KYIV: Shelling hit a high-voltage power line on Friday (Aug 5) at a major Ukrainian nuclear power station captured by Russia, prompting the plant’s operators to disconnect a reactor despite no radioactive leak being detected.
Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom blamed Russia for the damage at the Zaporizhzhia power station, Europe’s largest. Earlier this week, the United Nations nuclear watchdog appealed for access to the plant, which Washington says Russia is using as a battlefield shield.
Russia’s defence ministry accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant, which was captured by Russian forces in early March in the opening stage of the war, saying a leak of radiation had been avoided only by luck.
It said that as a result, the generating capacity of one unit had been reduced and power supply to another had been cut. In addition, the nearby city of Enerhodar had power and water supplies problems, a ministry statement said.
It was not the first time that military action has caused alarm at Zaporizhzhia, where the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency had at times reported losing connection with surveillance systems that keep track of nuclear material.
The Russian-installed administration of Enerhodar said in a statement fire had broken out and that power necessary for the safe functioning of reactors had been cut off. The plant continues to be run by its Ukrainian technicians.
Energoatom said the plant, about 200km northwest of the Russian-held port of Mariupol in southeast Ukraine, was still operational and no radioactive discharges had been detected.
A decision had been taken to disconnect one reactor from the network because of damage to a 330 kilowatt high-voltage power distribution line linking the plant to the thermal power station, it said.
Further east, both sides claimed small advances while Russian artillery bombarded towns and villages across a wide area in a now-familiar tactic.