Buildings, systems and equipment have been damaged with explosions occurring near the reactors of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) – following repeated shelling in the Zaporizhzhia (southwestern Ukraine) area over the weekend.
However, radiation levels at the site remained ‘normal’ and there were no reports of casualties. The ZNPP’s external power supplies, which have been knocked out several times during the conflict, were also not affected.
The shelling began shortly before 6 pm local time on Saturday and, after a lull, resumed at 9:15 am on Sunday with more than a dozen blasts within 40 minutes. After the morning shelling, the area was again quiet, according to experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“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”, said Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi.
According to the IAEA experts, site management reported damage in several places, including a radioactive waste and storage building, cooling pond sprinkler systems, an electrical cable to one of the diesel generators, condensate storage tanks, and to a bridge between a reactor and its auxiliary buildings.
The Director General said he was in active consultations with world leaders on Sunday concerning the latest security situation at the ZNPP, insisting that a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP must be agreed on and implemented, immediately.
“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 Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, is taking huge risks and gambling with many people’s lives,” Director General Grossi said.
Last month, due to its security situation, Ukraine was forced to stop exporting electricity to the European Union in order to stabilise its own grid.
IAEA completes damage assessment
Yesterday, a team of experts from the IAEA assessed the extent of damage caused by the shelling at ZNPP. It was confirmed that key equipment remained intact with no immediate nuclear safety or security concerns.
According to the assessment, the status of the six reactor units is stable, and the integrity of the spent fuel, the fresh fuel and the low, medium and high-level radioactive waste in their respective storage facilities was confirmed.
Nevertheless, the experts still observed widespread damage across the site.“This is a major cause of concern as it clearly demonstrates the sheer intensity of the attacks on one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants”, said Director General Grossi.
The team’s observations included: damage to condensate storage tanks that caused non-radioactive leaking, several impacts on the main road along the plant’s reactors and a site railway that is out of service, a pressurised air pipeline hit by shrapnel, two impacts on the roof of a special auxiliary building, minor visible damage to a sprinkler charging pipeline, as well as two impacts in a guardhouse area.
Operating and maintenance staff have already begun repairing some of the damage and plant personnel are also cleaning up the site following the weekend attacks, the IAEA team said.
The IAEA team also reported that there had been no further attacks on the plant on Monday, though there had been shelling in the area of the nearby city of Enerhodar and the industrial area.
Senior site management separately informed the IAEA team that four of the ZNPP’s reactors remained in cold shutdown and two in hot shutdown, continuing to produce steam and hot water for the site and Enerhodar, where many plant workers and their families live.