IAEA complains about anti-personnel mines in Russian-held nuclear plant

11 months ago 18

The UN's nuclear watchdog said on Monday it had found anti-personnel mines in an area of the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine and complained for the second month running that this violated safety procedures.

The plant, Europe's largest nuclear facility, was seized in the first days of Russia's invasion last year. Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of shelling around the station and the International Atomic Energy Agency has been trying to set up a safety mechanism to prevent accidents.

Rafael Grossi, the IAEA's director general, said agency inspectors stationed at the plant had noted mines in a buffer zone between the site’s internal and external perimeter barriers and had also observed mines during previous checks.

"But 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," Grossi said in a statement on the agency's website.

Repeated warnings about mines

Grossi had issued a similar warning about mines last month and on both occasions he suggested they posed no risk to the plant's security.

Ukrainian servicemen ride in a pick-up past a destroyed Russian tank is seen in the recently liberated village of Novodarivka, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine July 21, 2023. (credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)

In Monday's note he said his agency's initial assessment was that even if they exploded, "these mines should not affect the site's nuclear safety and security systems."

The mines, he said, were in an areas inaccessible to staff and inspectors were told "that it is a military decision, and in an area controlled by military."

Grossi has visited the plant three times since it was taken over by Russian forces but has been unable to clinch an agreement with Russian and Ukrainian authorities to set up a safety regime to prevent accidents.

Tensions have frequently risen over the plant. Each side accused the other this month of plotting an attack on it.

Moscow says the plant will eventually be connected to Russia's power grid. None of the plant's six reactors has been producing electricity.

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