Shelling has damaged the plant numerous times, raising fears of a possible nuclear meltdown. Russian missiles have also threatened the power lines needed to operate vital cooling equipment at Zaporizhzhia and Ukraine’s other nuclear plants.
Before the war, the Ukrainian government planned to reduce the country’s reliance on coal-fired power stations, which contribute to global warming, and to increase nuclear energy and natural gas production. But when Russian attacks damaged thermal plants in the middle of winter, it was coal that helped keep Ukrainian homes warm, Oleksandr said.
The work of the coal miners cannot fully compensate for the loss of energy from nuclear power plants, but every megawatt they have a role in generating reduces gaps.
“We come and work with optimism, trying not to think about what is going on outside the mine,” a miner named Serhii said. “We work with a smile and forget about it. And when we leave, then another life begins (for us), of survival and everything else.”
While many miners from the area joined the armed forces when Russian troops invaded and are now fighting at the front in eastern Ukraine, nearly 150 displaced workers from other coal-producing regions in the east joined the team in Dnipropetrovsk.
Yurii left the embattled Donetsk province town of Vuhledar, where he worked as a coal miner for 20 years. “The war, of course, radically changed my life,” he said. “It is now impossible to live there, and the mine where I used to work.”
“Life begins from scratch,” he said.