KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company said on Friday that Russia was preparing to disconnect power lines at the mammoth Zaporizhzhia power plant from Ukraine’s grid, a potentially risky and complicated process that could deprive government-controlled territories of power and divert it to Crimea and Russia.
The Russians would have to shut off the reactors at the plant in order to reroute the electricity. That means that the power to keep cooling systems functioning at the plant would come from diesel generators, raising the risks of an accident at a facility in a war zone where workers are operating under duress.
Ukraine has been warning for some time that Russia might want to take the plant off its grid, and on Friday, the Ukrainian energy company, Energoatom, said that it had evidence that “the Russian military is looking for suppliers of fuel for diesel generators, ” in what it said was a clear signal that they may be preparing to cycle the two working reactors down.
Ukrainian claims about Russia’s intentions could not be independently verified, and Moscow had no immediate comment. A top local occupation official, however, said that he was opposed in order to shutting down the reactor.
“A nuclear power plant shouldn’t become mothballed, ” Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-appointed head of the occupied sectors of the Zaporizka region, was quoted as saying by the particular Interfax news agency. It was unclear how long the period he was talking about.
Senior Russian officials have said that will Russian military control over the plant is the best guarantee for its safety, while accusing Ukraine and the ally, the United States, of creating conditions which could cause another Chernobyl, the 1986 nuclear disaster in Ukraine that the Soviet Union initially tried to hide.
Asked about Ukraine’s claims during a trip to the particular port city of Odesa, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, said that “obviously the electricity through Zaporizhzhia is Ukrainian electricity, ” and that should be respected.
The particular immediate consequences of a shutdown would be upon the Ukrainian power grid, particularly in southern areas, which could potentially lose power. The plant, when fully operational, provides with regard to about 10 percent of Ukraine’s electricity needs, with the ability to power four million homes.
The bigger concern, however, is a potential meltdown if something goes wrong within the efforts to keep energy running at the plant with diesel-fueled generators. It is not publicly known how much diesel fuel is at the plant and, with Russian supply lines under constant attack by Ukrainian forces, it is not clear how easily this can be transported in order to the site.
Carried out properly below long-established protocols, cycling down a nuclear reactor does not carry great risk, according to nuclear experts. But the conditions from the plant, which has been damaged in recent putting, are far from ideal. And the Ukrainian engineers, who would likely have to carry out the tasks, have been working in difficult conditions.
A power failure during the particular process of taking the reactor offline could cause a breakdown of the plant’s cooling system. There could be a scenario similar to the one that played out in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, whenever the loss of coolant resulted in three reactors undergoing some degree of core meltdown, nuclear experts say .
After that disaster, however , Ukraine upgraded the Zaporizhzhia site to enable a shutdown even after the loss of chilling water from outside the particular containment structures, Dmytro Gortenko, a former plant engineer, said in an interview.
Tensions around the nuclear power grow on the front lines escalated this week as the Ruskies and Ukrainian militaries traded charges that each was preparing to stage an attack on the plant in coming days, risking a catastrophic release of radiation.
Russia’s defense ministry claimed that the Ukrainian military was preparing a “terrorist attack” on the sprawling Zaporizhzhia complex, prompting the particular Ukrainian military intelligence agency to respond that the Russian warning was in fact a pretext for Moscow in order to stage a “provocation” associated with some kind there upon Friday.
Russian federation has rejected international calls to have its forces pull back from the facility and create the demilitarized zone. Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said Friday such a zone would only increase the risks of nuclear disaster, claiming that the particular presence of its army was “a guarantee that will no such scenario will occur. ”