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Restarting Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant 'difficult to envisage' during war, says IAEA chief

by Chris York June 3, 2024 6:26 PM 2 min read
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, as seen on Sept. 11, 2022. (Stringer / AFP via Getty Images)
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The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on June 3 "it's difficult to envisage" restarting the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant while fighting between Russia and Ukraine continues.

Speaking at a news conference during a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors, Rafael Grossi said Moscow is not planning to decommission the facility and "the idea, of course, they have is to restart at some point."

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest nuclear power station in Europe, has been under Russian occupation since March 2022.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Moscow of using the plant as a launch site for drone and artillery attacks on the Ukrainian-controlled opposite bank of the Dnipro River, presenting a serious security hazard.

Throughout its occupation, the plant has been repeatedly disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid due to Russian attacks on the country's energy infrastructure.

Grossi said there was a "need to have a discussion" about restarting the plant, but stressed there were several important steps to take before this would be possible.

"In terms of what needs to happen ... there shouldn't be any bombing or any activity of this type," he said in comments reported by Reuters.

"Then there should be a more stable assurance of external power supply. This requires repairs, important repairs of existing lines, which at the moment, and because of the military activity, are very difficult to envisage."

Ukraine's nuclear energy agency, Energoatom, said last month that the plant should be handed over to Ukrainian control in order to avoid a nuclear disaster.

"Russian (forces) continue to create an extremely dangerous situation" at the plant, said Energoatom President Petro Kotin.

"In order to prevent the development of worst-case scenarios, the station must be returned to the control of the legitimate operator – Energoatom as soon as possible."

Energoatom said that the plant has experienced eight complete blackouts and one partial shutdown since the beginning of the full-scale war.

Explainer: 38 years after Chornobyl, Ukraine relies on nuclear for more than half its energy production
Thirty-eight years after the Chornobyl disaster, Ukraine’s nuclear industry continues to produce around half of Ukraine’s power output and remains vital to keeping the country functioning. The share of energy output in Ukraine that comes from nuclear power is the third highest in the world after Fr…
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