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Renewable shells put Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant at risk

Even if it was hoped that the regular presence of UN inspectors would help reduce the risk of disaster at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the war once again jeopardized operations. factory safety.

After being shelled Friday night, the plant lost connection to its only remaining main external power line, forcing it to use a lower voltage reserve line to power equipment. cooling needed to prevent a meltdown, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement on Saturday.

However, the agency’s director, Rafael Mariano Grossi, expressed cautious optimism that the plan to keep two nuclear experts at the plant indefinitely would help reduce the risk of disaster.

“We believe it is important for the agency to be there permanently,” he said. “The difference between being there and not being there is like day and night.”

The decision to keep supervisors at the plant despite the obvious risks underscored what Mr. Grossi called the “unprecedented” danger at the moment. He added that the inclusion of independent nuclear experts at the plant would allow for unbiased reports of conditions in real time.

“Now, when there are allegations that something happened at the plant, you can turn to us, instead of considering the conflicting statements of Russia and Ukraine,” he said.

Grossi, who has avoided blaming the shelling on the Russians or Ukrainians, on Friday said it appeared that the power supply to the plant was being deliberately targeted.

“It’s clear that these military targets know very well that the way to paralyze or cause additional damage is not to look at the extremely sturdy and powerful reactors,” he said. Instead, the plant is being hit where it hurts – the power lines needed to run it.

On Saturday, Mr. Grossi said that the presence of agency inspectors, who could confirm damage to external power lines, had proven valuable.

“Our team on the ground received first-hand, fast and reliable information on the latest significant developments affecting the plant’s external power situation, as well as the health of the plant,” he said. reactor operation.

One of the plant’s six reactors is now operational and is producing electricity for both cooling and other essential safety functions at the site, as well as for homes and plants, the agency said. in Ukraine.

The move by the United Nations to keep a pair of inspectors at the plant comes as fighting continues to rage across southern and eastern Ukraine. The factory is precariously located near some of the fiercest fighting.

Late last month, the Ukrainian military launched a counter-offensive to the south, including the area just across the Dnipro River from the nuclear plant, in the western Kherson region. On Saturday, British military intelligence said that Ukraine’s advance on three fronts has likely “gained a degree of tactical surprise; exploit the poor logistics, administration and leadership in the Russian armed forces”.

However, military analysts have downplayed expectations for a Ukrainian offensive, saying that between 15,000 and 25,000 Russian troops are stationed in fortified defenses west of the Dnipro.

Jack Watling, a researcher and expert on land warfare at the Royal Joint Services Institute in the UK, wrote that unless Russian forces collapsed due to low morale – which he said “maybe but is not something that can be assumed in the plan” – any success on the battlefield for the Ukrainians will take a long time.

On another front in the Ukraine war, German officials expressed cautious confidence that their country could endure a winter without Russian energy, after Russia delayed deliveries of gas to the country. this indefinitely.

Knowing well the history of President Vladimir V. Putin’s use of energy supplies as a foreign policy tool, Berlin has been preparing for months for the possibility that Russia might cut gas supplies in retaliation. Europe’s opposition to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The German government has adopted tough energy-saving measures and the ministry that oversees gas deliveries noted that Germany’s gas storage is nearly 85% full, a target set for early October.

And while Germany got 55% of its natural gas from Russia in February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian gas accounted for only about 10% of Germany’s total gas on Tuesday – the last day when the gas flows. via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline – thanks to months of sourcing gas from other countries.

Gazprom, the Russian-owned energy giant, is expected to resume gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Saturday after three days of maintenance. But hours earlier, using what a European Union official called a “fallacy”, they said they had detected an oil leak around a turbine used to supercharge the pipeline, forcing they have to stop restarting. It does not give a timeline for restarting.

In Washington, the Biden administration on Friday asked Congress for an additional $13.7 billion in aid to Ukraine, underscoring its commitment to support the war-torn country even as the conflict shows signs of easing.

As part of Ukraine’s funding request, $7.2 billion will be used to deliver new weapons and military equipment to the country, replenish US stockpiles, and provide other related assistance. defense, administration officials said. An additional $4.5 billion will support the Ukrainian government, and $2 billion will be used to offset the impact on energy supplies from the Russian invasion.

Marc Santora reported from Kyiv and Andrew E. Kramer from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Report contributed by Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin, Michael D. Shear from Washington and Dan Bilefsky from Montreal.

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