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IAEA experts can't access 3 reactor halls at Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 4, 2024 12:22 AM 3 min read
A view of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on June 15, 2023. (Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images)
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For the past two weeks, the experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been denied access to the reactor halls of units 1, 2, and 6 of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the IAEA said on Jan. 3.

"This is the first time that IAEA experts have not been granted access to a reactor hall of a unit that was in cold shutdown," reads the organization's statement.

"This is where the reactor core and spent fuel are located. The team will continue to request this access."

Five of the plant's six reactors remain in cold shutdown, while unit 4 is in hot shutdown "to produce steam and heat, including for the nearby town of Enerhodar, where most plant staff live," according to the IAEA.

Ukraine's state nuclear energy company Energoatom says keeping the fourth reactor in a hot state violates the way the reactor should be operated.

The IAEA also said its experts remain unable to gain access to some other parts of the plant, including the turbine halls of units 3, 4, and 6 and the reactor rooftops.

They have continued to hear regular explosions "some distance away from the site," the IAEA added.

Locals near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant brace for potential disaster: ‘It would be the end of us’
Editor’s note: For this story, the Kyiv Independent talked to residents who live in Russian-occupied settlements in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. For their safety, we have changed their names. From the rooftop of his home, Anton can easily see the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear plant…

The Zaporizhzhia plant was forced to rely on diesel generators overnight on Dec. 2 during a blackout after the 330 kV backup and 750 kV main power lines were cut off.

"Frequent power cuts have remained a source of serious concern for safety and security at Europe's largest nuclear power plant as it needs electricity to cool its reactors and for other essential functions, even when all reactor units have been shut down," the IAEA said in its latest update.

Russian forces have occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant, located on the east bank of the Dnipro River in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, since March 2022.

Throughout the full-scale invasion, the plant has been repeatedly disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid due to Russian attacks on the country's energy infrastructure.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has staff based at the nuclear plant on rotation since September 2022 to monitor the situation.

Life near Russian-occupied nuclear plant: ‘I don’t know if tomorrow will come’
Editor’s Note: The Kyiv Independent talked to residents who are still in Russian-occupied Enerhodar and those who recently left but still have family in the city. For their safety, we do not disclose their identities. When Russian soldiers captured Enerhodar, the satellite city of the Zaporizhzhia…
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