The last operational reactor at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine has been fully stopped as fears of a radiation disaster continue.
Energoatom, the state agency in charge of the plant, said on Sunday that work at the facility was “completely stopped” after it disconnected the Number 6 power unit from the grid at 3:41am (00:41 GMT).
“A decision was made to shut down power unit No 6 and transfer it to the safest state – cold shutdown,” it said on Telegram.
The six-reactor Zaporizhzhia plant was cut off from the grid last week after all its power lines were disconnected as a result of fighting in the area. It ran in “island mode” for several days, generating electricity for crucial cooling systems from its only remaining operational reactor.
Energoatom said it restored to operational capacity a communications line to the power system, allowing the plant to be powered by Ukraine’s energy system long enough to initiate the shutdown.
The company said the shutdown was because the risk of further damage to the power lines “remains high”, which would disconnect the plant completely from the power grid again.
When disconnected from the grid, the plant is forced to rely on “diesel generators, the duration of which is limited by the … amount of available diesel fuel”. The plant reportedly only has diesel fuel for 10 days.
Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of damaging power lines supplying the plant with rocket and artillery fire, risking a nuclear disaster.
Kyiv on Wednesday called for residents of Russian-occupied areas around the plant, Europe’s largest, to evacuate for their own safety.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for the surrounding area to be demilitarised.
The atomic facility, one of the 10 biggest nuclear power stations in the world, has been occupied by Russian forces since the early stages of the war.
Energoatom urged Russian forces to leave the Zaporizhzhia plant and allow for the creation of a “demilitarised zone” around it.
Also calling for a safe zone around the plant is the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, which has two experts at the plant.