No evidence yet of explosives planted at Zaporizhzhia, says IAEA

July 6, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News

International Atomic Energy Agency experts at Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant have so far been unable to verify recent claims by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Russia may have planted explosives at the site to “simulate an attack.”

According to an update yesterday from IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi, agency experts have inspected various parts of the 5,700-MWe nuclear facility, including some sections of the perimeter of its large cooling pond, and have conducted walkdowns across the site without spotting any evidence of explosives.

The IAEA has requested additional access to the site, however, to confirm the absence of such devices, Grossi added—in particular, access to the rooftops of Zaporizhzhia-3 and -4, as well as parts of the turbine halls and parts of the plant’s cooling system. (On Tuesday, citing “operational data,” the Ukrainian military alleged that explosives had been placed on top of those units.)

“With military tension and activities increasing in the region where this major nuclear power plant is located, our experts must be able to verify the facts on the ground,” Grossi stated. “Their independent and objective reporting would help clarify the current situation at the site, which is crucial at a time like this with unconfirmed allegations and counter-allegations.”

Separately, the IAEA team reported that Zaporizhzhia’s sole remaining external 750-kV power line—which was cut early Tuesday morning, leaving the plant dependent on back-up power supplies—had been reconnected by Tuesday afternoon.

ANS weighs in: In a statement released yesterday, the American Nuclear Society said that its experts “have carefully considered ‘worst case scenarios,’ including bombardment and deliberate sabotage of the reactors and spent fuel storage canisters” and “cannot foresee a situation that would result in radiation-related health consequences to the public.”

ANS continued, “ZNPP’s six reactors have been shut down for over 10 months and are no longer making enough heat to cause a prompt radiological release. ZNPP is designed to withstand natural and man-made hazards. Thick, steel-reinforced concrete containment buildings protect the reactor cores and are designed to keep any radioactive materials isolated from the environment.

“In the unlikely event that containment structures were breached, any potential release of radiological material would be restricted to the immediate area surrounding the reactors. In this regard, any comparison between ZNPP and Chernobyl or Fukushima is both inaccurate and misleading.

“IAEA inspectors must be given immediate, unfettered access to all areas of the Russian-occupied nuclear power plant.”

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