The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Monday that its staffers had found directional anti-personnel mines on the perimeter of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
“During a walkdown on 23 July, the IAEA team saw some mines located in a buffer zone between the site’s internal and external perimeter barriers,” the IAEA said in a statement released Monday. “The experts reported that they were situated in a restricted area that operating plant personnel cannot access and were facing away from the site. The team did not observe any within the inner site perimeter during the walkdown.”
IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said it was not the first time the agency had “been aware” of the placement of mines outside the Zaporizhzhia site perimeter.
“But having such explosives on the site is inconsistent with the IAEA safety standards and nuclear security guidance,” he added, “and creates additional psychological pressure on plant staff—even if the IAEA’s initial assessment based on its own observations and the plant’s clarifications is that any detonation of these mines should not affect the site’s nuclear safety and security systems. The team will continue its interactions with the plant.”
IAEA experts have been carrying out inspections and “regular walk downs” across the nuclear plant site without seeing any heavy military equipment, the agency went on to say.
However, inspectors have been requesting access to the roofs of the nuclear reactors and turbine halls, but they have so far not received access.
Further, the agency said, “In the evening of 22 July, the IAEA team heard several detonations some distance away from the plant.”
The plant has repeatedly been caught in the crossfire and forced to run on backup systems in the 17 months since Russia invaded Ukraine and quickly seized the facility.
The June destruction of the Kakhovka dam in the Kherson region only added to concerns, as the dam supplies cooling water to the Zaporizhzhia power plant.
The plant’s six reactors have been shut down for months, but it still needs power and staff to operate crucial systems and safety features.
The IAEA experts were continuing to closely monitor the situation regarding the availability of water for cooling the six reactors and other essential nuclear safety and security functions in the wake of the dam’s destruction, according to the agency.
The IAEA team also plans to visit institutes and facilities in Kharkiv this week to assess the nuclear safety and security situation there.