Continuing drone, C-UAS operations at Ukrainian nuclear plant fuel IAEA concerns

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts reported hearing over 100 rounds of gunfire in the vicinity of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on April 30, allegedly in response to drones flying near the plant’s training centre, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on May 3.

The IAEA said in a statement that it is aware of reports alleging that a training base for drone operators and drone launch pads have been deployed near unit 6 and the training centre at ZNPP, though the IAEA had so far found no evidence of this. 

Russian personnel have occupied and controlled Ukraine’s ZNPP since Russian forces seized the site on March 4, 2022,” according to a US Department of Energy National Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) briefing note. “Russia’s placement of military equipment and explosive mines around ZNPP has jeopardized the safety and security of the plant, the lives of Ukrainian staff who operate the plant, and the security of the surrounding area.”

The IAEA team continues to report almost daily military activities at various distances from the site. Last month, IAEA said there were multiple reported drone attacks targeting the ZNPP. At the time, Director General Grossi said the drone strikes had not compromised nuclear safety at the site “so far” but cautioned that the “reckless attacks must cease immediately”.

IAEA continues to monitor the plant but reports that access is restricted in some areas.

In April this year the ZNPP site  was damaged in a drone attack, according to a CNN report , “as both Russian and Ukrainian officials denied responsibility for the strike and accused the other of carrying it out….The IAEA reported the attack at the Russian-controlled facility, but said the damage “has not compromised nuclear safety….The drone attack included three direct hits against the facility’s main reactor containment, the agency’s director-general, Rafael Grossi, said on X. One person died as a result of the attack, he added.”

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(Image: Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine. Image: Ralf1969, Wikimedia Commons)

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