After Russian forces took control overnight of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in south-eastern Ukraine, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief said on Friday that it there was “no release of radioactive material” and that it continued to be operated by its regular staff.

“Ukrainian counterparts informed the IAEA that a projectile overnight had hit a training building in the vicinity of one of the plant’s reactor units, causing a localized fire that was later extinguished,” Director General Rafael Mario Grossi said in a statement.

The safety systems of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant’s six reactors were not affected nor was there any release of radioactive material, and radiation monitoring systems at the site remain fully functional, assured the senior official.

#Ukraine informed IAEA that Russian forces took control of site of #Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant; says safety systems of the plant’s six reactors had not been affected and there has been no release of radioactive material. Two people reported injured.

— IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) March 4, 2022

‘Very challenging’ situation

However, the operator there reported that as the situation remains “very challenging,” it has not yet been possible to access the whole site to ensure that all safety systems are fully functional, according to the UN atomic agency chief.

Of the plant’s reactor units, Unit 1 is shut down for maintenance, Units 2 and 3 have undergone a controlled shut down, Unit 4 is operating at 60 per cent power and Units 5 and 6 are being held “in reserve” in low power mode.

And two people were reported injured.

On high alert

Meanwhile, the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) has been put in full response mode at Zaporizhzhia NPP.

“The IEC will be manned around the clock to continuously receive, assess and disseminate information about developments,” he said.

The Director General added that he remained gravely concerned about the situation at the nuclear power plant.

“I’m extremely concerned about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP and what happened there during the night,” he explained.

“Firing shells in the area of a nuclear power plant violates the fundamental principle that the physical integrity of nuclear facilities must be maintained and kept safe at all time.”

The main priority is to ensure the safety and security of the plant, its power supply and the people who operate it, he concluded.

Speaking to the press

The IAEA Director General also updated journalists on the situation in Ukraine.