Security & Safety

Ukraine / Grossi Slams ‘Complacency’ As Zaporizhzhia Loses All Offsite Power

By David Dalton
9 March 2023

Six-reactor nuclear station now relying on backup diesel generators
Grossi Slams ‘Complacency’ As Zaporizhzhia Loses All Offsite Power
Rafael Grossi: ‘What are we doing to prevent this happening?’ Courtesy Dean Calma/IAEA.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine lost all offsite power at around 05.00 local time on Thursday (9 March) when its last remaining 750 kilovolt line was disconnected following missile strikes across Ukraine overnight, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed.

The incident led the agency’s director-general Rafael Grossi to tell its board of governors today that he was “astonished” by the complacency. “What are we doing to prevent this happening? We are the IAEA, we are meant to care about nuclear safety,” Grossi said.

The six-unit station’s only remaining back up 330 kilovolt line had already been damaged a few days ago and is under repair.

As a result, all 20 of the site’s emergency diesels generators were activated. The site’s essential power is now being provided by eight of those diesels with the rest now in standby mode. Grossi said there is enough diesel on site for 15 days of operation

The two out of six units that were in hot shutdown are moving to cold shutdown. When a reactor is in cold shutdown, the fuel and control rods can be safely removed and exchanged, and maintenance can be performed. However, once a reactor has gone into a cold shutdown, it requires more time and energy to restart the reaction than if it had been hot.

This is the first time the site has lost all power since 23 November 2022.

Grossi said “yet again Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station is running on emergency diesels – the last line of defence”.

He said: “This is the sixth time – let me say it again, the sixth time – that ZNPP has lost all offsite power and has had to operate in this emergency mode.

“Let me remind you – this is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. What are we doing? How can we sit here in this room this morning and allow this to happen? This cannot go on.

‘One Day Our Luck Will Run Out’

“Each time we are rolling a dice. And if we allow this to continue time after time then one day our luck will run out.

“I call on everyone in this room today and elsewhere – we must commit to protect the safety and security of the plant. And we need to commit now.”

Grossi said he would continue urgent consultations with Russia and Ukraine on the urgent need to establish a nuclear safety and security protection zone at the site, which is near the frontline of fighting in southeast Ukraine.

In January Grossi said establishing a protection zone around the station was taking far more time than expected, but “avoiding a nuclear accident is worth this time”.

Ukraine said at the weekend that diplomatic talks between Kyiv and Moscow on Zaporizhzhia had reached a “dead end”.

“Our position, which we voice on all international platforms, boils down to the fact that any negotiations regarding the [Zaporizhzhia] NPP should be based on: firstly, the plant’s demilitarisation, and secondly, the exit of [Russian state nuclear corporation] Rosatom employees from the station,” Ukrainian energy minister German Galushchenko told Ukraine media.

The crisis at Zaporizhzhia began when Russian forces seized the facility on 4 March 2022. Representatives of Rosatom arrived at the site a few days after the Russian military took control.

IAEA teams at all the other nuclear power stations in Ukraine reported to the agency this morning. At South Ukraine there are reported losses of power lines but there are sufficient remaining available to provide offsite power if required.

The other operating stations, Khmelnitski and Rovno, have not been directly affected although the plants have been managing power levels in accordance with grid requirements. Similarly, there are no reports of decommissioned Chernobyl site being affected.

Armed security at the six-unit Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine. Courtesy Energoatom.

Pen Use this content