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The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine was temporarily cut off from the electrical grid on Thursday after fires damaged the last working transmission line, state nuclear company Energoatom said.
Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for shelling and other damage at the facility, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Russian forces originally took control of it in March but have allowed the Ukrainian staff to maintain operations.
The Kremlin has resisted calls from Western nations to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the plant, but Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to open the facility up to international experts after a call last week with French President Emmanuel Macron.
“Almost every day there is a new incident at or near the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. We can’t afford to lose any more time,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement on Thursday.
“I’m determined to personally lead an IAEA mission to the plant in the next few days to help stabilize the nuclear safety and security situation there.”
President Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday and the two leaders called on Russia to return control of the plant to Ukraine, according to a White House readout of the call.
Ukraine is heavily reliant on nuclear power and fighting at Zaporizhzhia could create a catastrophe, according to Rebekah Koffler, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and author of “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America.”
“This is potentially a Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster in the making,” Koffler told Fox News Digital. “The nuclear power plant has been shelled for days, if not weeks, with both sides, Russia and Ukraine blaming each other.”
Three transmission lines at the nuclear plant were already damaged by Russian shelling, according to Energoatom. The fourth and final transmission line lost connection twice on Thursday but was up running again, the IAEA said.
Energoatom claimed last week that Russian forces were “planning to shut down the power blocks and disconnect them from the power supply lines to the Ukrainian power system in the near future.”