Ukraine’s nuclear power plant back online

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant occupied by Moscow’s troops came back online yesterday afternoon, the state operator said, after Kyiv claimed it was cut from the national power grid by Russian shelling.

The plant — Europe’s largest nuclear facility — was severed from Ukraine’s power network for the first time in its history on Thursday due to “actions of the invaders”, Energoatom said.

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In an update, the operator said that as of 2:04 pm (1104 GMT) the plant “is connected to the grid and produces electricity for the needs of Ukraine” once again.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned “civilian nuclear power must be fully protected”.

“War in any case must not undermine the nuclear safety of the country, the region and all of us,” he said during a visit to Algeria.

Separately yesterday, the EU presidency vowed to hold an emergency summit on the spiraling energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, which this week entered its seventh month.

The bloc has vowed to wean its 27 member states off Russian oil and gas in protest against the invasion.

However, anxiety over supply has sent prices soaring, and yesterday both Germany and France reported record electricity prices for 2023.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been cause for mounting concern since it was seized by Russian troops in the opening weeks of the war.

In recent weeks, Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame for rocket strikes around the facility in the southern Ukrainian city of Energodar.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Thursday the cut-off was caused by Russian shelling of the last active power line linking the plant to the network.

“Russia has put Ukrainians as well as all Europeans one step away from radiation disaster,” he said in his nightly address.

“If our station staff had not reacted after the blackout, then we would have already been forced to overcome the consequences of a radiation accident,” he said.

Energoatom said the outage was caused by ash pit fires at an adjacent thermal power plant, which damaged a line connecting the only two of the plant’s six reactors in operation, reports AFP.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has previously said the situation at the plant is “highly volatile” and “underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.

“We can’t afford to lose any more time,” the organization’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said. “I’m determined to personally lead an IAEA mission to the plant in the next few days.”

Kyiv suspects Moscow intends to divert power from the Zaporizhzhia plant to the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russian troops in 2014. But on Thursday, the US issued a direct warning against any such move.

President Joe Biden, in a telephone conversation with Zelensky, also called for Russia to return full control of the plant and let in nuclear inspectors, the White House said.

Britain’s defense ministry has warned that weekend satellite imagery shows an increased presence of Russian troops at the power plant.