New protective structures being installed at ZNPPRussia is building protective structures to shield the used fuel storage facility at the Zaporizhzhia NPP (ZNPP). This is according to Vladimir Rogov, a member of the main council of Zaporozhye, who posted a short video of the work that’s taking place on his Telegram channel. It showed technicians setting up shields over the tanks that hold used nuclear fuel. The dome is designed to protect the storage facilities from shrapnel and improvised explosive devices carried by drones, he explained, adding that it would be further reinforced further at a later period. The video showed workers mounting a screen of transparent sheeting on wires above dozens of concrete cylinders about 5 metres high.

ZNPP, which is the largest on NPP in Europe, has been under de facto Russian control since March and formal control since October, when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree formally transferring ZNPP to Russian jurisdiction under nuclear utility Rosenergoatom (part of Rosatom). Rosatom had earlier warned that damage to the use fuel containers risked a release of radioactive material into the atmosphere, with unpredictable consequences. International efforts led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to establish a protective security zone around ZNPP are ongoing but have so far produced no results. IAEA, which has a permanent presence at ZNPP, has yet to comment on the work being done at the used fuel facility.

Russian officials have repeatedly ruled out any prospect of withdrawing Russian personnel from ZNPP, which is currently being protected by the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia). Shelling of the plant has continued. Rogov told RIA Novosti on 18 December that the danger to the plant “comes exclusively from the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and only the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops to a distance from which it is impossible to strike at the plant will create a security zone for the NPP”.

Russia's Permanent Representative to the International Organisations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov recently said that the lack of progress on the security zone was due to the state of relations between Russia and Ukraine. “Of course, things could move faster if direct negotiations were held in a trilateral format, but this is impossible due to the current state of Russian-Ukrainian relations. Therefore, [IAEA Director General] Rafael Grossi has to engage in ‘shuttle diplomacy’, communicating alternately with the Russian and Ukrainian sides,” he said in an interview with TASS. “It is probably too early to say that we are approaching an agreement. And I would not predict the timing of finalising the negotiation process,” he noted.

In another interview, with Rossiya 24, Ulyanov noted that Grossi is scheduled to visit Moscow in the next few weeks. “The conversation with him will be continued by the Russian side in a format involving public bodies, because the issue concerns both the Rosgvardiya, the Ministry of Defence, Rosatom and the Foreign Ministry too,” he said.