International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts present at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) have received information that the announced evacuation of residents from the nearby town of Enerhodar – where most plant staff live – has started and they are closely monitoring the situation for any potential impact on nuclear safety and security, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Saturday.
While operating staff remain at the site, Director General Grossi expressed deep concern about the increasingly tense, stressful, and challenging conditions for personnel – and their families – at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, located by the frontline in a southern Ukrainian region that has seen a recent increase in military presence and activity.
The IAEA experts at the site are continuing to hear shelling on a regular basis, including late on Friday.
“The general situation in the area near the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous. I’m extremely concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant. We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment. This major nuclear facility must be protected. I will continue to press for a commitment by all sides to achieve this vital objective, and the IAEA will continue to do everything it can to help ensure nuclear safety and security at the plant,” the IAEA Director General said.
The IAEA experts at the ZNPP site were not able to visit Enerhodar in recent days. But they have received information about the situation regarding the evacuation in the town. It is part of a wider temporary evacuation in the region reportedly announced on Friday.
ZNPP Site Director Yuri Chernichuk has publicly stated that operating staff are not being evacuated and that they are doing everything necessary to ensure nuclear safety and security at the plant, whose six reactors are all in shutdown mode. He also said that plant equipment is maintained in accordance with all necessary nuclear safety and security regulations.
Since the beginning of the conflict almost 15 months ago, the number of staff at the ZNPP has gradually declined but site management has stated that it has remained sufficient for the safe operation of the plant.