Nuclear plant fears continue as IAEA urges restraint

There are continued warnings over the threat posed by Ukraine’s Zaporizhzya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) as the Russian occupation of the site continues.

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, has issued another appeal for “maximum military restraint” in the area as the Ukrainian atomic energy organisation, Energoatom, warned as Europe’s largest nuclear power plant had the potential to cause a disaster ten time the size of Chernobyl.

Grossi said that any further escalation related to the six-reactor plant could lead to a severe nuclear accident with potentially grave consequences for human health and the environment in Ukraine and elsewhere.

The director general called for the Russian government to allow the IAEA to send a mission to conduct essential safety, security and safeguards activities at the site in southern Ukraine. He added the IAEA is in active consultations with all parties regarding its efforts to send such a mission as soon as possible. As during two previous IAEA missions to Ukraine during the conflict, Grossi said he would personally lead this mission.

His comments come amid ongoing reports of damage to the plant caused by shelling in recent weeks.

“In this highly volatile and fragile situation, it is of vital importance that no new action is taken that could further endanger the safety and security of one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants,” Grossi said. “There is an urgent need to lower the tension and take the necessary steps to help ensure nuclear safety and security and prevent any radiological consequences for the population and the environment. The IAEA can play an indispensable role in this regard,” he said.

The IAEA added it has not been able to visit the ZNPP since before the conflict began six months ago.  Since early March, it has been controlled by Russian forces, but the Ukrainian staff are continuing to operate the plant.

Ukraine has informed the IAEA that ten of the country’s 15 nuclear energy reactors are currently connected to the grid, including the two at the ZNPP, three at the Rivne Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), three at the South Ukraine NPP, and two at the Khmelnytskyy NPP.

ZNPP is the biggest nuclear plant in Europe and has a capacity of 6,000 megawatts, enough to power 4 million homes.

However Ukraine’s atomic power organisation, Energoatom, warned the potential threat plant could be “ten times greater than the scale of the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters”.

It has accused the Russian of seeking to attach the plant to the Russian power grid in an effort to divert its energy to occupied areas of the country.