IAEA warning after explosions heard near Khmelnitsky

26 October 2023

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi warns that nearby explosions which shattered windows at Ukraine's Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant "show just how close it was - and underlines the extremely precarious nuclear safety situation ... which will continue as long as this tragic war goes on".

A file picture of the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant. Only units 1 and 2 (left) are completed and in operation (Image: Energoatom)

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts stationed at the plant in western Ukraine said air raid sirens sounded at 01:26 local time on Wednesday followed by two loud explosions which they were later told were two drones being shot down 5 kilometres and 20 kilometres from the site.

Although the site was not hit or have its operations affected, the IAEA reported that "shockwaves damaged the windows of several buildings at the site, including the passageway to the reactor buildings, an integrated auxiliary building, a special equipment building, the training centre, as well as other facilities, the plant said. The seismic monitoring stations installed in the vicinity of Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant also recorded the seismic impacts of the blasts".

A power outage temporarily forced two of the 11 off-site radiation monitoring stations to rely on back-up power supplies, while damage in the nearby town of Netishyn meant some staff had been forced to work from home.

Grossi said: "Next time, we may not be so fortunate. Hitting a nuclear power plant must be avoided at all costs."

Khmelnitsky's first reactor was connected to the grid in 1987, but work on three other reactors was halted in 1990. Work on the second reactor restarted and it was connected to the grid in 2004 but units 3 and 4 remain uncompleted.

The primary focus of safety concerns for the IAEA since the outbreak of the war has been on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant which has been under Russian military control since early March 2022. It is located on the frontline between the forces, and although it has not been reported to have been hit by shelling in recent months, military activity nearby has continued. In its update on the situation at the weekend, the IAEA said its experts at the site "have continued to hear explosions almost every day and they have also heard occasional machine gun fire".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News