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Russia placed directional anti-personnel mines on the periphery of the Zaporizhzhia NPP site

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts observed directional anti-personnel mines on the periphery of the site of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, temporarily occupied by Russian forces. Moreover, power unit No. 4 of the facility has been put into a hot shutdown state despite Ukrainian regulatory orders.

A Russian soldier near the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP.
Photo: Serhii Ilnitskyi / EPA

According to the report, the IAEA team saw some mines located in a buffer zone between the site’s internal and external perimeter barriers during the visit on July 23, 2023. The experts reported that they were situated in a restricted area that operating plant personnel could not access and were facing away from the site.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi stated that IAEA had been aware of the previous placement of mines outside the site perimeter and at particular places inside. Concerning this specific finding, they were told that “it is a military decision and in an area controlled by military [Russian troops – ed.] ”.

Rafael Mariano Grossi also added that having such explosives on the site is inconsistent with the IAEA safety standards and nuclear security guidance and creates additional psychological pressure on plant staff. According to the IAEA’s initial assessment, the detonation of these mines should not affect the site’s nuclear safety and security systems. However, the conclusion is at least partially based on the clarifications from the plant, controlled by the Russian military.

The IAEA experts also visited the reactor unit 6 main control room, emergency control room, the rooms where electrical cabinets of the safety systems are located, and parts of the turbine hall. They did not observe any mines or explosives there, but the report also notes that the team was not able to visit all areas in the turbine hall.

At the same time, according to Grossi, IAEA is continuing to request access to the roofs of the Zaporizhzhia NPP’s reactors and their turbine halls, including units 3 and 4, which are “of particular interest“.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks with journalists after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission arrives in Zaporizhzhia amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. August 31, 2022.
Photo: Anna Voitenko / Reuters

Furthermore, the power unit No. 4 of Zaporizhzhia NPP has been recently put into a hot shutdown state, which creates risks to nuclear and radiation safety.

The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate (SNRI) of Ukraine explained that such a decision could create additional risks due to the long-term downtime of power unit No. 4 equipment, the lack of proper routine maintenance and repair of equipment essential for safety, the insufficient number of qualified personnel at the ZNPP, as well as the loss of a reliable source of water supply after Kakhovka reservoir was destroyed by the Russian attack on Kakhovka HPP dam.

Occupiers continue to commit criminal acts. They once again violated the requirements of the operating license issued by the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine to transfer all plant units to a cold shutdown, as well as the requirements of the IAEA. This is a deliberate violation of the norms of Ukrainian and international legislation,” the Ukrainian State Enterprise NNEGC “Energoatom” emphasized in the statement.