The AP Interview: Ukraine aims to restart occupied reactors

Oct 3, 2022, 6:31 PM | Updated: Oct 4, 2022, 6:23 pm
Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom President Petro Kotin speaks during an interview with Th...

Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom President Petro Kotin speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. The head of the company operating Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which is occupied by Russian troops, says Ukraine is considering restarting the facility to ensure its safety — just weeks after fears of a radiation disaster prompted its shutdown. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine is considering restarting Europe’s largest nuclear plant to ensure its safety just weeks after fears of a radiation disaster at the Russian-occupied facility, the president of the company that operates the plant said Tuesday.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has emerged as one of the most worrying flashpoints of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It has been damaged in fighting, prompting international alarm, and its head was detained by occupying forces through the weekend before his release Monday.

Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom shut down the last of the plant’s six reactors on Sept. 11 because Russian military activity had cut reliable external power supplies for cooling and other safety systems, threatening a potentially catastrophic meltdown.

But now the company faces a different problem.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Energoatom President Petro Kotin said the company could restart two of the reactors in a matter of days to protect safety installations as winter approaches and temperatures drop.

“If you have low temperature, you will just freeze everything inside. The safety equipment will be damaged,” he said in his office at the company’s Kyiv headquarters. “So you need heating and the only heating is going to come from the working reactor.”

The plant’s last operational reactor was placed into what is known as “cold shutdown” last month, reducing the likelihood of a dangerous meltdown.

But there is still a risk as long as there are nuclear fuel assemblies inside, Kotin explained. Intentional damage to the reactors or the safety and cooling equipment, or a failure of those systems due to cold temperatures, could still lead to disaster.

“You have residual heat and you should constantly provide the coolant for these fuel assemblies. If you stop cooling, then you will have meltdown. And that is how it works,” he said.

Russian troops occupy the plant and the surrounding area, including the nearby city of Enerhodar, while thousands of Ukrainian workers continue to maintain the facility. The plant is the city’s only source of heat, Kotin said.

Energoatom could make a decision as early as Wednesday to restart the reactors.

“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.

At the time of the forced shutdown, Ukrainian officials warned it was only a stopgap measure and, as such, unreliable.

Steven Arndt, president of the American Nuclear Society, said U.S. power plants often use heaters to prevent equipment, particularly refueling water storage tanks, from freezing. He did not have enough information to say whether restarting reactors at the Zaporizhzhia plant was necessary.

“Those heaters run on electricity, which need not come from the reactors, if the plant has a grid connection or backup generators in lieu of off-site power supplies,” Arndt said by email.

The power plant sits within one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia has illegally claimed as its territory. The plant’s director general, Ihor Murashov, was seized and blindfolded by Russian forces on his way home from work on Friday, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties to annex the areas.

Murashov reported that he did not experience beatings or other abuse, but he was forced to make false statements on camera before his release, according to Kotin.

“I would say it was mental torture,” Kotin said of the baseless false confessions. “He had (to) say that all the shelling on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant was made by Ukrainian forces, and that he is a Ukrainian spy and he is in contact with Ukrainian special forces.”

Murashov was eventually let go at a checkpoint at the edge of territory Russia controls and had to walk about 15 kilometers (9 miles) across a no-man’s land to Ukrainian-held areas, according to Kotin.

Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov said he had since spoken with Murashov, who reported “he spent two days in solitary confinement in the basement, with handcuffs and a bag on his head. His condition can hardly be called normal.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, said Tuesday that it “understands that Mr. Murashov is now with his family in territory controlled by Ukraine and will not be continuing with his duties at the ZNPP.”

“It is not yet clear who will replace him in this role,” the agency said.

The U.N. agency said its own director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, plans to travel to Kyiv and then to Moscow this week to pursue an agreement on a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Russian forces occupied the nuclear power station, which ranks among the world’s biggest, early in the war. Both sides blame each other for shelling that has damaged power lines connecting it to the grid.

Kotin on Tuesday renewed his call for the establishment of a “demilitarized zone” around the plant, where two experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency are currently based.

___

Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed reporting.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Shoppers looking for bargains enter an OshKosh children clothing store, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in M...
Anne D'Innocenzio and Cora Lewis, Associated Press

Shoppers hunt for deals but inflation makes bargains elusive

Consumers holding out for big deals -- and some much-needed relief from soaring costs on just about everything -- may be disappointed as they head into the busiest shopping season of the year.
18 hours ago
FILE - The Twitter splash page is seen on a digital device, Monday, April 25, 2022, in San Diego.  ...
Associated Press

Musk plans to relaunch Twitter premium service, again

Elon Musk said Friday that Twitter plans to relaunch its premium service that will offer different colored check marks to accounts next week.
18 hours ago
FILE - Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks with members of the press Nov. 16, 2022, on Capitol Hill in...
Associated Press

Senate set to vote on bill protecting same-sex marriages

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriages, putting Congress one step closer to ensuring that such unions are enshrined in federal law. Senate Democrats are moving quickly, while the party still holds the majority in both chambers of Congress, to pass the bill requiring […]
18 hours ago
Wanda Farris, the mother of slain teenager Leesa Gray, second from right, is surrounded by supporte...
Associated Press

Judge mulls arguments in Mississippi death penalty protocol

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal judge will decide whether to block Mississippi from using three drugs when it puts inmates to death, and his ruling could determine whether the state carries out its next execution in about two weeks. U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate heard several hours of arguments Monday in a lawsuit filed […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Birds take flight in the Salton Sea on the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge on...
Associated Press

Drying California lake to get $250M in US drought funding

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The federal government said Monday it will spend $250 million over four years on environmental cleanup and restoration work around a drying Southern California lake that’s fed by the depleted Colorado River. The future of the Salton Sea, and who is financially responsible for it, has been a key issue in […]
18 hours ago
FILE - A school of fish swim above corals on Moore Reef in Gunggandji Sea Country off the coast of ...
Associated Press

Australia argues against ‘endangered’ Barrier Reef status

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s environment minister said Tuesday her government will lobby against UNESCO adding the Great Barrier Reef to a list of endangered World Heritage sites. Officials from the U.N. cultural agency and the International Union for Conservation of Nature released a report on Monday warning that without “ambitious, rapid and sustained” climate […]
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
The AP Interview: Ukraine aims to restart occupied reactors