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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) staff at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant say they heard what sounded like rockets "fired from a Multiple Launch Rocket System nearby" - it came on the same day the site lost connection to its main off-site power line.

The IAEA have had experts at the site for more than a year (Image: IAEA)

The six-unit Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is located on the frontline of the Russian and Ukrainian forces, has been under the control of the Russian military since early March 2022. It has lost its external power supply on a number of occasions and had to rely on emergency diesel generators for short periods. With frequent shelling in the area of the plant as well, the IAEA secured agreement to station a team of its experts there in September 2022, to assist with safety measures and monitor compliance with UN-backed safety principles.

The key principles are that neither side should fire at, or from, a nuclear facility, and should not use nuclear sites as a base for large-scale military equipment and weapons. Both sides have accused the other of breaching those rules and in its latest report the IAEA does not say which side might have fired the rockets.

The agency's report said: "The IAEA experts present at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant heard several rockets that appeared to have been fired from close to the plant. The IAEA team did not see the projectiles because of clouds but the distinctive sound indicated they were fired from a Multiple Launch Rocket System nearby."

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the weekend developments "once again clearly demonstrate the extremely fragile nuclear safety and security situation" at Zaporizhzhia and said it "continues to face many potential threats as a result of this tragic war".

He added: "I remain deeply concerned about nuclear safety and security at the plant, both when it comes to its vulnerable off-site power supplies - which can be affected by attacks far away from the site - and the more direct military risks it is facing, potentially undermining the principles that I set out at the United Nations Security Council in May. In this context, the apparent firing of rockets from near the plant is a special source of concern."

The operators of the nuclear plant said that a short circuit about 100 kilometres north had cut the connection to the only one of its four 750 kV lines that was still working, at about 10:30am on Sunday. While the line was being repaired - which Energoatom says was completed about 12 hours later - the plant was able to use its one remaining 330 kV back-up power line, the IAEA said. It was the first time connection to the main 750kV line had been lost since 10 August.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Tuesday, 28 November 2023
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