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HomeNuclearUpdate 224 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Update 224 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was informed about a further attempted drone attack today on the training centre of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), causing no damage or casualties, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

It would be the third reported attack targeting the training facility recently, following two such incidents last week. The ZNPP told the IAEA team stationed at the site that today’s drone had been “neutralized”, without giving further details.

The IAEA team heard an explosion at the same local time, 10:35am, as when ZNPP subsequently reported the attempted drone attack took place.

The team was denied access to the training centre just outside the ZNPP site perimeter to assess the incident, with the plant citing potential security risks.

It comes less than two weeks after a series of drone attacks significantly deepened concerns about the already precarious nuclear safety and security situation at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP), located on the frontline of the conflict.

“If confirmed, it would be an extremely worrying development. Whoever is behind these incidents, they appear to be ignoring the international community’s repeated calls for maximum military restraint to avert the very real threat of a serious nuclear accident, which could have significant health and environmental consequences and benefit absolutely no one,” Director General Grossi said.

“So far, the drone strikes have not compromised nuclear safety at the site. But, as I told the United Nations Security Council a few days ago, these reckless attacks must cease immediately,” Director General Grossi said.

Earlier this week, a new team of IAEA experts arrived at the ZNPP, crossing the frontline of the conflict on Tuesday to replace their colleagues who had been monitoring the situation at the ZNPP for the past several weeks.

It is the 18th team of IAEA experts at the plant since Director General Grossi established a permanent presence there in September 2022 to help prevent a nuclear accident during the military conflict.    

“Our presence at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is needed more than ever. As I also informed the Security Council, we are getting dangerously close to a nuclear accident. This month’s drone attacks were the first clear violation of the five concrete principles for the protection of the site that I established at the Security Council almost one year ago,” Director General Grossi said.

“In these extremely difficult and challenging times, I’m very encouraged by the strong support and unanimous appreciation of the IAEA’s important work expressed by the members of the Security Council. Everybody agrees that the IAEA’s role is indispensable as we do everything in our power to keep the plant safe and secure,” he added.

In addition to today’s report of an attempted drone attack, the IAEA experts heard several rounds of outgoing artillery fire early in the week, as has been an almost daily occurrence in recent weeks and months. As has also happened previously, artillery fire near the site at one stage triggered the alarms of cars parked near the ZNPP’s administrative building.

“I sincerely hope that our calls for maximum military restraint – both at the IAEA Board of Governors and the United Nations Security Council – will be heeded before it is too late. The dangers facing the plant have not gone away, as shown by today’s reported drone explosion. As we saw on 7 April, the situation can take a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse at any time,” Director General Grossi said.

Whilst all reactors are now in cold shutdown, nuclear safety and security remains fragile. The new IAEA team will therefore continue to monitor the status of the plant against the seven indispensable pillars for nuclear safety and security as well as the five concrete principles to prevent a nuclear accident.

In particular, the team will focus its attention on the extent and effectiveness of ongoing maintenance activities, which are of paramount importance, especially considering the reduced level of maintenance performed at the site since the start of the conflict more than two years ago.

Maintenance activities on the electrical transformers of reactor unit 1 are ongoing, as are those on part of the safety systems of unit 2, which are expected to be completed by the end of April.

The IAEA team was also informed by the ZNPP that its radiation protection programme has been reviewed and is now aligned with the regulatory framework of the Russian Federation. The ZNPP said the radiation exposures to its staff had dropped significantly due to the site’s shutdown state and the absence of major maintenance performed on the six reactor units.

On Sunday, the team carried out a walkdown within the site perimeter. Monitoring adherence to the five concrete principles, the IAEA experts were able to confirm that there were no heavy weapons in the areas they visited. However, they still do not receive permission to visit all areas on site, especially the western side of the turbine halls, the ZNPP cooling pond isolation gate, and the 330 kilovolt (kV) open switchyard of the nearby Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP).

Also over the past week, the IAEA experts visited the reactor building and containment of unit 2 to observe a routine swap of the cooling pumps for its spent fuel pool.

They also looked into the site’s water situation – challenged by last year’s destruction of the Kakhovka dam – and were informed that about 5000m3 of water are pumped from the discharge channel of the ZTPP to the ZNPP cooling pond per day. The 11 groundwater wells built after the dam was destroyed provide a similar amount of water each day for cooling of the reactor units and spent fuel.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the IAEA teams present at the Khelmnytskyy, Rivne and South Ukraine NPPs and the Chornobyl site have reported that nuclear safety and security is being maintained despite the effects of the ongoing conflict, including air raid alarms on most days over the past week.

Scheduled maintenance and refuelling activities are progressing at two of the four reactor units at the Rivne NPP and one unit of the South Ukraine NPP. The Agency experts present at the Chornobyl site conducted a successful rotation on Wednesday.

The IAEA this week completed a separate mission to the Khelmnytskyy, Rivne and South Ukraine NPPs regarding the coordination of its continued presence activities at these sites and a follow-up to previous medical missions last year to support the staff at the nuclear facilities in Ukraine. 

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