Monday, October 3, 2022

Zelenskiy says danger remains after nuclear plant resumes power supply

Zelenskiy says danger remains after nuclear plant resumes power supply

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine's president said the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant remains "very risky" after two of its six reactors were reconnected to the grid following shelling that caused Europe's largest nuclear power plant to be disconnected for the first time in its history.

Russian shelling continued to displace civilians in the east of the country, where three quarters of the population has fled the frontline region of Donetsk, according to the regional governor, and Ukraine continued to damage Russia's supply routes to the southern front near Kherson.

Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom said on Friday evening that both of the plant's two functioning reactors had been reconnected to the grid and were again supplying electricity after they were fully disconnected on Thursday. 

"Let me stress that the situation remains very risky and dangerous," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his regular evening address, praising Ukrainian experts working to "avert the worst-case scenario."

"Any repeat of yesterday's events, meaning any disconnection of the station from the grid, any action by Russia that could provoke the disconnection of reactors, would once again place the station one step away from a catastrophe," Zelenskiy said.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February, took control of the nuclear plant in March, though it is still operated by Ukrainian technicians working for Energoatom.

The two sides have traded the blame for shelling near the plant, which on Thursday sparked fires in the ash pits of a nearby coal power station that disconnected the plant from the power grid.

Satellite images showed a fire near the plant but Reuters could not verify its cause.

Zelenskiy also reiterated Ukraine's demand that the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), be urgently allowed to visit the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Moscow, which has forces based in the plant's complex, said it was doing everything to ensure that an IAEA visit, expected in the coming days, could take place safely. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Ukraine was trying to disrupt such a visit by attacking the plant.

Residents in Zaporizhzhia city, 50 km northeast of the plant, expressed alarm at the situation.

"Of course I am scared. Everyone is scared, we don’t know what will happen next, what is waiting for us every next minute, second," said social media manager Maria Varakina, 25.

School teacher Hanna Kuz, 46, said people were afraid that the Ukrainian authorities might not be able to warn residents in time in case of radiation fallout.

The Kremlin says its aim is to "denazify" and demilitarize Ukraine and remove perceived security threats to Russia. Ukraine and the West say this is a baseless pretext for a war of conquest.