Experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have continued to hear military activity in the region of the Zaporizhia NPP (ZNPP) but say there have been no reports of new drone attacks on the site over the past week. “We are not aware of any drone attacks since the reported incident one week ago, which is encouraging. However, we know from experience that the situation can take a sudden turn for the worse from one minute to the next. The situation remains highly unpredictable,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

The IAEA experts visited the training centre just outside the ZNPP site perimeter for the first time since the reported drone attacks on the building on 7, 9 and 18 April. They were not able to see its roof but were told by a representative of the training centre that it had not been damaged on this occasion. However, it had been a stressful and frightening experience for staff, the representative added. The IAEA team did note that the training centre building was being repaired following damage it sustained in 2022, when the plant was hit several times.

The team has continued to hear outgoing artillery fire daily from locations at various distances from the ZNPP site. On one occasion, an air raid alarm was announced on the on-site speaker system instructing personnel to stay indoors, lasting for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, the IAEA experts continued to conduct walkdowns across the site, where all units remain in cold shutdown. These included a visit to the reactor building and safety systems rooms of unit 3, where they observed the status of the main coolant pumps, steam generators as well as the operation of one low-pressure core cooling pump and one spent fuel pool cooling pump. They also went to the same unit’s pumping station, noting that the equipment appeared to be well-maintained.

They also went to the turbine building of reactor unit 5 where they were able to visit areas on three levels of the building but were not allowed access to the western parts of the building. The ZNPP separately informed the IAEA team that it is preparing to upgrade the fire protection system at the plant.

In addition, the IAEA experts also checked the status of the used fuel casks in the site’s dry used fuel storage and did not observe anything unusual, including with regards to the integrity of the seals on the casks. The experts were informed that ZNPP conducts monthly visual inspections on the external integrity of the casks, annual integrity assessments with instrumentation to check for cracks and erosion and internal integrity checks every four years using cameras and other instrumentation.

During recent discussions with the ZNPP regarding emergency preparedness and response, the IAEA experts were informed that an emergency drill is being prepared in the near future based on a scenario related to the cooling systems at the site, which are important for nuclear safety. The IAEA experts have informed the ZNPP about the team’s interest to observe this drill, and are awaiting notification from the plant on the date.

Earlier, Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev reported to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on the situation at ZNPP. He said a lot of work had been carried out to enhance safety at the plant. “We have no doubt about its stable state, he said. “Firstly, all the units are in cold shutdown, and secondly the physical protection systems have been completely restored. Fortifications and defensive structures have been created around the fuel storage, the required number of back-up diesel generators has been delivered as well as diesel fuel.”

He added: “The station is equipped with a unmanned aerial control system. After the work, we have no doubt about the safety of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. The only thing that causes serious concern is periodic shelling. We have had drone flights over … both to the roof of the training complex and to the roof of the unit 6. All this is recorded by representatives of the IAEA, who have been at the site for a year and a half. And of course, as long as the shelling persists, the risks of a nuclear accident at the ZNPP are not zero.”

As for the nearby operators’ town of Energodar he said “we have taken it under full guardianship supplying social welfare, medicine, working with children and with youth, and restoring communal infrastructure. We have successfully survived two heating seasons. About RUB20bn ($216m) has been spent on the safety of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and arrangements for the city of Energodar. And in our budget plans for 2024-2026 more than RUB20bn have been allocated. We can proudly say that Energodar has become Russia’s 31st atomic city.”