Recent reports are raising concerns over the safety and security of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant because Russian forces are using the facility as a cover from which to launch artillery attacks on the Ukrainian forces.
It has been said that “the first casualty of war is truth,” and actual facts on the ground about the Russian War on Ukraine have seemed especially difficult to pin down. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) reports that it has had only limited – “faulty” and “patchy” – contact with the Ukrainian technical staff who continue to work at the plant, which according to various reports, has either two or three of its six reactors currently operating.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the IAEA, stated, “We can’t afford faulty communication with the plant in areas relevant to safety. We know of allegations that live ammunition is stored in the plant, and that there are attacks on the power plant. Frankly, if I don’t have access, I can’t determine that. There are contradictions between the accounts of the Russian and Ukrainian sides.”
At the United Nations Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the IAEA director noted that he believes IAEA’s presence at Zaporizhzhia would serve as a deterrent to any attacks on the facility, and he has urged both sides to establish a security zone around the plant as well as other nuclear facilities in Ukraine.
According to the New York Times, Russian forces have positioned multiple rocket launchers between reactor buildings at Zaporizhzhia “to protect them from retaliatory strikes.” The Russians have also reputedly parked military vehicles in the turbine room of a reactor building, blocking a fire access route. In addition, the Times recently reported “a huge, roiling plume of black smoke rose a few miles south of the reactors at Zaporizhzhia, and the Ukrainian military said it had hit a Russian ammunition depot.”
Aside from the obvious risks to the nuclear plant and its stored spent fuel are the concerns over “fatigue and stress of the Ukrainian control room employees”. According to the New York Times, the control room employees have been subjected to “harsh interrogation” by Russian soldiers.
The ANS–European Nuclear Society set up the Ukrainian Nuclear Workers Humanitarian Fund to help Ukrainian nuclear professionals and their families, that are in need. All of the donations go directly to the Ukrainian Nuclear Society for essential medical supplies, personal protective equipment, batteries, flashlights, warm clothes, food, and other items. To date, more than $100,000 has been raised. Donations can be made at https://www.ans.org/donate/form/appeal-ukraine/.