(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin has told the United Nations atomic agency that Russia plans to restart the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeast Ukraine, which its troops have occupied for two years, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

The move could further flared the risks of an incident at Europe’s biggest atomic power station. 

In recent months, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency has received technical reports from its small team of inspectors at the plant suggesting Russia is looking to bring at least one reactor at Zaporizhzhia back into operation, the newspaper reported. 

A European diplomat who wasn’t identified said Russia may aim to do so in time for the 40th anniversary of the plant’s December 1984 connection to the Soviet Union’s electrical grid. 

Restarting a reactor at Zaporizhzhia would be a technical challenge and symbolic milestone for Russia, normalizing its illegal seizure of a plant that provided about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before 2022. 

Read more: Ukraine Nuclear-Plant Attacks Prompt Emergency Watchdog Meeting 

Five of the plant’s six reactors are currently off line — a so-called cold shutdown. The sixth, in a hot shutdown, runs just warm enough to produce steam the plant needs for basic safety operations. 

Bringing even one reactor back online would mean raising the core temperature by hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit while a skeletal crew checks a labyrinth of pipes, pumps and valves for leaks.

Experts question whether the inflow of water to the plant is sufficient to cool an active reactor following last year’s destruction of a nearby dam, the WSJ reported.   

The IAEA this week held an emergency meeting to discuss the increasing risk of an accident at a plant after a string of armed drone assaults on the site, which Ukraine and Russia blame on each other.

Drone strikes on April 7 and April 9 hit the side of a reactor building and appeared to target communication links, according to monitors stationed at the plant. 

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.