Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Wednesday ordering his country’s authorities to take control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine and make it a “federal property”.
The biggest nuclear plant in Europe is controlled by Russian troops since early March but continues to be operated by Ukrainian staff, with the raging battle between the two neighbors raising fears of a nuclear disaster.
Earlier on Wednesday, the state-run RIA news agency, citing a foreign ministry official, reported that Russia plans to supervise operations of the plant after formally taking the wider Zaporizhzhia region following referendums this week.
“The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is now on the territory of the Russian Federation and, accordingly, should be operated under the supervision of our relevant agencies,” RIA quoted deputy foreign minister Sergei Vershinin as saying.
Also on Wednesday, Russian news agency TASS said Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is slated to visit Moscow in the coming days to discuss the situation at the plant.
Addressing the Energy Intelligence Forum in London via telephone link from Ukraine on Wednesday, he said the electricity supply to the nuclear power plant is fragile.
“The situation with regards to external power continues to be extremely precarious. We do have at the moment external power, but it is, I would say, fragile. There is one line feeding the plant,” he said.
On Tuesday, the head of Ukraine’s nuclear power operator was quoted as saying in an interview with AP that Ukrainian officials are mulling over restarting two reactors at the plant to ensure its equipment remains undamaged and operational.
Energoatom President Petro Kotin said the company will decide whether to restart the reactors as winter approaches, to make sure the safety system does not cease working due to cold.
“We at the moment are evaluating all the risks. And this depends on the weather. And actually, we don’t have much time to do that,” Kotin said.
“If you have low temperature, you will just freeze everything inside. The safety equipment will be damaged,” he added, warning of “dangerous consequences.”