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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that the heavy shelling by the Russian armed forces has cut the power lines to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant (NPP) in Ukraine.

IAEA director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi said that shelling damaged the NPP’s last remaining operating 750kV power line.

He explained that it forced the plant to rely on its emergency diesel generators to provide the power for reactor cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions.

All 16 of the plant’s diesel generators automatically started operating to provide its six reactors with power.

Grossi said: “The resumption of shelling, hitting the plant’s sole source of external power, is tremendously irresponsible. The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant must be protected.

“While those generators have fuel for ten days the lack of off-site electricity is a deeply worrying development that underlines the urgent need to establish a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP.”

Grossi added that a nuclear safety and security protection zone should be set up urgently around the Zaporizhzhya NPP site.

He has been in talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as part of efforts to agree on and implement this zone.

Senior Ukrainian operating staff told an IAEA team at the site that all the Zaporizhzhya NPP’s safety systems are receiving power and operating as normal.

The NPP’s six reactors are currently in cold shutdown, but would still need electricity for vital nuclear safety and security functions.

Despite this, the damaged 750kV power line located outside the site is said to have been restored and power supply has resumed to the nuclear power facility, according to Reuters.

Last month, the Zaporizhzhia NPP’s operator, Energoatom , completely shut operations at the NPP to mitigate the fear of radiation discharge as the conflict intensified in the region.