The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the middle of the fighting in Ukraine was temporarily cut off from the electrical grid Thursday because of fire damage, causing a blackout in the region and heightening fears of a catastrophe in a country haunted by the Chernobyl disaster.
The plant, Europe’s largest, has been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the war. The government in Kyiv alleges 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.
On Thursday, the plant was cut off from the grid for the first time after fires damaged a transmission line, according to Ukraine’s nuclear power operator. The damaged line apparently carried outgoing electricity — and thus the region lost power, according to Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russia-installed governor. As a result of the damage, the two reactors still in use went offline, he said, but one was quickly restored, as was electricity to the area.
The line that was apparently affected is different from the one that carries power to run cooling systems essential for the safe operation of the reactors. A loss of power in those supply lines is a major concern of experts warily watching the fighting.