Drone attacks continue near Zaporizhzhia plant

04 July 2024

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has called for an immediate stop to drone attacks in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following reports of injuries to plant workers and forest fires being started.

The Zaporizhzhia plant (Image: IAEA)

The six-unit nuclear power plant has been under Russian military control since early March 2022 and is on the frontline of Ukrainian and Russian forces. It has had IAEA experts stationed at the site since September 2022 and the United Nations Security Council has backed Grossi's five key safety and security principles, including that no-one should store heavy military equipment at, or fire weapons from, a nuclear power plant, and no-one should fire at a nuclear power plant.

The IAEA experts stationed at the plant said they saw thick smoke and heard explosions coming from near the plant's 750 kilovolt switchyard after they were told that drones had hit an adjacent forest, starting fires in windy conditions. Firefighters were working to control the flames. The switchyard is located outside the Zaporizhzhia plant site itself. For now, the IAEA experts do not report any impact on-site.

Three drone strikes on 3 July near the town of Energodar hit one of its electrical sub-stations, injuring eight workers, one of whom required medical care, the plant said. The IAEA experts were informed that the alleged impact also caused an oil leak from at least one of the two sub-station transformers, and damage to the top of one of them as well as a connection line. As a result, the affected sub-station - Raduga - is currently out of service, but Energodar and an adjacent industrial area are still receiving electricity.

The IAEA said the latest incident presents a further risk to nuclear safety as the Zaporizhzhia plant's sole remaining 750 kV power line supplies the off-site electricity the plant needs to cool its six reactors in cold shutdown and for other essential nuclear safety and security functions. At present, the 750 kV power line as well as a back-up 330 kV line are still available, but the situation remains precarious.

Last month there was a 16-hour loss of power in Energodar, where many of the nuclear power plant staff and their families live, due to drone strikes on the Raduga and Luch sub-stations. In early April, drone strikes also hit the Zaporizhzhia plant site.

"It is extremely concerning that these drone attacks are continuing, despite the very clear dangers they present to people in Energodar as well as to safety at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," Grossi said. "They must stop, immediately."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News