Europe's biggest nuclear power plant goes into total shutdown after mass evacuation

Officials at Energoatom said they had disconnected the last power unit at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant from the energy grid in the early hours of Sunday morning. The nuclear power station reportedly has been repeatedly shelled by Russian forces. The state agency wrote on its Telegram channel:”A decision was made to shut down power unit Number 6 and transfer it to the safest state – cold shutdown.”

Energoatom reiterated calls for a demilitarised zone to be established around the plant.

The agency said: “In order to prevent an emergency situation at the station, it is necessary to stop the Russian shelling of the ZANP’s communication lines with the power system and create a demilitarised zone around it.

“After that, the communication lines will be able to be repaired, to ensure the inclusion and further safe operation of the ZANP.”

The atomic facility is one of the ten biggest nuclear power stations in the world.

The plant was captured by Russian troops on March 4, in the early days of the war which began on February 24.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of placing military equipment and ammunition at the plant, as well as shelling the surrounding area.

Earlier in the month, officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were able to gain access to the nuclear power station.

In a subsequent report, they said the Russians had placed military equipment in the engine rooms of the power units at the plant.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi called for the creation of a nuclear safety and protection zone around the station on Friday.

His call came after Kyiv on Wednesday had urged residents of Russian-occupied areas around the plant to evacuate for their own safety.

It comes as the IEAEs top decision-making body called on Putin to cease all actions at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.

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The Board of Governors has drawn up a draft statement in which they roundly condemn Russian actions at nuclear plants in Ukraine.

The statement said: “The board deplores the Russian Federation’s persistent violent actions against nuclear facilities in Ukraine, including the ongoing presence of Russian forces and Rosatom personnel at the Zaporizhzhia  nuclear power plant.”

The text calls on Russia to “immediately cease all actions against, and at, the Zaporizhzhia  Nuclear Power Plant and any other nuclear facility in Ukraine, in order for the competent authorities to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders.”

The board members come from 35 different countries, but does not include Ukraine.

The draft statement was put together with the help of diplomats from Poland and Canada, according to Reuters.

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Ukraine’s army continued to make gains in its Kharkiv counteroffensive on Saturday.

Analysts say Ukraine has retaken over 1,100 square miles of territory since it launched its attack last week.

Latest reports suggest that Ukrainian forces are within just 15 miles of the Russian border.

George Barros, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, tweeted: “Ukrainian forces are likely 25 kilometres (15 miles) of the international border with Russia.

“Russian sources reported that Ukrainian forces captured Velyky Burluk in Kharkiv on September 10.

“Russian milblogger Yuriy Kotenyok stated that Ukrainian forces took advantage of the absence of a continuous front line while advancing on Velyky Burluk.”