Separately, the IAEA team on site has learned of the release of a ZNPP Deputy Director General, Valeriy Martynyuk, who was detained early last week. Director General Grossi welcomed his release. It follows the detention earlier this month of ZNPP Director General Ihor Murashov, regarding which Director General Grossi had been in contact with the relevant authorities to contribute to his release.

However, Grossi expressed deep concern about the recent detentions of two other ZNPP staff members, which have been confirmed by the IAEA. “This is another concerning development that I sincerely hope will be resolved swiftly.” Ukrainian nuclear utility Energoatom said on 17 October that Oleh Kostyukov, the head of the information technology service at ZNPP, and Oleh Osheka, the plant's Assistant Director General had been detained. “Currently, nothing is known about their whereabouts and state. We appeal to the IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, and the entire world community to make every effort and take all possible measures to free the ZNPP workers,” Energoatom said.

IAEA said Grossi is continuing consultations on securing the nuclear safety and security protection zone at ZNPP, and it is imperative to agree this as soon as possible.

The General Director of Rosatom Alexey Likhachev told Rossiya-24 TV on 19 October that ZNPP was the first nuclear power plant in history to be part of a war zone. "For the first time in the history of mankind, the Zaporizhzhia NPP has entered a war zone. And we, for our part, simply protect its safety… and do everything to avoid getting close to any probability of a nuclear incident."

He noted that the situation at the plant remains under control and  background radiation remains normal. "I want to say once again: while the situation is absolutely under control, the radiation background is normal. And we will continue to do everything to preserve the safety of this station," he added.

He stressed that the goals of Russia and the IAEA to protect the nuclear power plant completely coincide, and he also supported the creation of a safety zone around the power plant.

"What is a security zone in our understanding? It means that not a single shell, not a single bullet arrives, not a single sabotage group comes close to the station's territory, and ensures the normal operation of the operating personnel, " Likhachev concluded.

Meanwhile also on 19 October Russia’s Defence Ministry said the Russian army had destroyed a Ukrainian landing force at ZNPP, adding that Kiev had lost more than 90 military personnel and 14 boats. "Today, at about 4 am, Ukrainian forces of up to two companies made another attempt to land troops on the left bank of the Kakhovsky reservoir and seize the territory of the nuclear power plant," the MOD report said. The ministry noted that the Russian forces guarding the outer perimeter of the   plant had destroyed the attacking troops.

Earlier, a representative of the Zaporozhye region administration, Vladimir Rogov, had also announced that an attempt to land troops in Energodar to capture the Zaporizhzhia NPP had taken place. He said the battle lasted more than three hours. In addition, Ukrainian Armed Forces had fired US-supplied HIMARS multiple launch rockets at the operators’ city of Energodar leaving it without electricity. This was the third time Ukrainian forces had tried to storm the ZNPP using large numbers of troops and  boats since 1 September.

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