Nuclear energy provides a reliable base load and covers more than half of the electricity production in Ukraine (55.5% in 2021). There are four nuclear power plants (NPPs) in Ukraine with a total installed capacity of 13,835 MW (15 reactors in total, incl. 13 reactors with a capacity of 1,000 MW and two reactors with a capacity of 415 MW and 420 MW, respectively).
Zaporizka NPP (ZNPP) is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and is located in Energodar city, Zaporizhzhya region. The ZNPP has been occupied since the beginning of March 2022. The installed power capacity of the plant is 6,000 MW (six reactors with a capacity of 1,000 MW each) which is 43% of Ukraine's total nuclear power installed capacity. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the plant covered about 25% of electricity production in Ukraine.
The periodic shelling of the plant by Russian military forces caused severe risks to the safe operation of the plant, especially since the beginning of August 2022:
• On August 5, due to an attack by Russian military forces, the emergency protection of one of the power units was activated. As a result, one of the three operating reactors is now disconnected from the power system. The nitrogen-oxygen station and the combined auxiliary building were seriously damaged during the shelling. There are still risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances. The fire risk is also relatively high.
• On August 6, as a result of shelling by Russian military forces, three radiation monitoring sensors around the nuclear fuel storage site of the ZNPP were damaged.
• On August 11, the Russian occupants destroyed the fire station located outside the territory of the ZNPP that was designed to rapidly extinguish a fire from the plant in an emergency situation.
• On August 13, the 750 kV open switchgear was damaged.
• On August 18, one of the leaked videos revealed that Russian military forces installed military equipment inside the plant, namely five military trucks allegedly with ammunition were seen in the turbine hall connected to the nuclear reactor of the ZNPP.
• On August 20, as a result of shelling by Russian military forces, one of the buildings (overpass) connecting the reactor with other buildings of the plant was damaged.
As of today, the Russian occupants are restoring high-voltage power lines between the Kherson region and occupied Crimea with the aim of disconnecting the plant from the Ukrainian power system. The main purpose of such disconnection is to meet the power needs of occupied territories, in particular the occupied Crimea peninsula, using the electricity produced by the ZNPP.
For now, ZNPP operates within the Ukrainian power system. Over the last two weeks, only two reactors (No. 5, No. 6) have been in operation with a capacity of ~800 MW and ~600 MW, respectively.
The Ukrainian staff of the station continues to work and makes every effort to ensure nuclear and radiation safety, as well as to eliminate the consequences of regular damages. Taking into account that the nuclear plant remains under occupation by Russian military forces, it is impossible to envisage the aggressor's actions. The threat to the plant's physical security remains high.