Director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, in his 8 March statement Update 215 concerning the situation in Ukraine, reported his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin as part of the IAEA’s continuing efforts to help prevent a nuclear or radiological accident during the present conflict.

Mr Grossi said the meeting, on 6 March, was “professional and frank”, with the discussions focused on the paramount importance of reducing the still significant nuclear safety and security risks at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine, under Russian control for the past two years.

It was their second meeting, following one in Saint Petersburg in October 2022, and it took place a month after Mr Grossi on 7 February crossed the frontline to travel to the ZNPP for the fourth time during the war. On the way to the plant, he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

“As I have repeatedly stated, I must talk to both sides to help reduce the danger of a potentially severe nuclear accident that would recognise no borders. No one stands to gain from a nuclear disaster, and we must do everything possible to prevent it. This was also my message to President Putin and other senior Russian officials this week,” the DG said after his meetings in the Russian town of Sochi.

He also reiterated his call for maximum military restraint and strict observance of the five concrete principles established at the United Nations Security Council on 30 May 2023.

Military activity

IAEA experts stationed at the ZNPP site have continued to hear explosions and other indications of military activity not far away from the facility. Three times during the week of 4 March they reported hearing several successive explosions within a few minutes, as well as one explosion on 7 march and multiple explosions on 8 March, possibly indicating the use of heavy weapons from an area close by.

On 1 March, the IAEA experts heard an explosion some distance away from the ZNPP. The following morning, the team was informed by the plant that there had been shelling in parkland a few hundred metres away from the city hall administrative building of the town of Enerhodar, where many plant staff live.

Further underlining the fragile nuclear safety and security situation at the ZNPP, the plant remains without back-up external power after the only remaining 330 kV line was disconnected on 20 February. As a result, the ZNPP remains dependent on its only functioning 750 kV power line, out of four such lines available before the war. The IAEA team has informed that the 330 kV line is not expected to be reconnected before 15 March.