Ukraine’s nuclear plant goes offline amid fighting

The plant has repeatedly been completely disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid since last week.

Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine — The head of the United Nations nuclear regulatory agency said on Saturday that Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was disconnected from its last external power line, but was still able to carry power through a back-up line despite continued shelling in the region.

The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said in a statement that experts from the agency, who arrived in Zaporizhia on Thursday, were told by senior Ukrainian officials that the fourth and final line of operations had failed. The other three were lost earlier during the conflict.

However, the IAEA experts learned that the reserve line, which connects the plant to a nearby thermal power plant, supplies the electricity generated by the plant to the external grid, the statement said. The same reserve line can also provide backup power for the facility if needed, he added.

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“We already have a better understanding of the functionality of the backup power line when connecting the plant to the grid,” said Grossi. “This is crucial information to assess the overall situation there.”

In addition, the plant’s management informed the IAEA that a reactor was shut down on Saturday afternoon due to grid restrictions. Another reactor is still operational, producing electricity for both cooling and other vital safety functions at the site, as well as for homes, factories and others via the grid, the statement said.

The Zaporizhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, has been held by Russian forces since early March but continues to be operated by Ukrainian employees.

The Russian-appointed municipality in Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhia plant is located, blamed suspected Ukrainian shelling on Saturday morning for the destruction of a key power line.

“Power supply to Ukraine-controlled areas has been suspended due to technical difficulties,” the city administration said in a post on its official Telegram channel. It was not clear whether electricity from the power plant still reaches Russian-controlled areas.

Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Kremlin-appointed regional administration, said on Telegram that a shell hit an area between two reactors. His claims could not be immediately verified.

In recent weeks, Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for the shelling on and near the site, accusing each other of derailing a visit by IAEA experts whose mission is designed to help secure the site. Grossi said their on-site presence was “a game changer”.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukrainian troops made another attempt to capture the facility late Friday, despite the presence of the IAEA observers, sending 42 boats carrying 250 special forces and foreign “mercenaries” to arrange a landing on the shore of the nearby located Kachowka reservoir to try.

The ministry said four Russian fighter jets and two attack helicopters destroyed about 20 boats and the others turned back. It added that Russian artillery hit the Ukrainian-controlled right bank of the Dnieper to attack the retreating landing party.

The ministry claimed the Russian military killed 47 soldiers, including 10 “mercenaries,” and wounded 23. The Russian claims could not be independently verified.

The plant has been repeatedly completely disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid since last week, with the country’s nuclear power operator Enerhoatom blaming mortar fire and fires near the site.

Local Ukrainian authorities have accused Moscow of rocketing two towns overlooking the power plant across the Dnieper, an accusation they have also made repeatedly in recent weeks.

In Zorya, a small village about 12 miles from the Zaporozhye plant, residents on Friday could hear the sound of explosions in the area.

It wasn’t the shelling that scared them the most, but the risk of a radioactive leak at the facility.

“The power plant, yes, that’s the scariest thing,” said Natalia Stokoz, a mother of three. “Because the children and adults will be affected and it’s scary when the nuclear power plant is blown up.”

Oleksandr Pasko, a 31-year-old farmer, said, “There’s fear because we’re pretty close.” Pasko said Russian shelling has intensified in recent weeks.

In the first weeks of the war, the authorities gave people living near the plant iodine tablets and masks in case of radiation exposure.

They also recently distributed iodine tablets in the city of Zaporizhzhia, about 50 kilometers from the plant.

According to a statement by the Turkish presidency, in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered to play the role of “mediator” on the Zaporizhia plant issue.

Ukraine’s military reported on Saturday morning that overnight Russian forces pressed ahead with their stalled advance in the country’s industrial east while attempting to hold captured areas in northeastern and southern Ukraine, including the Kherson region targeted of the recent Kyiv counter-offensive.

It added that Ukrainian forces repelled around half a dozen Russian attacks across the Donetsk region, including near two towns chosen as key targets in Moscow’s grueling effort to capture the rest of the province. The Donetsk region is one of two that make up Ukraine’s industrial heartland, the Donbass, along with Luhansk, which was overrun by Russian troops in early July.

Separately, the British military confirmed in its regular update on Saturday morning that Ukrainian forces are conducting “renewed offensive operations” in southern Ukraine, advancing along a broad front west of the Dnieper River and focusing on three axes within the Russian-held Kherson region .

“The operation has limited immediate objectives, but Ukrainian forces have probably achieved a degree of tactical surprise; Exploitation of poor logistics, administration and leadership in the Russian Armed Forces,” the UK MoD tweeted.

Russian shelling killed an 8-year-old child and injured at least four others in a southern Ukrainian town near the Kherson region, Ukrainian officials said. Ukraine’s nuclear plant goes offline amid fighting

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