UN watchdog focuses on back-up power supply systems to prevent a nuclear accident
VIENNA, Sep 8 (Ther CONNECT) -Renewed shelling has damaged a back-up power line between Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) and a nearby thermal power station, further underlining significant nuclear safety risks at the facility, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) learnt at the site.
The incident that occurred yesterday did not have an immediate impact on the ZNPP’s current operations as it had already been disconnected from the electricity grid two days ago when another reserve line was switched off in order to extinguish a fire.
But the damage to the 750/330 kilovolt (kV) line once again demonstrated the difficulties and vulnerabilities the ZNPP is facing when it comes to external power supplies. The ZNPP lost the connection to all its four main external power lines earlier during the conflict, the last one on 2 September. Of the three back-up lines between the ZNPP and the thermal power station, one is now damaged by shelling, while the two others are disconnected, senior Ukrainian operating staff informed IAEA experts present at the plant since last week.
In addition to the impact on the power line, shelling had also caused damage at the site’s switchyard, which the Ukrainian operating staff are planning to repair. The ZNPP is held by Russian forces since early March, but its Ukrainian staff are continuing to operate the plant.
For the last few days, the ZNPP has relied on its sole operating reactor for the power it needs for cooling and other safety functions. While the plant also has emergency diesel generators available if needed, Director General Grossi has repeatedly expressed concern about the power supply situation.
In a report on nuclear safety, security and safeguards in Ukraine that was issued yesterday ahead of his briefing to the United Nations Security Council, the Director General noted that the ZNPP on several occasions “lost, fully or partially, the off-site power supply as a result of military activities in the area”. He recommended that the “off-site power supply line redundancy as designed should be re-established and available at any time, and that all military activities that may affect the power supply systems end.”
A secure off-site power supply from the grid and back-up power supply systems are essential for ensuring nuclear safety and preventing a nuclear accident. This requirement is among the seven indispensable nuclear safety and security pillars that the Director General outlined at the beginning of the conflict.
Last week, after months of efforts, Director General Grossi established an IAEA presence at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant when he led a team of experts across the frontline to the facility. Two IAEA experts remain at the site, providing independent and objective monitoring and assessments of the situation there.
Yesterday, the Director General recommended the urgent establishment of a Nuclear Safety and Security Protection Zone at the ZNPP, and he is having consultations aimed at implementing this plan.