A critical nuclear power plant in Ukraine has once again run out of external power, international industry officials said on Saturday, raising concerns about its operation at a time when the energy battle between Moscow and the West has intensified in recent days amid of the ongoing war.
The Ukrainian plant in Zaporizhzhia, the largest in Europe, saw severed the last remaining main line of external poweralthough a reserve line was able to continue supplying electricity to the network, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Only one of the six reactors remained in operation at the plantthe agency said in a statement posted on its website.
The plant, controlled by Moscow since Russian troops invaded Ukraine in late February, has become a focal point of the conflict, with each side blaming the other for nearby bombardments.
Meanwhile, the standoff over Russian oil and gas exports continued this week, with Moscow vowing to keep its main gas pipeline to Germany closed and G7 countries announcing a price cap on Russian oil exports.
The energy struggle is one of the fallout from President Vladimir Putin’s six-month invasion of Ukraine, underscoring the deep rift it has caused between Moscow and Western nations, and comes as the region braces for the cold months ahead.
“Russia (is) preparing a decisive energy blow on all Europeans for this winter”Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky said in his late-night speech on Saturday, citing the continued closure of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline.
Zelensky had earlier blamed Russian bombing for the earlier shutdown of the nuclear power plant, saying a radiation leak was narrowly averted.
Moscow has pointed to Western sanctions and glitches for power outages, while European nations have accused Russia of weaponizing the supplies as part of its military invasion.
kyiv and Moscow have traded accusations over attacks on the Zaporizhzhia plant, which was seized by Russian forces in March but is still operated by Ukrainian personnel and connected to the Ukrainian power grid.
An IAEA mission toured the plant on Thursday and some experts have remained there awaiting the publication of a report by the UN nuclear watchdog in the coming days.
Last week, Zaporizhzhia was cut off from the national grid for the first time in its history after transmission lines were cut, causing power outages across Ukraine, although emergency generators were running for vital cooling processes.
Meanwhile, the IAEA said on Saturday that the remaining inspectors noted that one reactor “was still operating and producing electricity both for cooling and other essential safety functions on site and for homes, factories and others via the grid”the agency said.
The Zaporizhzhia NPP, in a statement on Telegram, said the fifth reactor was shut down “as a result of constant shelling by the Russian occupation forces” and that there was “insufficient capacity of the last standby line to operate two reactors.” .
The deterioration of conditions amid the bombing has made fear a radioactive catastropheY any nuclear accident or leak at the facility would cause a major humanitarian crisisaccording to the International Red Cross.
Ukraine and the West have claimed that Russia is using the site as a base for heavy weapons to deter Ukraine from firing on it. Russia has denied the presence of such weapons and has so far resisted international calls to withdraw troops from the plant and demilitarize the area.
GAS AND OIL
In its announcement on Friday that shipments via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would not resume as expected, Russian energy giant Gazprom blamed a technical glitch.
Gazprom said on Saturday that Siemens Energy was willing to help repair damaged equipment, but that there was no place available to carry out the work. Siemens said it has not been commissioned to carry out pipeline maintenance work, but is available.
The Nord Stream 1, which runs under the Baltic Sea to supply Germany and other countries, was due to resume activity after a three-day stoppage for maintenance on Saturday at 01:00 GMT.
Moscow has blamed sanctions imposed by the West following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 for hampering the routine operations and maintenance of Nord Stream 1. Brussels and Washington accuse Russia of using the gas as an economic weapon.
The indefinite delay in resuming gas deliveries will compound Europe’s problems securing fuel for the winter, with the cost of living already skyrocketing, led by energy prices.
(with information from Reuters)
Zelensky warned that Russia is preparing a decisive blow in its energy offensive against Europe
The G7 announced that it will “urgently” apply a cap on Russian oil prices
The UN chief for atomic energy said that “the physical integrity of the Zaporizhzhia plant was violated on several occasions”