Briefing on the dangerous situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant: nuclear blackmail by russia

The aim of this press release is to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the unfolding events and shed light on russia’s nuclear blackmail and potential mining of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).

Please find the key points and essential details below:


The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, and one of the largest in the world. It is located in Enerhodar near the city of Zaporizhzhia, about 600 kilometers southeast of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. The plant comprises six nuclear reactors and has been operational since the 1980s. Since March 2022, the NPP has been under russian occupation. russia has been continuously involving this nuclear power plant in the war in various ways, especially in the information space and through nuclear blackmail.

Current situation:

In the last couple of days, russian occupation forces and russian Rosatom employees have been gradually leaving ZNPP facilities and surrounding areas. Ukrainian staff that signed contracts with Rosatom was recommended to leave by the 5th of July. Intelligence reports and credible sources indicate a heightened risk concerning the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The Ukrainian defense intelligence (HUR) reported about “objects resembling explosives” on the outer roof of ZNPP Units 3 and 4, as well as about mines in the cooling system.

Most recent evaluation of the situation by the Ukrainian intelligence services said that the risk of a Russian terrorist attack on the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is “slowly decreasing”, according to Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of Defence Intelligence of Ukraine.

Quote: “We are doing certain actions in this area, both public and not public, and I think that now the danger of an artificial technogenic catastrophe is quietly going down.”

However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has only received partial access to the isolation gate separating the cooling pond and did not detect any mines or explosives. However, they still have not recieve any access to the rooftops of reactor units 3 and 4, and can therefore neither deny nor confirm that explosives or mines have been placed in the NPP by russian troops. Currently, the IAEA has not found mines in the areas of the NPP that russia has given them access to, but “is aware of previous placement of mines outside the plant perimeter […], and also at particular places inside”.

Ukrainians’ fear of a nuclear terror act by russia has increased since russian troops blew up the Nova Kakhovka Dam, causing a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe, especially in the Kherson region. Due to the limited and slow international responses to this war crime, russia has been enbolded to intensify its nuclear threats and rhetoric, causing widespread concern among the local population and the international community about the next actions planned by the russian authorities without regard for lives and ecosystems. 

There are indications that russia may attempt to orchestrate a false flag operation at the ZNPP and blame Ukraine to intimidate Ukraine’s allies ahead of the NATO summit and during Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive.

Vulnerabilities and risks:

The consequences of a major incident at the plant could be catastrophic, affecting both Ukraine and neighboring countries. The main vulnerability of the nuclear plant is the small cooling pond that in case of failure or sabotage would lead to a partial nuclear meltdown comparable to the Three Mile Island accident in the US. Such a scenario poses a high risk of releasing radioactive material into the environment.

Such a release of radiation would not cause the sort of destruction seen after the meltdown of the active Chernobyl plant in 1986; however, this would create a radiation-contaminated zone with a high chance of cancer development over the next 40 years. The level of radiation release of the potential incident is also dependent on its cause. In case of a technical issue at the plant, such as some facility being cut off from power for a couple of days, radioactive substances would be released at a smaller rate than in the case of deliberate sabotage from within the plant. In such a case, the severity of the situation would fall somewhere between the Chernobyl and the Fukushima disasters.  In case of an explosion, an estimated 500,000 citizens would immediately need to be evacuated from the affected area within 200 kilometers from the facility.

Nuclear blackmail by russia:

russia utilizes its occupation of the ZNPP to exert political pressure and help achieve its strategic goals on the ground. russia’s blackmail involves implicit threats of a nuclear accident, release of radioactive material, or further destruction of the region as per its war strategy of “scorched earth”. Ukrainian authorities worry russia might blow up the plant in an attempt to halt the Ukrainian counter-offensive. 

There have been multiple international efforts to establish a demilitarized zone around the nuclear plant and hand the control over to an independent third party. However, all of them are failing due to russia’s unwillingness to abandon the facility and lose its leverage of nuclear blackmail against Ukraine.

International response and mitigation efforts:

The IAEA has repeatedly highlighted the immediate need of cessation of artillery fire in the area to ensure the safety and security of operation staff and allow full restoration of power supply to the plant. Ukrainian authorities are working closely with the IAEA and other international partners to increase awareness of the dangerous situation, negotiate possible solutions, and prepare for an emergency scenario. The IAEA is publishing daily statements monitoring the situation at the plant, however this might not be enough to prevent russian occupation forces from causing a deliberate or unintended incident.

The IAEA requested additional access that is necessary to confirm the absence of mines or explosives at the site. Access to the rooftops of reactor units 3 and 4 is essential to monitor full compliance with the five basic principles for protecting Europe’s largest nuclear power plant during russia’s war of aggression.

 What is needed?

There are several key takeaways from the above that are crucial for maintaining safety and security at the nuclear power plant. It is extremely important to spread awareness of russian disinformation and manipulation techniques. It is vital that individuals, organizations, and governments are able to recognize and effectively combat these tactics to not fall into the trap of false balancing russian claims that are usually untrue with Ukrainian reports. False balancing only benefits russian attempts to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion, and it is crucial to remain vigilant against it.

The current situation highlights the importance of NATO membership as the main security guarantee and support of Ukraine and continuous weapon delivery to strengthen Ukrainian counter-offensive. The most effective way to guarantee nuclear safety and stability in Ukraine today is for russian troops to withdraw from the area (and from Ukraine) completely. As long as russian troops are present at and close to the ZNPP, a nuclear incident can happen due to negligence or deliberate sabotage at any time.

Finally, preparation for a possible incident is important. This includes not only the ability to provide support such as evacuation, housing for refugees, and humanitarian aid, but also the need for a coordinated public response across organizations and governments. By working together and anticipating potential challenges, we can help as many people as possible. A nuclear incident at ZNPP should be responded to by the international community in the same way as a russian attack with nuclear tactical weapons. 

Please note that the information presented is based on current sources available. As the situation evolves, further updates will be provided. We urge all journalists to exercise caution while reporting on this matter and verify the information and the sources.

Picture: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters