The head of the (pro-Russian) military-civil Administration of the Zaporizhzhia region, Yevhen Balitsky, has said the authorities plan to launch one of the six power units of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) located in Energodar by winter. "We are working to ensure that we can still launch one unit, especially in winter. It may very well be that this will take place soon,” he told Solovyov Live.

Earlier, on 17 September, the head of the Energodar administration, Alexander Volga, said that Ukrainian troops had been shelling the city for several days in a row, despite the continued presence of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the plant. There had been a lull in the shelling after the last of the plant’s six units was shut down on 11 September. This had allowed some repairs to be made to the damaged power lines serving the plant.

However, on 18 September a power line that has been used to supply the ZNPP with electricity from the Ukrainian grid through the switchyard of a nearby thermal power station was disconnected, the IAEA experts at the site reported. The cause was not immediately clear. The ZNPP still receives the electricity it needs for essential safety functions from a 750 KV external power line that was restored on 16 September, but no longer has access to back-up power from the grid, the IAEA experts said.

After the ZNPP lost connection to the same 750 kV line two weeks before, it first relied on electricity produced by the plant itself and then on the back-up power lines linking it to the grid through the electrical switchyard of a nearby thermal power plant.

The 750 kV line was restored on the same day as the national Ukrainian operator Energoatom said it had delivered spare parts for the repair of the ZNPP’s power lines as well as additional fuel supplies for the plant’s emergency diesel generators that can be used as a back-up power source. These spare part and fuel deliveries were confirmed by IAEA experts at the site. The ZNPP is held by Russian forces but continues to be operated by its Ukrainian personnel.

A secure off-site power supply from the grid and back-up power supply systems are essential for ensuring nuclear safety and preventing a nuclear accident, even when the reactors are no longer operating. This requirement is among the seven indispensable nuclear safety and security pillars that IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi outlined at the beginning of the conflict.

To help stabilise the situation, the Director General has initiated consultations with the relevant parties aimed at the urgent establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone at the ZNPP. 

On 15 September, the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution calling on Russia to withdraw its forces from the station. It was adopted by 26 votes, with seven abstentions – Egypt, South Africa, Senegal, Burundi, Vietnam, India and Pakistan.

Russia and China voted against. The resolution was proposed by Canada and Poland on behalf of Ukraine, which is not a member of the board.