Energoatom’s statement said that at 2:04 p.m. local time on Friday, one of the two reactors “that were shut down yesterday will be connected to the grid and capacity will be added.”
In a later statement, the operator said a second reactor was connected. “Despite numerous provocations by the (Russian) occupiers, [Zaporizhzhia plant] continues to work in Ukraine’s energy system, meeting our country’s electricity needs,” Energoatom said in a statement.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated the factory workers on Friday for their protection “against the worst-case scenario, which is constantly being provoked by Russian troops,” he said in a daily speech. “Currently, the station is connected to the network. Congratulations! It produces energy for Ukraine.”
Fires at a nearby thermal power plant had resulted in the last remaining power line, which powers the station, being disconnected twice on Thursday, the then nuclear operator said. The plant’s three other lines had been “lost earlier in the conflict,” it added.
Power was restored later on Thursday, but the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant remained disconnected from the country’s electricity grid until Friday. The two nuclear reactors that remain operational at the plant require a source of electricity to function and supply power to the grid.
The nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, has been under Russian control since March. Clashes around the complex have sparked widespread concern and fear of disaster.
Kiev has repeatedly accused Russian forces of storing heavy weapons in the complex and using them as cover to carry out attacks, knowing Ukraine cannot fire back without risking hitting one of the plant’s six reactors.
Moscow, meanwhile, has claimed that Ukrainian troops are targeting the site. Both sides have tried to point the finger at the other for threatening nuclear terrorism.
On Thursday, Zelensky said backup diesel generators were “activated immediately” at the plant to prevent a “radiation disaster.”
“The world needs to understand what a threat this is: if the diesel generators hadn’t been turned on, if the automation and our factory staff hadn’t responded after the blackout, we would already be forced to overcome the effects of the radiation. accident,” Zelensky said during his late-night speech.
The generators are installed to supply power to cooling pumps to prevent the fuel from overheating in the event of a power failure.
Zelensky also stressed on Friday that “the situation (in the factory) remains very risky and dangerous. Any repetition of yesterday’s events, i.e. any disconnection of the factory from the grid, any action by Russia that would lead to the closure of the factory reactors, the factory will be another step away from disaster.”
He stressed that officials from the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, should be allowed access to the site as a matter of urgency.
A plant clerk told CNN on Friday that amid “shelling around the station and town, smoke from fires, dust from the ash dump of a thermal power plant,” the “situation sometimes seems like the end of the world.”
“It’s really hard when there’s high winds,” added the employee, who has spoken to CNN on previous occasions and whose identities are not being disclosed for their safety.
The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant generates about 20% of Ukraine’s electricity and a prolonged disconnection from the national grid would have been a huge challenge for Ukraine as the colder weather approaches.
Russia said Friday that it is doing everything it can to ensure that a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gains access to the nuclear power plant, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
The factory is located in the Russian-occupied part of southern Ukraine. The IAEA has said it has not been able to visit the facility since the conflict began six months ago.
CNN’s Pierre Meilhan, Uliana Pavlova and Petro Zadorozhnyy contributed to this report