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Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant seen on Sunday.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant seen on Sunday. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

The president of Ukraine’s state nuclear company — Energoatom — told CNN that the power units at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant remain in a cooling state while work continues to restore power lines from the plant.

Speaking to CNN via Skype, Petro Kotin, said all seven lines connecting to the plant were damaged, and it had switched to what he called the “island mode” — where the plant supplied electricity solely for itself.

“We tried to prolong the operation of one of our power units for as long as possible, even in the conditions when it was operating in island mode. It worked for us for three days,” he told CNN. 

Kotin said just one of the six power units remained working, and was supplying the needs of the plant — the electricity necessary for the pumps that cool the nuclear material. The reactors “are full of nuclear material, fuel and also there are six pools that are located near the reactors at each power unit. They need to be constantly cooled,” he said.

“The hazard is that if there is no power supply, the pumps will stop and there will be no cooling, and in about one and a half to two hours you will have a meltdown of this fuel that is in the reactor,” he added. 

Kotin reiterated that when there is no external power supply, the diesel generators could kick in. “As of today the diesel generators can work there for ten days.”

“We are also doing our best to secure additional supplies. But we understand that it is very difficult to bring anything in there. The railway is damaged, so it can only be done by vehicles,” he said. 
“If there is now a loss of external power, then we will have only one option. The diesel generators,” he added. 

Kotin said representatives of the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), remained at the plant. “They have meetings with the plant management twice a day, so they have all the current information on the plant’s operation,” he said. 

As for the IAEA proposal for a safety zone around the plant, Kotin said: “We don’t fully understand what this safety zone means exactly.”

He repeated the Ukrainian government’s line that the plant should be returned to Ukrainian control and the power plant itself and zone around it should be demilitarized.

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