Real-time updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has begun providing on-site support to four more nuclear power plants in Ukraine in response to the country’s request, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a video message on Thursday.

Four additional plants are Rivne, Khmelnitsky, South Ukrainian and Chernobyl. Since September, IAEA experts have been providing support at the site of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, which is occupied by Russian troops.

Following Russian strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Ukraine’s operating nuclear power plants, Zaporizhska, Rovno, Yuzhno-Ukrainska and Khmelnytsky, were taken offline and “forced to rely on emergency diesel generators to provide the electricity they need to ensure their continued safety and protection.” Grossi said.

“This unprecedented situation would have been unimaginable just a few months ago. This is deeply disturbing,” he said.

“We must do everything to prevent a nuclear accident at any of these nuclear facilities, which would only increase the terrible suffering that we are already seeing in Ukraine. The time to act is now.”

Some context: On Wednesday, for the first time, four operational headquarters of Ukraine nuclear power plant were simultaneously stopped in 40 years, the head of the state nuclear energy company Energoatom said in a statement. Petr Kotin said that this is a precautionary measure and he expects them to be connected again by Thursday evening. Three fully functioning power plants in Ukrainian hands will help supply electricity to the national grid, he said.

According to the World Nuclear Association, Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear energy. It has 15 reactors at four power plants, which, before the full-scale Russian invasion in February, produced about half of the electricity.

Russia has focused its attention on destroying energy infrastructure in Ukraine ahead of the harsh winter season, and successive waves of strikes have left much of the country facing permanent power outages.