The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has begun providing onsite 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 additional plants are Rivne, Khmelnitsky, South Ukraine and Chernobyl. Since September, IAEA experts have been providing onsite assistance to Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which is occupied by the Russian military.
Following Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Ukraine’s operational nuclear power plants in Zaporizhzhia, Rivne, South Ukraine, and Khmelnytskyi were disconnected from the grid and “emergency diesel for the electricity needed to ensure their continued safety and security”. Forced to rely on generators,” Grossi said.
“This unprecedented situation would have been unimaginable a few months ago. It is very worrying,” he said.
“We must do everything we can to prevent a nuclear accident at any of these nuclear facilities, which will only exacerbate the terrible suffering we are already seeing in Ukraine. The time to act is now.”
Some context: Wednesday was the first time Ukraine’s four operating nuclear power plants were shut down simultaneously in 40 years, the head of state nuclear power company Energoatom said in a statement. Petro Kotin said it was a precautionary measure and he hoped to be reunited by Thursday evening. He added that the three fully functioning plants in Ukrainian hands will help supply electricity to the national grid.
According to the World Nuclear Association, Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear power. It has 15 reactors across four plants, which, before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February, generated about half the electricity.
Russia has turned its attention to destroying energy infrastructure in Ukraine ahead of bitterly cold weather, and successive waves of attacks have caused much of the country to suffer rolling blackouts.