Is the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant at risk of exploding in Ukraine?

The threats of a nuclear accident at the Zaporizhia power plant are real and even growing according to the IAEA, which is sounding the alarm.

Is the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant at risk of exploding in Ukraine?

The threats of a nuclear accident at the Zaporizhia power plant are real and even growing according to the IAEA, which is sounding the alarm...

“We are getting dangerously close to a nuclear accident.” The threat to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine is very real and, above all, it is increasingly important, according to Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Questioned on Monday April 15 on the sidelines of a meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to the situation near the largest power plant in Europe, the head of the agency gave a warning speech, if not alarmist.

The previous week, Rafael Grossi had already reported the recent attacks observed near Zaporizhia on April 7 which were the “first to directly target the nuclear power plant” since November 2022, the date of the start of Russia’s occupation of the premises. A novelty which has “brought us into a crucial phase of the conflict”.

The attacks carried out against targets around the plant and now against the plant itself "must stop immediately" ordered the head of the IAEA to the UN. A message addressed to both Russia and Ukraine since it is “simply impossible to identify the country responsible” for these “reckless attacks”.

The worst was avoided with the recent attacks which precisely targeted the Zaporizhia power plant according to Rafael Grossi. “Although fortunately they did not cause a radiological incident this time, they significantly increased the risk at the Zaporizhia power plant,” he said. The official insisted in passing on the fact that the next strikes could have more dramatic consequences while “the nuclear safety [of the premises] is already compromised”.

These attacks which "successfully reached the containment structure of a reactor" also create a "dangerous precedent" according to the experts who surround the boss of the IAEA. After two years of war, the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant poses a greater risk of a nuclear incident, since “the IAEA’s seven pillars on nuclear safety and security have been compromised.” The conclusions of these experts are therefore clear: “the potential dangers of a major nuclear accident remain very real”.

One of Rafael Grossi's predecessors as head of the IAEA, Robert E. Kelley, also denounced the "madness" of attacking the nuclear plant to Euronews. But according to this former scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, “there is no possibility that reactors will explode” after attacks of this type which have “no security implications.” The IAEA has, despite its numerous warnings, observed no "damage to the site's critical nuclear safety or security systems" since the last attack on April 7.

If the specialist rules out the risk of explosion, it is thanks to the operation of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and its current state. One of the main risks facing the plant is that of a power outage which would prevent the reactors from cooling. But previous power outages have affected the area, without affecting the Zaporizhia plant, which is supplied with electricity by the neighboring coal plant or diesel generators. The decision was also taken to shut down all of the reactors in Zaporizhia, as Rafael Grossi recalled, which reduces the risk of explosion. The fact remains that the explosion is only one option among all nuclear accidents such as radiological leaks or incidents on a reactor or part of it, some of which are quite possible according to the IAEA.

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