Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is now under the command of Russian forces who have cut off some mobile networks and the internet, complicating communications, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Sunday.
“Ukraine informed the IAEA today that although regular staff continued to operate the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), the plant management is now under orders from the commander of the Russian forces that took control of the site last week,” the UN’s nuclear watchdog Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.
“Ukraine reports that any action of plant management – including measures related to the technical operation of the six reactor units – requires prior approval by the Russian commander,” the agency’s statement added.
Grossi expressed concern that “operating staff must be able to fulfil their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure.”
Ukraine also reported to the IAEA that Russia’s forces at the site have “switched off some mobile networks and the internet so that reliable information from the site cannot be obtained through the normal channels of communication.”
Grossi said: “The deteriorating situation regarding vital communications between the regulator and the Zaporizhzhya NPP is also a source of deep concern, especially during an armed conflict that may jeopardize the country’s nuclear facilities at any time. Reliable communications between the regulator and the operator are a critical part of overall nuclear safety and security.”
Russian forces have already captured Ukraine’s defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant early on at the beginning of the invasion and Kyiv’s authorities have reported increased radiation levels from the plant due to military activity causing radioactive dust to rise into the air.
At the time, the IAEA said the radiation at the site did not pose any danger to the public.