Live: Fears of disaster averted as power at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant restored

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the world narrowly avoided a radiation disaster as electricity to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was cut for hours due to Russian shelling in the area, allegations that Moscow denied. Follow our liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).


1:43pm: Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant reconnected to Ukrainian grid

The Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been reconnected to Ukraine’s electricity grid, the national operator said Friday, after a cut-off that had sparked global concern about a nuclear incident.

“Today, August 26, 2022, at 2:04 pm (1104 GMT) one of the power units… that was stopped yesterday was connected to the power grid,” the nuclear agency Energoatom said on Telegram.

12:41pm: Nuclear power must not be instrument of war in Ukraine, Macron says

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Friday against the use of civilian nuclear facilities as an instrument of war in Ukraine, where a Russian-controlled plant has been disconnected from the power grid.

“War in any case must not undermine the nuclear safety of the country, the region and all of us. Civil nuclear power must be fully protected,” Macron said during a visit to Algeria.

12:40pm: Gazprom says Russian gas storage is 91.4 percent full

Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom on Friday said that Russian gas storage was 91.4 percent full as of August 24.

The level of Russian gas storage before the winter heating season has been watched closely since Moscow said  the need to fill domestic storage is to be prioritised over gas exports.

12:34pm: Finns urged to take fewer saunas amid energy crunch

Finns are being urged to turn down their thermostats this winter, take shorter showers and spend less time in their beloved saunas, as Europe faces an energy crunch following Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The nationwide power saving campaign was announced this week Russia has cut gas supplies to Finland and other European countries in recent months, causing energy prices to soar.

In addition to lowering their heating and taking shorter showers, Finns will be encouraged to cut back on sauna time.

With an estimated three million saunas for 5.5 million people, the steam bath is a traditional Finnish institution. Bathers gather together in the nude in temperatures of around 85 degrees Celsius (185F).

11:49am: ‘Very close to a catastrophe’ at Zaporizhzhia

“It’s difficult to know exactly what happened [at Zaporizhzhia]; what is clear though – and that is obvious on satellite pictures you can see on the internet – is that indeed there was a large fire on the southern side of this power station Zaporizhzhia that appears to have damaged the 750 kilovolt line that powers the cooling system of the nuclear power plant,” FRANCE 24’s James Andre reports from Kyiv. “Normally there are four of these very high-tension lines that indeed power the power station; three of those have been severed during the fighting.

“Previously during the war, there was only one left and yesterday that one was cut for several hours. […] President Zelensky said this was very close to a catastrophe on the European continent. Indeed, the fifth power line – the safety one, that is a lot less powerful — did remain functioning, so the cooling system of the power plant was not stopped. And then there are diesel engines inside the power plant,” Andre went on.

© France 24

11:29am: Ukraine is working to restart two Zaporizhzhia reactors, governor says

Ukraine has begun trying to resume operations at two reactors at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on Friday.

The plant’s sixth reactor is working at 10% capacity, while the fifth reactor is in the process of resuming operations, he said in televised comments.

10:21am: Russians spied on Ukrainian soldiers training in Germany, reports Der Spiegel

German security forces have “indications” that Russian secret services spied on Ukrainian soldiers who are in Germany to receive training on Western weapons, Der Spiegel magazine reported Friday.

German military forces have spotted suspicious vehicles outside two sites where Ukrainian recruits were being trained.

Small drones were also used to fly over the training sites before quickly disappearing, Der Spiegel said, without citing its sources.

The two affected locations are Idar-Oberstein in the western state of Rhineland Palatinate, where Ukrainian soldiers are being trained to use howitzer 2000s, and Grafenwoehr in Bavaria, where the US military is teaching Ukrainians to use Western artillery systems.

10:19am: IAEA mission seeks to visit Zaporizhzhia plant amid concerns

A mission from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant next week after it was temporarily knocked offline and more shelling was reported in the area overnight, Ukrainian officials said Friday.

Fire damage to a transmission line at Europe’s largest nuclear plant caused a blackout across the region on Thursday and heightened fears of a catastrophe in a country still haunted by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Lana Zerkal, an adviser to Ukraine’s energy minister, told Ukrainian media on Thursday evening that logistical issues are being worked out for the IAEA team to come to the Zaporizhzhia plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces and run by Ukrainian workers since the early days of the 6-month-old war.

Zerkal accused Russia of trying to sabotage the visit. Ukraine has alleged that Russia is essentially holding the plant hostage, storing weapons there and launching attacks from around it, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the facility.

8:37am: TotalEnergies reiterates denial that it produces jet fuel for the Russian army

TotalEnergies, under fire after a report earlier this week saying it was supplying jet fuel to the Russian army, reiterated on Friday that this wasn’t the case, adding it would seek to end this “controversy”.

In a statement, the company said it had asked its Russian partner Novatek clarity about condensate produced by their joint ventures.

“The range of products derived during processing at the Ust-Luga complex includes jet fuel (Jet A-1) that is exclusively exported outside Russia, and it does not even have the certification to be sold inside the country,”  TotalEnergies said, citing Novatek’s response.

8:24am: Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant still disconnected from grid, Ukraine’s Energoatom says

All six reactors of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine are still disconnected from Ukraine’s electricity grid, state nuclear company Energoatom said.

Energoatom said electricity for the plant’s own needs was currently being supplied through a power line from Ukraine’s electricity system.

4:20am: Zelensky says accident averted at Zaporizhzhia plant

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian shelling on Thursday sparked fires in the ash pits of a nearby coal power station that disconnected the reactor complex, Europe’s largest such facility, from the power grid.

Back-up diesel generators ensured power supply that is vital for cooling and safety systems at the plant, he said, praising the Ukrainian technicians who operate the plant under the gaze of the Russian military.

“If our station staff had not reacted after the blackout, then we would have already been forced to overcome the consequences of a radiation accident,” he said in an evening address.

“Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans in a situation one step away from a radiation disaster.”

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in the occupied town of Enerhodar near the plant, blamed Ukraine’s armed forces for a fire in a forest near the plant. He said towns in the area lost power for several hours on Thursday.

“This was caused by the disconnection of power lines from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station as a result of provocations by Zelensky’s fighters,” Rogov wrote on Telegram. “The disconnection itself was triggered by a fire and short circuit on the power lines.”

10:47pm: Zaporizhzhia security measures triggered to prevent nuclear catastrophe

Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s James André explains the stakes at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

“The Zaporizhzhia power plant is supplied with electricity with four 750-kilovolt lines. Three of those lines were damaged earlier in the conflict. What happened today is that the fourth, the last line remaining line, was cut off. That triggered the security mechanisms of the actual power plant,” said André.

What’s at stake is the supply of electricity in Ukraine as the winter approaches. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, supplies 20% of Ukraine’s electricity. “If the Russians were to divert that to their own territories, which is a real option, that would be a huge problem for Ukraine,” said André.

© France 24



© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)