The last reserve line connecting the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to the Ukrainian energy grid was disconnected Monday after days of “intensive shelling,” the national energy company that runs the plant said.
A fire caused by the shelling left transmission lines “damaged and disconnected,” Energoatom said in a statement. As a result, power from unit No. 6, which supplies the plant's own needs, was disconnected from the network.
The company said in a later statement that the sixth power supply unit was “operational” but only to cool reactor cores and waste. It said that no power was going out of the plant and that generators had not been activated in response.
German Galushchenko, Ukraine’s energy minister, said on Facebook that any immediate repair work on the lines was impossible because of the fighting around the plant.
“The world is once again on the brink of a nuclear disaster. The de-occupation of the ZNPP and the creation of a demilitarized zone around it is the only way to ensure nuclear safety,” Galushchenko said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, said it had been informed that the line was deliberately disconnected to extinguish a fire.
"The line itself is not damaged, and it will be re-connected once the fire is extinguished," the agency said in a statement.
Rafael Grossi, the director general of the IAEA, said Saturday that the plant had lost external power, with Ukrainian staff members telling the United Nations watchdog’s inspectors that the fourth and last operational line was down. Three more were lost earlier in the war.
At the time, the IAEA said only one out of six nuclear reactors at the site was operational.
Fears of a possible nuclear disaster have grown since Russia invaded Ukraine, and concerns deepened after the plant was completely disconnected for the first time in its 40-year history on Aug. 25.
Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for problems caused by the intense fighting around the plant. World leaders, meanwhile, have called for a demilitarized zone.
After he traveled to Ukraine over the past week to inspect the installation and determine whether it could continue to run safely, Grossi warned that the “physical integrity of the plant has been violated.”
He said the IAEA would establish a “continued presence” of experts at the plant “so they can provide me and all of us with an impartial, neutral, technical, sound assessment of whatever may be happening there.”
He added that he would “continue to worry about the plant until we have a situation that is more stable.”