According to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Mariano Grossi, experts from the IAEA have not discovered any visible signs of mines or other explosives at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) during their inspections thus far. However, they still require further access to conduct additional checks at the facility. The IAEA team had the opportunity to examine certain sections of the plant’s cooling system, including portions of the perimeter surrounding the large cooling pond and the isolation gate of the discharge channel linked to the nearby Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP). Despite the destruction of the downstream Kakhovka dam over three weeks ago, both the discharge channel and the cooling pond still hold reserves of water that remain available for use by the ZNPP.

In addition to their inspections of the cooling system and specific areas like the perimeter and isolation gate, the IAEA experts have been conducting regular walkdowns across all six reactor units and other sections in and around the ZNPP. However, there is still an expectation for further access to be granted, particularly in the turbine halls and certain parts of the cooling system.

IAEA said that it is aware of reports suggesting the presence of mines and other explosives near the cooling pond and in various locations surrounding the ZNPP.

Grossi said: “We take all such reports very seriously and I have instructed our experts at the site to look into this matter and request the access they need for doing their job. Until now they have not observed any mines or other explosives. Further access will still be needed.”

During Director General Grossi’s visit to the ZNPP on 15 June, no mines were observed at the site, as he had mentioned in his statement last week. This marked his third visit to the ZNPP in less than ten months. However, IAEA has been aware of previous instances where mines were placed outside the plant perimeter, which has been reported by the Agency earlier. Additionally, there have been reports of mines placed at specific locations within the plant.

To ensure the protection of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Director General Grossi established five fundamental principles on 30 May, which were presented at the United Nations Security Council. These principles emphasise that the plant should not be subjected to attacks or used as a storage facility or base for heavy weaponry such as multiple rocket launchers, artillery systems, munitions, or tanks.

Grossi added: “We need full access to be able to confirm that the five principles have not been violated, and we will continue to request the necessary access to all those areas essential to nuclear safety and security so that we can deliver on this mandate, including that the plant should not be used as storage or base for heavy weapons and munitions.”

Following the breach of the Kakhovka dam on June 6th, which led to a significant decrease in the reservoir’s water level, the Zaporizhzhya Plant has been relying on separate reserves of water located near or within the site. Particularly, the plant has been utilising the discharge channel of the ZTPP to maintain its cooling system.

Director General Grossi has stated that currently, the ZNPP’s six reactors are being cooled through the essential cooling system, which is now being replenished with underground water extracted from the site’s drainage system. In terms of other water requirements at the plant, there has been a recent shift from utilising the ZTPP discharge channel to accessing water from the large cooling pond situated adjacent to the site.

Due to usage and evaporation, the height of the ZNPP cooling pond is experiencing a daily decline of up to 1cm. However, to mitigate this reduction in water level, water from the drainage system is being utilised to replenish the pond. This measure helps to slow down the rate at which the water level is decreasing. Currently, the water level of the cooling pond stands at just over 16.5m.