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Russia-Ukraine War: Mapping damages at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant


The largest nuclear power plant in Europe and one of the 10 largest in the world — the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, has been under constant shelling during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. All eyes have been on the possible ramifications caused due to the explosions at and around the nuclear facility.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been closely monitoring the situation. “This situation is untenable, and we are playing with fire. We cannot continue this situation where we are one step away from a nuclear accident. The safety of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is hanging by a thread,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Monday. The IAEA has also reported that the last reactor has been shut down and put into its safest state but maintained that the “safety and security situation at the plant located in the middle of a war zone remained precarious”. According to local reports, the power plant accounts for almost 20% of Ukraine’s annual electricity generation.

The UK’s Conservative British member of parliament Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the House of Commons Defense Select Committee, has already warned that any nuclear accident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant could draw NATO into the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Using publicly available information, India Today Open-SourceIntelligence (OSINT) team mapped the areas directly affected during the shelling at and around the nuclear plant from August 1. Digging through all the data regarding nuclear facility over the past month, we were able to map the events that have unfolded within the Enerhodar region chronologically using MapHub.

Days after a military offensive first started by Russia, Russian armed forces seized the Zaporizhzhya NPP on the night of March 4, in an incident live streamed on Youtube. Russia deployed its own nuclear energy operator, Rosatom, for plant’s maintenance, which was prior in the hands of Ukraine’s Energoatom. The plant has witnessed a series of strikes from both sides since then, with the situation turning even worse in recent days.

A Brief Timeline of all the Notable Shellings and Reactor Shutdowns since August:

August 24: Smoke plumes were seen in the satellite imagery captured near south from the 750 KV transmission line of the power plant.

August 25: The last two reactors (5th & 6th units) connecting the ZNPP to the Ukrainian electrical grid were shut down, hence fully disconnecting the nuclear plant from Ukraine for the first time in history.

August 26: The latter two reactors were reconnected to the Ukrainian grid with additional capacity.

August 29: Shellings in the neighboring areas of the nuclear reactors were witnessed, also defacing the roof of a “special building” in the process.

September 1: Operating unit 5 was shut down due to extensive shelling, while unit 6 remained the only operational unit within the plant.

September 5: The same “special building” was targeted yet again. Also, operating unit 6 was shut down, hence fully disconnecting ZNPP from the electricity grid once again.

A second backup power line was restored on Monday, providing additional external electricity for the reactor’s cooling and other essential safety functions during the shutdown. Following a brief tour by the IAEA to the site, the agency published its second report on Ukraine’s current nuclear situation on Sept 6. As per the report, one turbine lubrication oil tank, the roofs of various buildings, such as the building for the spent fuel transporter vehicle, the special building that houses the fresh nuclear fuel and the solid radioactive waste storage facility, the new training building, the building where the Central Alarm Station of the physical protection system is located, the container where the radiation monitoring system is located and the vicinity of the dry spent fuel storage facility were reportedly damaged during crossfire.

Taking note of the tense situation within Zaporizhzhya, the IAEA has asked both parties to declare the nuclear facility a demilitarized zone so as to prevent its condition from further turning grim.

— ENDS —