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HomeNuclearUpdate 214 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Update 214 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has been without back-up power for the past ten days, leaving the facility entirely dependent on its only remaining 750 kilovolt (kV) line for the external electricity it needs to cool its six reactors and for other essential nuclear safety and security functions, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today.

The IAEA experts stationed at the site reported that the ZNPP expects the 330 kV back-up line to be reconnected soon – perhaps even later today – but the plant’s off-site power situation remains a source of deep concern, Director General Grossi said.

“Out of a total of 10 off-site power lines available before the conflict – four 750 kV and six 330 kV – only one remains operational today. Even if one back-up line becomes available again, it is far from sufficient,” Director General Grossi said.

“Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has suffered eight instances of a complete loss of off-site power in the past 18 months, forcing it to rely on emergency diesel generators. In the history of nuclear energy, this is an unprecedented situation and clearly not sustainable. I remain extremely concerned about nuclear safety and security at the plant,” he said.

The ZNPP informed the IAEA experts this week that all scheduled preventative maintenance activities on safety-related equipment are suspended until the 330 kV line is reconnected, except for routine testing of the safety systems, including the emergency diesel generators.

Further underlining the persistent dangers facing the plant, the IAEA team has continued to report about the sound of explosions and other indications of military activity in the area, which is on the frontline of the conflict.

Early on Wednesday morning, the experts heard an explosion some distance away from the plant followed by what appeared to be small arms fire close to or on the site. The ZNPP informed the IAEA team that Russian troops had taken measures to “protect the plant” against drones in the area, but that the ZNPP itself had not been attacked and there was no damage or casualties. No further details were immediately available of this incident. The IAEA experts requested access to the area but were told there was no damage to inspect, and that the area was outside the plant’s control.

Earlier this week, the plant informed the IAEA team that a drone attack had allegedly occurred in Enerhodar on Sunday evening, targeting a roof with telecommunications equipment, the latest in a series of reported drone strikes in the town, where many plant staff live. The following day, the IAEA experts went to Enerhodar to see the building where the attack purportedly took place. The team was able to observe the outside of the building. No signs of damage were visible at the time of the visit.  

Throughout the week, the experts conducted walkdowns across the ZNPP site, including the cooling pond facilities as well as the cooling towers and sprinkler ponds, which provide cooling water for the six reactors, five of which are in cold shutdown and one in hot shutdown. The sprinkler ponds are full and continue to receive cooling water from the 11 groundwater wells which were constructed after the destruction of the downstream Kakhovka dam in mid-2023.

The team also visited the isolation gate of the discharge channel of the Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP), but they were not able to access the isolation gate of the large ZNPP cooling pond, a location IAEA experts last saw in November last year.

During the past week, the IAEA experts conducted a walkdown of the safety systems rooms of reactor unit 5, observing that routine testing of some safety system pumps was underway. The team also visited the two fresh fuel storage facilities on the site.

During the walkdowns conducted by the IAEA experts over the past week, they observed that anti-personnel mines were once again visible within the perimeter fences that are inaccessible to personnel, after they had appeared to be gone in early February.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the IAEA experts present at the Khmelnytskyy, Rivne and South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) as well as at the Chornobyl site have reported that nuclear safety and security is being maintained despite the challenging war-time circumstances, including the frequent sound of air raid alarms at some of the facilities. The team at the Khmelnytskyy NPP were required to shelter twice on Wednesday.

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