The situation at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, which was occupied by the Russian military in March, is causing growing concern among experts. On August 5, the Ukrainian “Energoatom” reported on the repeated shelling of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. “Three “arrivals” were recorded right at the site of the station, near one of the power units where the nuclear reactor is located,” the nitrogen-oxygen station and the auxiliary building were seriously damaged. There is a risk of hydrogen leakage and radioactive spraying, fire danger is high,” the company said. According to Energoatom, during the first shelling, three shells hit the area near the industrial site of the nuclear power plant and damaged the high-voltage communication line.

IAEA: “Most safety measures violated at ZNPP”

The facility is “completely out of control” of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi in an interview with AP on August 3.

According to him, “if not all, then most” security measures have been violated at the power plant occupied by the Russian military. This leaves the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant “extremely vulnerable” to a reactor meltdown, warns Sean Burney, a nuclear technologist at Greenpeace East Asia. If the station loses power due to a possible increase in hostilities in the area, backup generators and batteries will not be enough to cool not only the six reactors, but also large pools of highly radioactive spent fuel, the expert warns.

Russian troops are hiding behind the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant?

Another concern is that Russian troops can use nuclear power plants as an armory and cover for attacks. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said at a UN meeting on nuclear non-proliferation this week that Russia is using a nuclear facility as “the equivalent of a human shield.”

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi in Vienna

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi

Such actions violate Article 56 of the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war, which states that special care must be taken if “installations and installations containing dangerous forces” are located near the places of hostilities. According to some reports, there are about 500 Russian servicemen at the facility.

When fighting began in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in early March, it was the first time in recent history that a war had come so close to a major nuclear facility. Since Russian troops occupied the power plant in mid-March and allowed Ukrainian personnel to continue working, news from Zaporozhye, where three reactors continue to operate, has been intermittent.

“Violation of all possible safety rules” at nuclear power plants

Recently there has been growing concern that the safety and operation of the plant is not being maintained at the proper level. “(Happens. – Red.) a combination of violations of every possible security rule imaginable,” the CEO said. IAEA Grossi in an interview with DW at the end of July.

“Is it true that explosives and other materials are stored near the reactors?” asks Rafael Grossi, commenting on reports that the Russian military is launching missiles in the immediate vicinity of the nuclear power plant to make retaliation impossible due to the extreme threat of an accident. . “I was trying to put together a technical mission under my direction to go there to address a number of issues,” Grossi told DW. But, according to him, access there is impossible without the escort of UN peacekeepers. The IAEA Director General is discussing this issue with UN Secretary General António Guterres.

So far, the IAEA has only “fragmentary” contacts with the personnel at the facility. Grossi is also concerned that essential equipment, including spare parts for reactor maintenance, cannot be delivered due to interrupted supply chains. “We’re not sure the station is getting everything it needs,” he warned.

How Russia treats Ukrainian nuclear power plant personnel

The organization is also concerned that the Ukrainian personnel of the nuclear power plant, under the command of the Russian occupiers, cannot properly perform their duties and face threats of violence. The head of the Ukrainian “Energoatom” Petr Kotin claims that since the capture of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, the Russian military has kidnapped up to 100 employees of the nuclear power plant. “Of these people, only a few later return to work with a broken psyche, having made a statement that they love the Russian world because of the torture that the invaders use on them,” Kotin said on the air of Suspilny.

Greenpeace spokesman Sean Burney is convinced that it is vital that local staff retain their positions and be able to work safely at nuclear power plants. While Russia has more than twice as many reactors as Ukraine, most of them are older models, so Russian engineers don’t have enough experience to service the newer technologies in Zaporozhye, Burney said.

The experience of local personnel will also come in handy during the regular floods on the Dnieper River, which flows near the nuclear power plant and can damage dams and reservoirs that provide cooling for reactors.

An example of Chernobyl: what was the nuclear power plant after the occupation of the Russian Federation

Sean Burney’s concern only increased after visiting Chernobyl nuclear power plantwhich Russia captured in the early days of the invasion of Ukraine and controlled for just over a month before retreating on 31 March.

In Chernobyl, the Greenpeace team found a contaminated exclusion zone littered with mines that prevented effective monitoring of the area. In addition, vital equipment for monitoring the state of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was destroyed, damaged or stolen during Russian occupationsums up Bernie.

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