By Rostyslav Averchuk
Lviv, Ukraine, Oct 14 (EFE).- Artillery attacks around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are preventing it from being reconnected to the electricity grid as Russia tries to gain full control of the plant while pressuring Ukrainian staff to work for the Russian nuclear power company Rosatom.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday that the nuclear watchdog was getting closer to establishing a protection zone around the plant, urging “immediate action”.
“Moving closer to the establishment of a protection zone for the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant — the plant’s situation is untenable and we need immediate action to protect it,” Rafael Grossi, IAEA director general, posted on Twitter.
Europe’s largest nuclear power station has had to rely on independent electricity supply twice this week after it was cut off from the Ukrainian electricity grid as a result of Russian shelling.
All its six reactors are currently in the “cold shutdown” mode, which minimizes the risks of radioactive leaks, but a constant electricity supply is needed to ensure the reactors stay cool.
The loss of electricity would mean the reactors would start to heat up again, which could lead to a nuclear accident, Olga Kosharna, former long-term member of State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, warned.
Ukraine has accused Russia of deliberately shelling power lines around the plant as part of its “nuclear blackmail” and campaign to switch the power station to the Russian grid.
“The personnel have been told they would lose access to their workplaces on Monday unless they sign contracts with a new entity, which Russia created to run the station,” Kosharna told Efe.
“Russia must withdraw from the plant to ensure its nuclear safety and security and immediately stop abductions and intimidation of the Ukrainian personnel,” Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted.
Meanwhile, the deputy director of the station, Valerii Martyniuk, has been detained by Russia for over a week, Kosharna said.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been calling for international sanctions against the Russian nuclear industry, which is involved in a number of projects across the world.
According to Kosharna, much-needed sanctions are difficult to impose because several European countries, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria, receive nuclear fuel for their stations from Russia. EFE