1 of 4 | The Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine was deliberately disconnected from its final external power source as staff sought to put out a fire caused by Russian shelling the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday.Photo by IAEA Press Office/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 5 (UPI) -- The Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine was disconnected from the nation's power grid after a fire caused by Russian shelling on Monday, the United Nation's nuclear watchdog said.
Zaporizhzhia and a nearby thermal power station were deliberately disconnected from a reserve line providing its only source of outside power in order to extinguish the fire, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in an update.
The agency added that the line was not damaged and would be reconnected when the fire was extinguished.
Reactor No. 6, the only remaining operational reactor at the plant, was still producing power for the facility and engineers had not switched on diesel generators as of Monday evening, an official from Energoatom, a Ukrainian company responsible for operating the facility, told The New York Times.
Shelling had damaged other lines that had provided power to the plant, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
The IAEA reported that the plant's Ukrainian staff said they planned to repair a line that went down on Friday but it would take "several days" to do so.
"A secure off-site power supply from the grid and back-up power supply systems are essential for ensuring nuclear safety," the agency said, adding it was one of the seven "indispensable nuclear and security pillars" outlined by its director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, at the start of the conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the plant was "one step away from a radiation disaster" after the transmission line was cut.
He also noted that the shelling took place as experts from the IAEA that arrived last week to observe the facility were set to depart.
"I consider the fact that Russia is doing this right now, right on the eve of the IAEA conclusions, very eloquent," he said. "Shelling the territory of the ZNPP means that the terrorist state does not care what the international community decides. Russia is interested only in keeping the situation the worst for the longest time possible."
Four of the IAEA experts left the facility on Monday and two remained to allow the agency to "observe the situation" and provide independent assessments, as the agency had said it would maintain a continuing presence at the site.