The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant has regained access to its only remaining back-up power line, following an outage of more than three weeks, highlighting the persistent nuclear safety and security risks facing the site as emphasised by director general Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in his 15 March in Update 216 concerning the situation in Ukraine.

The ZNPP’s connection to the off-site power line was restored shortly after 6pm local time on 14 March, providing a much-needed buffer for the plant which has suffered eight complete loss of external power events over the past year and a half.

The 330 kV line was lost on 20 February owing to an incident on the other side of the Dnipro River, leaving the ZNPP entirely dependent on a single 750 kV line. Before the conflict, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP) had a total of ten power lines available, four 750 kV and six 330 kV lines.

“Last evening’s positive development should not hide the fact that the power situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant continues to be extremely fragile and vulnerable to further disruptions. I remain deeply concerned about the nuclear safety and security situation at this major nuclear facility,” director general Grossi said.

Explosions near the perimeter 

In addition, IAEA experts stationed at the site have continued to report on explosions and other indications of military activity not far from the ZNPP. They heard blasts at various distances from the site every day over the week after 7 March, including explosions nearby in the morning and evening of 8 March and again in the morning and late at night the following day. On Wednesday 13 March the team heard around 13 rounds of outgoing artillery fire.

“What once seemed unimaginable – military activity near a nuclear power plant – has become a daily reality. The situation is not improving and as long as this tragic war continues, the plant remains in danger. For this reason, I again call for maximum restraint and full observance of the five concrete principles established at the United Nations Security Council in May last year,” director general Grossi said.

The IAEA experts at the ZNPP were informed by the plant on 13 March of a drone attack at around 6pm local time on Tuesday, 12 March in an area outside the perimeter of the site. There were no casualties reported. At 1pm the same day IAEA personnel examined the location of the reported impact, roughly 550 m from the site perimeter. The team observed a cavity in the ground approximately 70cm in diameter, located just outside the concrete wall that surrounds the off-site diesel fuel storage area, some 100 m from the diesel fuel storage tanks.