The head of the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog is set to release a report Tuesday about the nuclear safety and security situation in Ukraine after his team’s visit to examine the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi will also brief the U.N. Security Council on his team’s findings, the IAEA said.
The IAEA inspectors arrived at the Zaporizhzhia plant Sept. 1 and spent days evaluating damage at the site, how well safety and security systems are working, and conditions for the Ukrainian staff at the plant that has been under Russian control since the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Both Russia and Ukraine have accused the other side of being responsible for shelling in the area of the power plant. The attacks have raised international concern about the prospect of a nuclear disaster.
The IAEA said two of its experts remain at the power plant to “observe the situation there and provide independent assessments.”
Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company said Monday the Zaporizhzhia plant was disconnected from the electricity grid due to Russian shelling.
“Today, as a result of a fire caused by shelling, the (last working) transmission line was disconnected,” Energoatom said in a statement on Telegram.
Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said on Facebook that Energoatom was not able to make repairs while fighting raged around the facility.
The IAEA said Ukraine informed the agency that the backup power line itself was not damaged and that Ukrainian experts plan to reconnect power in the coming days.
‘A step away from a radiation catastrophe’
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video message Monday that the nuclear plant has again been put in a situation where it is “a step away from a radiation catastrophe.”
In other developments Monday, Russia blamed Western sanctions on Moscow for its stoppages of natural gas to Europe.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Western sanctions were “causing chaos” for maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which Russian energy giant Gazprom shut down last week after saying it detected an oil leak.
Western officials and engineers have disputed Russia’s claim of mechanical problems with the pipeline. Europe accuses Russia of using its leverage over gas supplies to retaliate against European sanctions.
The energy battles between Europe and Russia led European markets to drop sharply Monday while natural gas prices surged.
Nuclear power on standby
Germany announced Monday that it would keep two of its three remaining nuclear power stations on standby beyond the end of the year as the country suffers a gas crunch.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a statement on Monday that the two nuclear plants would “remain available until mid-April 2023 in case needed.”
He said the move does not mean that Germany is going back on its long-standing promise to exit nuclear energy and said it remains “extremely unlikely” the country would face an energy crisis in which the power stations would be needed.
Ukraine advocated Monday for “maximum support” for its efforts to defeat Russia in order to blunt economic effects on European allies.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia’s “military aggression against Ukrainians, energy blackmail against EU citizens” were to blame for “rising prices and utility bills in EU countries.”
“Solution: maximum support to Ukraine so that we defeat Putin sooner and he does not harm Europe anymore,” Kuleba tweeted, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Group of Seven nations has proposed capping the price on Russian oil exports to limit Russian profits that help fund Moscows war efforts in Ukraine.
Russia, in turn, said it would not sell oil to any countries that implement such a cap.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.