Officials said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russia, as lost external power for the seventh time during the war. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE
May 22 (UPI) -- Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant lost external power due to early Monday shelling, prompting the United Nations' atomic watchdog to warn that the situation at the plant has become "extremely vulnerable."
The besieged nation's nuclear power company Energoatom said in a statement Monday that the Ruissan-occupied plant has lost power for a seventh time amid Moscow's 15-month-invasion of Ukraine, jeopardizing "the nuclear and radiation safety of the entire world."
Energoatom blamed the blackout on Russian shelling that began at about 5:26 a.m. Monday.
The plant switched to diesel generators once the high-voltage transmission line was cut, but officials say there are only 10 days of fuel left for the facility's operation.
"The continued occupation of ZNPP by Russia -- the rule over it by an illegitimate, untrained ruscist leadership that does not bear any responsibility for the nuclear and radiation safety of the facility -- is constantly bringing the ZNPP closer to irreparable," Energoatom said, referring to the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin by a term meaning Russian fascist.
"Russia's nuclear terrorism should be stopped immediately, while the invaders must withdraw from the territory of the power plant and its satellite town of Enerhodar," it said while calling on the international community to impose further punitive measures against Russia.
The nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, is in Zaporizhzhia, one of four regions that Moscow has attempted to illegally annex from Ukraine, citing the results of a referendum conducted in September, which democratic nations have disregarded as shams.
The facility has also been occupied by Russia since March of 2022 and has repeatedly come under shelling, resulting in it losing power and sustaining damage, raising concerns about nuclear catastrophe.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, issued a statement of warning on Twitter early Monday, stating they must agree on a plan to protect the plant as "this situation cannot continue."
"#Ukraine's #ZNPP this morning lost all external electricity for the 7th time during conflict, forcing it to rely on emergency diesel generators for power; nuclear safety situation at the plant extremely vulnerable," he said.
The loss of power comes days after Grossi warned of an "increasingly tense military situation" surrounding the plant as a site near Enerhodar where most of the plant's staff lives came under artillery fire.
"It is very simple: don't shoot at the plant and don't use the plant as a military base," Grossi said in the Friday statement. "It should be in the interest of everyone to agree on a set of principles to protect the plant during the conflict."
Grossi added that he was engaged in "intense negotiations" to secure a deal to prevent the risk of a nuclear accident.