Ukraine’s key nuclear power plant loses power as energy dispute between Moscow and the West escalates

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KYIV — A critical nuclear power plant in Ukraine has again lost external power, international energy officials said Saturday, raising concerns about its operations as an energy battle between Moscow and the West intensified in recent days amid the ongoing war.

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Ukraine’s Zaporizhia plant – Europe’s largest – cut its last remaining main external power line, although a backup line was able to continue supplying electricity to the grid, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.

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Only one of the six reactors remained operational at the station, the agency said in a statement posted on its website.

The plant, controlled by Moscow since Russian troops invaded Ukraine in late February, has become a focal point of the conflict, with each side blaming the other for the nearby shelling.

Meanwhile, the standoff over Russian gas and oil exports continued this week as Moscow vowed to keep its main gas pipeline to Germany shut and G7 countries announced a planned price cap on Russian oil exports.

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The energy battle is the result of President Vladimir Putin’s six-month invasion of Ukraine, underscoring the deep rift it has caused between Moscow and Western nations, and comes as the region prepares for the cold months ahead.

“Russia is (preparing) a decisive energy strike on all Europeans for this winter,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an overnight address on Saturday, referring to the ongoing shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline.

Zelensky earlier blamed Russian shelling for the previous shutdown of the nuclear plant and said a radiation leak was narrowly avoided.

Moscow has pointed to Western sanctions and technical problems for energy outages, while European nations have accused Russia of supplying arms as part of its military invasion.

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Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame for the attacks on the Zaporizhia plant, which was seized by Russian forces in March but is still run by Ukrainian personnel and connected to the Ukrainian power grid.

An IAEA mission toured the plant on Thursday and some experts remained there pending the publication of a report by the UN nuclear watchdog in the coming days.

Last week, Zaporozhye was cut off from the national grid for the first time in its history after transmission lines were cut, causing blackouts across Ukraine, although emergency generators were operational for vital cooling processes.

Meanwhile, the IAEA on Saturday said the remaining inspectors noted that one reactor “is still operating and producing electricity for both cooling and other critical safety functions at the site and for households, factories and others through the grid,” the agency said.

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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi explains the schedule as he speaks to the press after the return of an IAEA team from the Russian-controlled Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, at Vienna International Airport in Schwechat, Austria on September 2, 2022. Mr.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi explains the schedule as he speaks to the press after the return of an IAEA team from the Russian-controlled Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, at Vienna International Airport in Schwechat, Austria on September 2, 2022. Mr. Photo: ALEX HALADA/APA /AFP via Getty Images

The Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant said in a statement on Telegram that the fifth reactor was shut down “as a result of constant shelling by the Russian occupation forces” and that there was “insufficient capacity from the last reserve line to operate two reactors.” Deteriorating conditions amid the shelling have raised fears of a radiation catastrophe and any accident or nuclear leak at the facility would trigger a major humanitarian crisis, the International Red Cross said.

Ukraine and the West have said Russia is using the site as a base for heavy weapons to discourage Ukraine from firing on it. Russia has denied having such weapons and has so far resisted international calls to withdraw its troops from the plant and demilitarize the area.

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Russia’s defense ministry on Saturday accused Ukrainian forces of staging a failed attempt to seize the plant, saying more than 250 Ukrainian servicemen tried to land on the shore of a nearby lake despite the presence of the IAEA.

Reuters was unable to verify the report.

Turkey on Saturday also offered to ease the situation.


Russia’s state-run energy giant Gazprom blamed a technical fault in its announcement on Friday that it would not resume supplies on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline as expected.

Gazprom said on Saturday that Siemens Energy was ready to help repair the damaged equipment, but there was no place to do the work. Siemens said it has not been commissioned to perform maintenance work on the pipeline, but is available.

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Nord Stream 1, which runs under the Baltic Sea to supply Germany and others, was due to resume operations after a three-day maintenance shutdown on Saturday at 01:00 GMT.

Moscow has blamed Western sanctions imposed after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine for hampering routine operations and maintenance of Nord Stream 1. Brussels and Washington accuse Russia of using gas as an economic weapon.

An indefinite delay in the resumption of gas supplies will exacerbate Europe’s winter fueling problems as the cost of living has already risen, driven by energy prices.

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy democracies – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – said on Friday the Russian oil price cap was designed to “reduce … Russia’s ability to finance its war of aggression , while limiting the impact of Russia’s war on global energy prices.

The Kremlin – which calls the conflict a “special military operation” – has said it will stop selling oil to any countries that enforce the restriction.

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