Bumbling Russians in nuclear power plants? “Hot shutdown” threatens in Zaporizhia

A Russian soldier guards an area of ​​the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant on May 1, 2022.  This photo was taken during a trip organized by the Russian Defense Ministry.

According to the Ukrainian nuclear agency Energoatom, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia, which is currently being occupied by Russian forces, is on the verge of a power outage. As a result, the power plant lost power from the 750-kilovolt main power line overnight and had to be switched to a 330-kV backup line. In the event of a failure of this replacement line, the power plant’s fourth reactor would be threatened by a so-called “hot shutdown”, during which the cooling pumps could fail. Energoatom pointed out that without proper cooling, equipment in the reactor could fail, increasing the risk of a nuclear accident.

Untrained personnel in the nuclear power plant

The Ukrainian authorities have described the power plant’s management as “illegitimate and untrained” and warned that the continued occupation could bring the nuclear power plant closer to disaster. The power plant has been occupied by Russian forces since March 2022 and repeatedly lost power during the war due to Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure. The Kyiv Independent reported that the plant was cut off from an emergency power line for four months between March and July 2023 and had to switch to diesel generators in October 2022 due to Russian shelling.

According to The Kyiv Independent, before the conflict escalated, the power plant had six backup and four main 750 kV lines. There is uncertainty about what steps Russia can take next in the plant. As early as June, Ukraine raised concerns about a possible accident at the power plant, with top officials warning that Russia might be planning a terrorist attack. It has also been reported that Russia is using the nuclear power plant as a military base. International Atomic Energy Agency officials have been regularly monitoring the situation at the plant since September 2022, according to The Kyiv Independent.

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