Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant still poses major threat after IAEA visit

Ukraine: Fire fighters tackle blaze in Zaporizhzhia

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Zaporizhzhia nuclear powerplant (ZNPP) in Ukraine continues to pose a grave nuclear threat even following a visit by the world’s nuclear energy agency, according to an expert. The plant has been occupied by Russian forces since March and has seen regular shelling, some of which has damaged critical infrastructure at the plant. There are concerns about the plant’s power supply as well as a potential false flag attack by Russian forces made to look as if Kyiv had attacked the plant.

Dr Paul Dorfman is an Associate Fellow at University of Sussex Business School specialising in civil nuclear, he has advised various Governments, including the UK Government, on nuclear policy.

He told Express.co.uk the situation was “incredibly dangerous” particularly with regard to keeping the plant supplied power.

The plant has, once again, been disconnected from the main power grid and days later, shelling reportedly damaged the plant’s last backup power cable. ZNPP was using its remaining online nuclear reactor to keep its systems running, according to the IAEA.

Although the site does have diesel powered backup generators, they are unlikely to have much fuel left due to the war creating logistical problems.

Dr Dorfman said: “IAEA visited the site, [Head of the IAEA Rafael] Grossi spent four hours [at the plant] and came out saying he knew what he needed to know.

“He’s left a small team in order to do what exactly? It’s an incredibly dangerous and difficult situation. The generators only have a limited time they can [provide backup power] without being refuelled themselves.

“Then there is the issue of: Does Russia want to disconnect it from the [Ukrainian] grid and reconnect it to their own? Which is a hugely complex and dangerous thing to do.”

The IAEA has said that so far, the shelling from that incident did not “have an immediate impact on the ZNPP’s current operations” as the plant was already disconnected from the grid.

However, on September 9, the organisation gave its gravest warning about the situation at Zaporizhzhia yet.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said: “This is an unsustainable situation and is becoming increasingly precarious. Enerhodar [the town near ZNPP] has gone dark.

“The power plant has no offsite power. And we have seen that once infrastructure is repaired, it is damaged once again.”

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“Then there is the issue of: Does Russia want to disconnect it from the [Ukrainian] grid and reconnect it to their own? Which is a hugely complex and dangerous thing to do.”

The IAEA has said that so far, the shelling from that incident did not “have an immediate impact on the ZNPP’s current operations” as the plant was already disconnected from the grid.

However, on September 9, the organisation gave its gravest warning about the situation at Zaporizhzhia yet.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said: “This is an unsustainable situation and is becoming increasingly precarious. Enerhodar [the town near ZNPP] has gone dark.

“The power plant has no offsite power. And we have seen that once infrastructure is repaired, it is damaged once again.”

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The technical dangers at Zaporizhzhia do not take into account the human factor at the plant. Ukrainian operators continue to work at the Russian occupied plant. Their families in the surrounding towns are likely subject to Russian shelling, possibly from ZNPP itself.

There have also been reports of torture and coercion by Russian forces there. Additionally, there remains the threat of a Russian false flag operation which could see Russia damage the plant, possibly significantly, while blaming the attack on Kyiv.

Dr Dorfman added: “We’ve got the largest nuclear station in Europe under military attack, whether internally or externally – especially in the context of potential Russian false flag operations.

“We know that Russia is unstable, we know Russia is firing from the nuclear plant, and some of the towns Russian forces based in Zaporizhzhia are firing on are where nuclear workers’ families are sheltering.”

Both experts and the IAEA seem to agree, that in its present situation ZNPP is a ticking time bomb which could even spell disaster for the region and the world.

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