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The last reactor at Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, has stopped

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian forces, in Ukraine on Aug. 28.
Planet Labs PBC via AP
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian forces, in Ukraine on Aug. 28.

Updated September 11, 2022 at 9:35 AM ET

KYIV, Ukraine — The nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, controlled by Russia and at the center of much international concern, has announced they are powering down the final working reactor.

In a message Sunday morning, the nuclear operator Energoatom said that power lines had been restored to the Zaporizhzhia plant but that they were powering down Reactor No. 6, preparing it to be cooled and transferred to a safer state.

Because of shelling in and around the area, the entire plant has been cut off from the electricity grid for several days, with the one working reactor, on "island mode," essentially powering the rest of the plant's crucial cooling systems.

The owners have been discussing shutting down the plant — because of the power issues and the condition of the Ukrainian workers.

The powering down was a precaution, as it's the safest mode for the reactors. There are still major worries the plant could be disconnected from the grid by shelling.

In that case, the plant would have to fire up emergency diesel generators to keep the reactors cool and prevent a nuclear meltdown. The company's chief said on Thursday that the plant only has diesel fuel for 10 days.

FILE - A Russian serviceman guards an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, May 1, 2022.
/ AP
/
AP
A Russian serviceman guards an area of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in May.

The plant, one of the 10 biggest atomic power stations in the world, has been occupied by Russian forces since the early stages of the war. Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for shelling around the plant that has damaged the power lines connecting it to the grid.

In a statement early Sunday, Energoatom urged Russian forces to leave the Zaporizhzhia plant and allow for the creation of a "demilitarized zone" around it.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog which has two experts at the plant, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday. Its director has called for a safe zone around the plant to avert a disaster.

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Material from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.