Espreso. Global

IAEA notes increased military activity at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

9 September, 2023 Saturday

The IAEA suggests increased military activity in the area of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant due to numerous explosions over the past week

The IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said in a statement published on the agency's website.

"IAEA experts working at ZNPP reported hearing numerous explosions over the past week, in a possible sign of increased military activity in the region that could also pose a potential threat to nuclear safety and security at the site," Grossi said.

The report also says that ZNPP separately informed the IAEA team that on the morning of September 7, more drone strikes had taken place in the nearby city of Enerhodar – where many plant staff live with their families. No injuries were reported.

In addition, the IAEA team was informed that ZNPP had decided to temporarily reduce the number of personnel on site to a minimum level for the next few days due to concerns about the increased risk of military activity in the area.

At the plant, the IAEA experts observed the continued presence of mines between the perimeter fences, but they did not see any additional ones during their walk around the site.

However, it is noted that they have still not been granted access to the rooftops of reactor units 1, 2, 5 and 6. The IAEA team has also been requesting to conduct an inspection at all six turbine halls, one after the other.

More details about the situation at ZNPP

Russian forces occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP in late February 2022. Since then, there has been a constant presence of personnel and military equipment, which the invading Russian troops store in machine rooms and occasionally deploy to positions for shelling the territories of the Nikopol district in the Dnipropetrovsk region, located on the other side of the Kakhovka Reservoir.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a monitoring mission at the station, which is supposed to ensure that the nuclear power plant is not used as a military base, that it is not attacked, and that no fire is initiated from the NPP. Power outages at the nuclear power plant occur regularly though. Occupiers began importing explosives to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant last year.

In May 2023 information emerged that the Russian forces had placed explosives in the turbine room of the  ZNPP’s fourth power unit. Additionally, the invading Russian forces have nearly completely destroyed the emergency readiness and response system at the nuclear power plant.

On June 22, the Director-General of the IAEA, after visiting ZNPP Grossi, stated that the situation at the plant is extremely unstable. On the same day, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that intelligence had received information that Russia was considering a scenario for a terrorist act at the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which would cause a radiation release. 

The Head of the Main Intelligence Directorate, Kyrylo Budanov, stated that Russia has completed preparations for a terrorist act at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. After that, large-scale exercises were held in four regions of Ukraine in the event of a terrorist attack on the ZNPP.

On June 30, the Main Intelligence Directorate reported that the occupying Russian forces were gradually leaving the ZNPP, and that Ukrainian employees who had signed a contract with Rosatom also received evacuation recommendations. In addition, the plant's staff received an order to blame Ukraine in any emergency situation. On 2 July, the mayor of the temporarily occupied Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, said that some Rosatom employees and collaborators who had signed a contract with the company had left ZNPP.

At night, on July 4, Zaporizhzhia NPP lost power from the main power line, and the plant was connected to the only available backup line. The same day,  the Ukrainian Armed Forces officially reported that Russian troops were preparing a provocation at ZNPP: Russians placed suspicious devices similar to explosives on the roof of power units 3 and 4.

On July 5, during a meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, the European Union made a statement that Russia must immediately stop actions that threaten the safety of nuclear facilities and withdraw its troops from Ukraine. At the same time, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said that the agency had not detected any signs of mining at ZNPP. According to him, despite this, experts are "extremely wary". Subsequently, satellite images from Planet Labs, taken on the morning of July 5, showed unknown objects on the roof of the fourth power unit of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. The General Staff had previously reported that this particular power unit had been mined.

The head of the Main Intelligence Directorate, Kyrylo Budanov, said on July 6 that the threat of a terrorist attack at the Zaporizhzhia NPP was decreasing. However, the president of Energoatom later said that about 700 Russians are currently at the Zaporizhzhia NPP. The plant is mined, and machine gun nests are placed on the roofs of the power units. Energoatom also reported that the occupiers allow specialists from the Russian Federation to work at Zaporizhzhia NPP who do not have the necessary knowledge and skills to operate the plant.

On July 7, the United States in the OSCE called on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from ZNPP and return it to Ukrainian control, as it was concerned about reports of Russia's mining of the plant and plans for a "false flag" operation. Also

on July 7, the IAEA reported that its mission was able to inspect several facilities at the Zaporizhzhia NPP, except for the roof, but found no signs of explosives.

On July 14, about 500 Russian military and Rosatom employees were at ZNPP, in particular, they were using the plant to shell Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro regions. Later, Energoatom President Petro Kotin said that the Russian forces continue to mine ZNPP. The occupiers also use the plant as their military base.

On July 19, the Intelligence Service of Ukraine warned that Russia was planning to carry out another armed provocation on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant "under a false flag." The very next day, it was reported that the Ukrainian staff of ZNPP refused to launch the fourth power unit, which was ordered to be launched by the illegally appointed Russian management. As a result, the occupiers brought workers from six Russian nuclear power plants to Zaporizhzhia NPP.

On July 24, the Russian occupiers put the fourth power unit of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant into a shutdown state, which is a violation of international nuclear law.

On July 25, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recorded anti-personnel mines on the outskirts of the Zaporizhzhia NPP site.

On July 29, the IAEA reported that after the fourth power unit at the occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP was put on shutdown, the fifth power unit was cooled down.

On August 4, IAEA experts stated that they had not noticed mines or explosives on the roofs of two reactor buildings at the plant. They did not have access to the others.

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