The Zaporizhzhia plant is back online while talks on access for U.N. inspectors gain momentum | New York Times

by UKCHP_Admin

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s largest nuclear plant was reconnected to the national power grid on Friday afternoon, but its time offline renewed concerns about the safe operation of the plant, as negotiations to allow U.N. inspectors to visit the site gathered momentum.

Ukrainian engineers were able to restore damaged external power lines after repeated shelling on Thursday, ensuring the facility was able to meet its own power needs and continue to operate safely, according to Ukrainian and international officials, but efforts to reconnect it to the grid took longer.

With fires raging around the plant, new shelling in and around the facility on a near daily basis and an exhausted and stressed team of Ukrainian engineers tasked with keeping the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant running safely, however, calls for international intervention grew louder.

Negotiations with Ukraine and Russia to allow safety experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit and inspect the plant appeared to be making progress, as U.N. officials indicated they expected an agreement soon. “We are in active consultations for an imminent I.A.E.A. mission,” a spokesman for the agency said.

The stakes are high.

“Nowhere in the history of this world has a nuclear power plant become a part of a combat zone, so this really has to stop immediately,” Bonnie Denise Jenkins, the State Department’s under secretary for arms control and international security, told reporters in Brussels on Thursday.

Russian actions, she said, “have created a serious risk of a nuclear incident — a dangerous radiation release — that could threaten not only the people and environment of Ukraine, but also affect neighboring countries and the entire international community.”

One of the main sticking points in the efforts to bring in nuclear inspectors has been the route they would take to the plant, which is on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine.

The Ukrainians have insisted that the I.A.E.A. mission originate from territory they control. That would likely mean that the inspectors would have to pass through front line positions where shelling is frequent, via a crossing point now mainly used by civilians fleeing the fighting and nuclear danger in the Russian-occupied territory. Any deal would likely require that a cease-fire along the route.

The head of the I.A.E.A., Rafael M. Grossi, has expressed extreme urgency in seeking access for his team of inspectors, which he intends to lead himself. On Thursday, he predicted the inspectors would gain access “in the next few days.”

Though the immediate threat at the plant appeared to have been averted, its disconnection from the national grid on Thursday and part of Friday caused widespread power outages across southern Ukraine, adding to the misery wrought by the war.

The Zaporizhzhia regional government said that as of Friday morning, energy supplies were “partially restored” from other sources. The plant was reconnected to the Ukrainian grid at 2:04 p.m. on Friday, according to Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency, Energoatom.

Many of the towns and cities in southern Ukraine fell in the first days of the war and were spared the widespread destruction witnessed in the east. But if the nuclear plant were to go offline again, the power for hundreds of thousands living in occupied territories could be compromised.

“The south of Ukraine — the occupied areas — is already in a state of humanitarian disaster,” Mr. Zelensky said. “In addition to all the evil that the occupiers brought there, electricity, water and sewage were cut off.”



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