15 Aug 2022 6:15 p.m
An analysis by Rafael Fakhrutdinov, Alyona Zadorozhnaya and Darya Volkova
UN Secretary-General António Guterres is working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to arrange a visit by the agency’s inspectors to the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.
“We are extremely concerned about the situation surrounding the power plant and that it may be the target of an attack, the cause of an attack. We very much hope that the IAEA will be able to send inspectors to find out what is going on at the facility,” said Stéphane Dujarric, deputy head of the IAEA on Monday. “The secretary-general made it clear in Tokyo that any attack on a nuclear power plant is suicidal,” added Guterres’ spokesman.
Washington, in turn, has decided to repeat Kiev’s story that the nuclear power plant is allegedly being threatened by the Russian military. “We continue to call on Russia to cease all military activities in or near Ukrainian nuclear facilities and to return full control to Ukraine,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on the matter. “We will continue to monitor radioactivity,” she explained, adding, “Fortunately, we have not seen any signs of elevated or abnormal levels of radiation.”
Defense Ministry official Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov announced that the Ukrainian army continued shelling the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant on Sunday afternoon, which it began on Friday. According to him, the attack was carried out by the 44th AFU artillery brigade from the area of the town of Marganets, which is located on the opposite bank of the Kakhovka reservoir from the NPP.
“As a result of the Ukrainian shelling, the high-voltage power line from Kakhovka, which supplies electricity to the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, was damaged. A voltage surge at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant caused smoke at the open switchgear of the power plant. A protection system was also triggered, cutting off the power supply,” quoted the TASS the general. To avoid disrupting operations, the power plant’s technical staff reduced the output of Units 5 and 6 to 500 MW, the military department added. Konashenkov described the act as a “new act of nuclear terrorism” that would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe in the Cherson and Zaporozhye regions.
The local authorities, for their part, specified: the artillery attack was aimed at the cooling system and the spent fuel storage facility (SNF). “In addition to the reactor cooling system, which is very important for safety, the dry spent fuel storage area and the radiation control and accounting center are also permanently in the attack zone. These are very scary things, this is nuclear terrorism,” Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Supreme Council of the military-civilian administration of the Zaporozhye region, told the TV channel Russia 24. He noted that the nuclear power plant has indeed become the main target of Ukrainian artillery in the region. Should the cooling system become damaged, the reactor could overheat, which could lead to a loss of control over the burning processes, Rogow explained, with the dry storage containing a large volume of SNF.
“The IAEA shows willingness to have a commission inspect the Zaporozhye NPP to see what is happening there,” Rogov added. But the Ukrainian authorities, said Rogov, set one condition: “They say: you have to withdraw, no longer ensure security, remove the air defense system. Can you imagine what would happen if there were no Russian air defense systems there?”
According to the Municipality of Energodar, where the nuclear power plant is located, fragments from a rocket fired on Sunday fell no more than 400 meters from the operating power plant unit. One person died as a result.
At the same time, Kyiv stubbornly maintains the view that the nuclear power plant was being fired upon by the Russian army itself. In this regard, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky called for a tougher response to Russia’s “nuclear terror” on Sunday. On Monday, Ukrainian diplomat Oleksandr Sherba said Zelensky had spoken with European Council President Charles Michel about sanctions against Russia’s nuclear energy sector Kommersant.
According to Russian experts, it is no coincidence that another shelling of the nuclear power plant took place almost simultaneously with Zelensky’s diplomatic incursions against Russia. “Obviously, these actions are synchronized. The shelling occurs systematically at a specific time. They have a complex approach, like all rational leaders,” says Duma member Mikhail Delyagin.
“Such shelling could damage the nuclear power plant’s water supply. It could cause an unpleasant problem. In such situations, the reactor should be shut down. The situation is far from safe,” warns Alexander Borovoy, a nuclear physicist and adviser to the President of the Kurchatov Institute. “Most likely, these are not stray shells, but a calculated psychological attack on the local population. People in Ukraine at the time were frightened by Chernobyl. Even a small accident at a nuclear power plant is considered by many to be a dangerous matter. Those who who are shelling the plant are trying to create panic and trying to cause as much damage as possible so that the Russians have to rebuild everything there,” says the expert.
Energy expert Aleksei Anpilogow is convinced that Kyiv is playing a double game. And he agrees that the attack on the nuclear power plant is aimed at causing panic among the residents of Zaporozhye. “This is done in order to provoke an exodus of the population from the liberated part of the Zaporozhye region. Today the intention was expressed to hold a referendum on joining Russia. If there is no population, Kyiv can claim that the vote did not take place, it is unlawful. One way or another, Kyiv will claim that, but in a specific case it can support its claims with real images of migration,” Anpilogov said.
“The blocks themselves are difficult to damage – the concrete shell withstands even the fall of a light aircraft, shelling from mortars or artillery,” he added. “However, Ukrainian forces are targeting the power plant’s weak points, the open switchgear and the emergency generator to deprive the nuclear power plant of electricity supply and achieve its decommissioning.”
After the Defense Ministry, the Russian Foreign Ministry also commented on the situation in Energodar on Monday. With the shelling of the nuclear power plant, the Ukrainian regime is taking “all of Europe hostage” and the situation is becoming more dangerous every day, said the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova. She is convinced that there was no major incident “simply because the employees of the nuclear power plant and the Russian armed forces act so skilfully and operationally” while protecting the plant comprehensively.
At the same time, Moscow feels comforted by the statements made by Guterres, who supports the IAEA’s efforts to gain access to the facility. If Guterres’ reaction had been “clear from the start,” the current complications could have been avoided, because because of its “weakness,” the Ukrainian military is attacking the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant with increasing recklessness, Zakharova says indignantly.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi intends to visit the nuclear power plant, and on the Russian side everything has been prepared for a successful visit, Zakharova reminded. “The fact that the international mission did not take place is entirely on Kiev’s conscience,” Zakharova added.
Kyiv’s stubborn refusal to allow the inspectors to visit explains the conspiratorial nature of the behavior, Anpilogov said. “As it turned out recently, Kyiv has built the largest SNF storage facility in this facility, and the IAEA has already expressed its concern about this. Because SNF is the ideal raw material for a “dirty” atomic bomb. The IAEA inspectors would be in the able, once on site at Energodar, to identify discrepancies between the reports they have received regularly from Kyiv in the past and the realities at the site where the spent fuel is stored.This interpretation is the only reasonable explanation for why Ukraine is shelling its own nuclear power plant,” said Anpilogov.
“As for Zelensky’s allegations that the Russian military is shooting itself, this slander is by no means new. For eight years we have heard claims that Donetsk militias are shooting themselves, ie the neighborhoods where their families and children live.” , the expert reminded. Anpilogov believes that for these reasons Zelensky will prevent IAEA inspectors from reaching Energodar until the very end.
Translated from the Russian
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