Ukraine 'doing everything possible to restore nuclear generation as soon as possible'

24 November 2022

All four of Ukraine's operating nuclear power plants were automatically disconnected from the power grid on Wednesday "as a result of a decrease in frequency in the power system" caused by missile strikes damaging the country's energy infrastructure.

The Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant (Image: Energoatom)

President of Energoatom, Ukraine's nuclear power firm, Petro Kotin, said that it was the first time in the 40-year history of Ukraine's nuclear energy industry that all units had been shut down.

The largest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia, which is under the control of the Russian military, was again forced to rely on its emergency diesel generators after losing access to external electricity at about 15:30 local time on Wednesday. Reactors need power for cooling and other essential safety measures even when they are in shutdown mode or not producing electricity.

Four of the six reactors at Zaporizhzhia are in cold shutdown, with two reactors in hot shutdown mode, which allows them to provide steam and heating for the plant and the nearby town of Energodar, where many of the plant’s staff and their families live.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Wednesday evening that Energoatom had said that "due to a decrease in the frequency in the power system of Ukraine at the Rivne, South Ukraine and Khmelnitsky nuclear power plants, emergency protection worked, as a result of which all power units were automatically disconnected. Currently, they work in the design mode, without generation into the power system". It also said that the radiation background at the nuclear power sites remained normal.

In an update on Thursday Kotin said: "Energoatom is doing everything possible to restore the operation of nuclear generation as soon as possible. This morning, November 24, the Zaporizhzhia NPP received power for its own needs from the energy system of Ukraine. All diesel generators are switched off and switched to standby mode."

"Start-up operations are being carried out at the power units of the Rivne, South Ukrainian and Khmelnytsky NPPs. During the day, if the power system is ready, the blocks of these stations will be connected to the power grid, and the supply of electricity for the needs of our citizens and the country's economy will be restored."

He said that although processes were in place, and staff trained, to safely respond to the issues on Wednesday  the risks of a "disaster" continued while there is shelling of the country. Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors across the four nuclear power plants, generating about half of its electricity.

The Russian missile strikes on Wednesday caused widespread damage and disruption to the country’s energy infrastructure. Although no missiles or other shells struck any of the nuclear power plants, the damage to the energy network and infrastructure caused the issues which forced the emergency measures to be brought in at the plants. All the nuclear power plants have back up emergency diesel generators - normally with about 10 days' fuel - which are designed to provide the power necessary if and when connection to external power is lost.

IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi held talks with the director general of Russia's nuclear operator Rosatom on Wednesday morning in Istanbul - talks which the Russian side described as "candid". The aim was to progress plans for a safety and security zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which sits on the frontline of the war, as well as to discuss the shelling at the weekend which damaged parts of the Zaporizhzhia plant. Both sides have blamed the other for that shelling.

Following Wednesday's wave of missile strikes across Ukraine, Grossi said it showed "the increasingly precarious and challenging nuclear safety and security situation at Europe's largest nuclear power plant".

The situation was discussed at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday evening. The impact on the energy supply was also felt in neighbouring Moldova, which had more than half of the country left without electricity at one point, according to its deputy prime minister Andrei Spinu.

Meanwhile, according to Russia's TASS news agency, senior Russian officials including Mijhail Ulyanov, the country's permanent representative to international organisations in Vienna, had told it that any safety or protection zone around Zaporizhzhia would have to reflect Russian control of the plant.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News