Zaporizhzhia damage being assessed after shelling of plant

21 November 2022

Repeated shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant over the weekend came "dangerously close to key nuclear safety and security systems at the plant" with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Mariano Grossi saying whoever was responsible was "taking huge risks and gambling with many people's lives".

A file photo of the nuclear plant, which has six reactors (Image: Energoatom)

The IAEA has a permanent team of experts stationed at the plant, which has been occupied by Russian military since early March, although it has continued to be operated by its Ukrainian staff. It was part of the areas Russia said it had annexed in September: Ukraine has rejected the annexation and says the nuclear plant - the largest in Europe - remains Ukrainian.

It is on the frontline of the ongoing war, with the IAEA reporting that the latest shelling had caused damage to a radioactive waste and storage building and cooling pond sprinkler systems, an electrical cable to one of the reactors, condensate storage tanks and to a bridge between another reactor and its auxiliary buildings.

The IAEA added that radiation levels at the site remain normal and there were no reports of casualties from the shelling which began at around 18:00 local time on Saturday, with a fresh burst of a dozen blasts between 09:15 and 10:00 local time on Sunday morning.

Grossi said: "Once again, we were fortunate that a potentially serious nuclear incident did not happen. Next time, we may not be so lucky. We must do everything in our power to make sure there is no next time. Even though there was no direct impact on key nuclear safety and security systems at the plant, the shelling came dangerously close to them. We are talking metres, not kilometres. Whoever is shelling at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, is taking huge risks and gambling with many people's lives."

The IAEA experts on site are carrying out further assessments of the impact of the shelling on Monday. Grossi says the renewed shelling reinforced the urgent need for a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the plant.

The two sides in the war have blamed the other side for the shelling. Russia has been targeting Ukraine's energy infrastructure in recent weeks and Ukraine's Energoatom noted that the "nature and list of damaged equipment ... indicates that the attackers targeted and disabled exactly the infrastructure that was necessary for the start-up of power units 5 and 6 and the restoration of Zaporizhzhia's electricity production for Ukraine's needs".

Russia's official TASS news agency reported its defence ministry as saying that Ukrainian forces had resumed shelling the plant after a two month lull, firing 25 shells at the plant "with a shell hitting the roof of building No 2 where nuclear fuel is stored".

Director General Grossi has repeatedly urged both sides to ensure the safety of the plant and to agree to a protection zone at, and around, the nuclear power plant. His efforts over a period of months have included face-to-face talks with both presidents. The two sides have each said they agree with such a protection zone but there has yet to be an agreement on the details of how it would work in practice.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News