The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has begun providing on-site support to four more nuclear power plants in Ukraine in response to the country’s request, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a video statement on Thursday.
The four other plants are Rivne, Khmelnytskyi, Southern Ukraine and Chernobyl. Since September, IAEA experts have been providing on-site support to Zaporizhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian forces.
Following Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Ukraine’s operational Zaporizhia, Rivne, South Ukraine and Khmelnytskyi nuclear power plants were disconnected from the grid and “forced to rely on emergency diesel generators for the electricity they needed to ensure their continued safety and security”. Grossi said.
“This unprecedented situation would have been unimaginable just a few months ago. It is deeply disturbing,” he said.
“We must do everything we can to prevent a nuclear accident at any of these nuclear facilities that would only add to the terrible suffering we are already witnessing in Ukraine. It is time to act.”
Some context: On Wednesday, it was the first time in 40 years that four of Ukraine’s operating nuclear power plants were shut down at the same time, the head of state-run nuclear power company Energoatom said in a statement. Petro Kotin said this is a precautionary measure and that he expects them to be reconnected by Thursday evening. Three fully operational power plants in Ukrainian hands would help supply electricity to the national grid, he said.
According to the World Nuclear Association, Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear energy. It has 15 reactors in four power plants, which produced about half of its electricity before Russia’s large-scale invasion in February.
Russia has turned its attention to destroying Ukraine’s energy infrastructure ahead of a harsh winter season and successive waves of strikes have left much of the country facing constant blackouts.