The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has started providing onsite support to four more nuclear power plants in Ukraine in response to a request from the country, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a video statement on Thursday.
The four additional plants are Rivne, Khmelnytskyi, South Ukraine, and Chornobyl. Since September, IAEA experts have been providing onsite support to Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian forces.
Following Russian strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure, Ukraine's operational nuclear power plants of Zaporizhzhia, Rivne, South Ukraine, and Khmelnytskyi were disconnected from the grid and "forced to rely on emergency diesel generators for the electricity they needed to ensure their continued safety and security," Grossi said.
"This unprecedented situation would have been unimaginable just months ago. It's deeply worrying," he said.
"We must do everything to prevent a nuclear accident at any of these nuclear facilities, which would only add to the terrible suffering we are already witnessing in Ukraine. The time to act is now."
Some context: Wednesday was the first time that Ukraine’s four operational nuclear power plants were simultaneously shut down in 40 years, the head of state nuclear energy company Energoatom said in a statement. Petro Kotin said it was a precautionary measure and that he expected they would be reconnected by Thursday evening. The three fully functioning plants in Ukrainian hands would help supply electricity to the national grid, he said.
Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear energy, according to the World Nuclear Association. It has 15 reactors at four plants that, before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February, generated about half of its electricity.
Russia has turned its attention to destroying energy infrastructure in Ukraine ahead of the bitter winter season, and successive waves of strikes have left much of the country facing rolling blackouts.