Security at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant ‘extremely fragile’ – IAEA

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More should be done to reduce the risk of a severe disaster at the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi cautioned at a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday.

The Zaporozhye facility, Europe’s largest nuclear power station, has been under Russian control since two years ago, when hostilities with Ukraine began. Since September 2022, the facility has also hosted a monitoring team dispatched by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.

Grossi claimed in his report on the IAEA’s activities to secure and monitor the situation around nuclear facilities in the Ukraine conflict zone that the “nuclear safety and security situation at the ZNPP [Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant] – in particular – remains extremely fragile.”

He explained that although six of the plant’s reactors have been shut down since mid-2022, the potential dangers of a major nuclear accident “remain very real.” 

Since the start of Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, Moscow and Kiev have regularly accused each other of attacking the ZNPP. However, the Russian Defense Ministry noted in November that the number of incidents had significantly diminished in recent months. 

The watchdog chief noted that while the plant had not been shelled for a considerable time, military activities continue to play out in the region and sometimes in the vicinity of the ZNPP. Members of the IAEA mission have reported rockets flying overhead close to the facility, he added

In a separate study released last week, the IAEA observed that Russia had reinstalled mines along the plant’s perimeter. Moscow has clarified that the presence of landmines in the buffer zone around the site is not “sensational,” and that they merely constitute a hazard to “rats, crows, and potential saboteurs.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s top spy, Sergey Naryshkin, claimed in an interview with RIA Novosti on Friday that Western intelligence services, particularly the British MI6, have been preparing Ukrainian reconnaissance groups for provocations at Russian nuclear power plants, including the ZNPP and a nuclear facility in Kursk.

In October, during a strike in western Russia’s Kursk Region, a Ukrainian UAV rammed into a nuclear waste storage site. Several other drones were also downed in the vicinity of the Kursk facility during that attack, local authorities reported at the time.