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Ukraine nuclear plant accident cuts power (+video)

A Ukraine nuclear plant accident has cut power production but poses no danger, according to the country's energy minister. Normal power output from the nuclear plant is expected to be restored by the weekend.

Ukraine's energy minister said Wednesday that a technical fault at a nuclear power plant in the south of the country has cut power production but he insisted the incident poses no danger.

Volodymyr Demchishin said that the fault at a power-generating unit No. 3 in the Zaporozhiya plant led to a drop in electricity production, and that normal output will be restored by the weekend.

The plant's operator revealed earlier this week that a problem had occurred with a power-generating unit, but concern was provoked Wednesday after Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk referred to an unspecified incident during a Cabinet meeting.

State nuclear power station operator Energoatom said damage to a transformer in a power-generating unit on Friday provoked an automatic shutdown in the system. The reactor in the unit has been put into cold shutdown, making chain reactions impossible, Energoatom said.

Energoatom said the risk status at the affected plant, as assessed according the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, is currently below zero, meaning there is no significance for safety.

The plant in the city of Enerhodar is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, with six power-producing units a 6,000-megawatt generating capacity, accounting for more than one-fifth of electricity production in Ukraine. The affected unit was put into commission in 1986.

Anxieties over nuclear safety run high in Ukraine, which continues to struggle with the legacy of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.

The Zaporozhiya incident has compounded a crunch in electricity provision. Power distribution company DTEK Dneproblenergo said Monday that it was introducing a rolling series of blackouts to deal with the shortfall.

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Demchishin said that Ukraine will likely be compelled to import power from Russia, despite the dismal state of diplomatic relations.

"In this complicated situation with the energy system balance, this is a necessary step, no matter how politically problematic it might be," he said.

Those supplies could start in the coming few days, Demchishin said.

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