Wednesday, October 5, 2022

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Russians take over Zaporizhzhya NPP: no release of radioactive material but situation remains challenging

Ukraine has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Russian forces had taken control of the site of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant with six reactors.

The IAEA’s Director General Rafael Mario Grossi has reported that the plant is continuing to be operated by its regular staff and there had been no release of radioactive material, after a projectile overnight had hit a training building in the vicinity, causing a localised fire that was later extinguished. However, the operator has reported that the situation remains very challenging and therefore it has not yet been possible to access the whole site to assess that all safety systems are fully functional.

Of the plant’s reactor units, Unit 1 is shut down for maintenance, Units 2 and 3 have undergone a controlled shut down, Unit 4 is operating at 60 per cent power and Units 5 and 6 are being held “in reserve” in low power mode.

Director General Grossi informed also that the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) has been put in full response mode.

“I’m extremely concerned about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP and what happened there during the night,” he said. “Firing shells in the area of a nuclear power plant violates the fundamental principle that the physical integrity of nuclear facilities must be maintained and kept safe at all time,” he said.

Early this morning, Ukraine’s Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources asked the whole world to remember the 1986 Chernobyl disaster with its deaths and long-lasting devastating effects caused by the explosion at the nuclear power plant.

“It could not just be a catastrophe for the whole Europe, it could be a catastrophe for the whole world,” reads the press statement. “[…] This is a violation of all possible international agreements in the field of nuclear safety.”

“During the Chernobyl disaster, the explosion occurred at one power unit, at the Zaporizhzhya station there are six of them, so the consequences […] will be six times more catastrophic,” said Petro Kotin, the Head of Energoatom, operator of the NPP. “The consequences are difficult to predict. Immediate intervention by the IAEA and the Member States is needed.”

Also, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has called for an emergency security UN Council, as “shelling and resulting fire at Zaporizhzhya power plant can endanger the whole of Europe,” he said.

Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA.

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