The last reserve line connecting the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to the Ukrainian energy grid was disconnected on Monday after days of “intensive shelling,” the national energy company that runs the plant said.
A fire caused by the shelling left transmission lines “damaged and disconnected,” Energoatom said in a statement. As a result, power from unit No. 6, which currently supplies the plant’s own needs, was disconnected from the network.
In a later statement, the company said the sixth power supply unit was “operational,” but only to cool reactor cores and waste. It said no power was going out of the plant and generators had not been activated in response to the incident.
Herman Galushchenko, Ukraine’s energy minister, said in a Facebook post that any immediate repair work on the lines was impossible due to ongoing fighting around the plant.
“The world is once again on the brink of a nuclear disaster. The de-occupation of the ZNPP and the creation of a demilitarized zone around it is the only way to ensure nuclear safety,” Galushchenko said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said it had been informed that the line had been deliberately disconnected in order to extinguish a fire.
“The line itself is not damaged, and it will be re-connected once the fire is extinguished,” the agency said in a written statement.
The incident comes after Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Saturday that the plant had lost external power, with Ukrainian staff telling the United Nations watchdog’s inspectors that the fourth and last operational line was down. Another three were lost earlier in the war.
At the time, the IAEA said only one out of six nuclear reactors at the site was operational.
Fears of a possible nuclear disaster have grown since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, with concerns deepening after the plant was completely disconnected for the first time in its 40-year history on Aug. 25.
Both Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for problems caused by the intense fighting around the plant. World leaders, meanwhile, have called for a demilitarized zone.
After traveling to Ukraine over the past week to inspect the installation and determine whether it could continue to run safely, Grossi warned that the “physical integrity of the plant has been violated.”
He said the IAEA would establish a “continued presence” of experts at the plant “so they can provide me and all of us with an impartial, neutral, technical, sound assessment of whatever may be happening there.”
He added that he would “continue to worry about the plant until we have a situation that is more stable” and that it was clear the integrity of the plant has been violated.
Andrew Jones contributed.