Power was restored again at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility, alleviating concerns about an accident at one of the most sensitive sites of the war. But the head of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency warned that Ukrainian workers are under severe pressure as Moscow tries to assert more control over the plant.
And while Ukrainian engineers continued to operate the plant under the watch of Russian soldiers, Moscow recently said it was nationalizing the facility. This effort is part of a broader attempt to claim, in a procession of formalities designed to legitimize the moves, that parts of Ukraine are now Russian. The nuclear plant is located in one of four Ukrainian provinces that President Vladimir Putin announced this month. for Russia A move that was widely rejected and condemned as illegal.
Late Friday, Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement That employees at the nuclear reactor are now facing “unacceptable pressure” to sign work contracts with Russia’s nuclear power company, Rosatom, in defiance of the city of Kyiv.
This pressure only adds to the pressure on workers that Ukrainian officials have been warning about for months, saying that Russian soldiers have subjected already overworked staff to harsh interrogations and torture.
Keeping the plant gives Moscow a military advantage but also significant leverage over Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, and Russian authorities could also, in theory, connect the facility to their own grid, diverting power south to captured Ukrainian territory.
Amid the ongoing administrative conflict between Moscow and Kiev, Ukraine’s nuclear power company said this week that Russia had kidnapped another top official from the plant, expressing fears he might have to reveal information about Ukrainian employees working there. The head of the factory had previously been arrested and released.
Ukraine’s state energy company, Energoatom, said on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday that it had set up a hotline for factory workers that could be used by “anyone with information about kidnappings and torture” by Russian authorities.
Despite Russia’s claims to nationalize the plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency says it considers the plant Ukrainian, because the UN Charter does not recognize illegal annexations.
In a “much-needed development”, Ukrainian engineers working at the Zaporizhzhia site under intense Russian pressure were able to restore backup power, ending the plant’s dependence on diesel generators. Most nuclear power plants consider diesel generators as a last line of defense used only in extreme circumstances.
This is the second time in recent days that bombing has occurred Cut power lines Which feeds the cooling systems of the plant’s six reactors, all of which are out of order.
The war marks the first time that a nuclear facility has become an active combat zone. Russia has deployed troops and artillery at the factory since it was seized in March. Ukrainian authorities say the Russians bombed cities close to the factory grounds, aware of the danger of returning fire. A waste storage site has been hit multiple times, and power lines have been a frequent target. Each side blamed the other for the attacks.
“Working in very difficult conditions, the operating personnel of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant are doing everything they can to strengthen the fragile off-site energy situation,” said Mr. Grossi. “Restoring the backup power connection is a positive step in this regard, although the overall nuclear safety and security situation remains precarious.”
The Zaporizhzhia plant does not supply electricity to Ukraine’s grid, due to the shutdown of its reactors, but it needs its own power source for safety reasons. Workers have been grappling for weeks with how to provide this.
Mr Grossi said efforts to restart one of the reactors for this purpose would begin on Saturday in a process that could take several days. In addition, more diesel fuel has arrived, from both the Ukrainian and Russian sides of the front line, to power Zaporizhzhia’s generators for at least 10 days in case the plant goes out again, he said.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”