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Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Plant On Backup Power As Russia Shells Nearby Substations

Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant has again lost the connection to its last remaining power line, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said.

Rafael Grossi said in a statement on October 17 that despite the loss of connectivity, the plant is receiving electricity from the grid through a backup system.

An IAEA team of experts present at the plant was informed by members of the operating staff that the line was disconnected at around 4 a.m. local time, Grossi said.

The IAEA experts reported that the plant was receiving external electricity through a nearby thermal power station switchyard under a backup arrangement was restored last week, Grossi said.

Although the plant's six reactors have been shut down for weeks, they need a constant supply of electricity to maintain reactor cooling and other essential safety functions necessary to prevent a meltdown.

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Ukrainian national nuclear operator Enerhoatom said the cause of the lost connection on October 17 was the shelling of a substation located far from the plant.

Enerhoatom said in a statement that Russia was now targeting all the substations supplying Ukrainian nuclear power stations with electricity.

Related: Uncertainty Builds As Oil Markets Digest Mixed Signals

There has been no comment from Russia's state nuclear energy company on the accusation.

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It was the third time the Zaporizhzhya plant's connection to this power line was lost over the past 10 days, Grossi said in the statement, adding that this underlines "the plant's fragile power situation during the current military conflict in Ukraine."

Grossi has been pushing to establish a safety and security zone around the plant and met last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and later with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv as part of his effort.

"Now more than ever, during these extremely difficult times, a protection zone must be established around the [Zaporizhzhya plant]," Grossi said, reiterating that the stakes were high and there was no time to lose.

"We must do everything in our power to help ensure that a nuclear accident does not happen," he said in the statement.

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, has been a flashpoint in Russia's military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow and Kyiv have traded blame for months over shelling near the facility that has sparked fears of a nuclear disaster.

Russian troops occupy the plant and the surrounding area, while the plant's Ukrainian staff continues to operate it.

By RFE/RL

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