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HomeNuclearUpdate 226 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Update 226 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts reported hearing over 100 rounds of gunfire in the vicinity of the Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on Tuesday, allegedly in response to drones flying near the plant’s training centre, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said today.

The IAEA is aware of reports alleging that a training base for drone operators and drone launch pads have been deployed near unit 6 and the training centre at ZNPP. “The IAEA experts at the ZNPP have not seen any evidence of drones being launched, or the presence of launching pads, within the site perimeter. Furthermore, and according to the five concrete principles, an attack of any kind from the plant is strictly forbidden,” Director General Grossi said.

The IAEA team continues to report almost daily military activities at various distances from the site. On three separate occasions within a one-hour period on Tuesday afternoon, the IAEA team at the ZNPP, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP), heard a total of over 100 rounds of rifle fire. On Thursday, the ZNPP informed the IAEA experts that Russian Federation troops were engaging with drones near the ZNPP training centre and that there was no damage nor any casualties. The IAEA experts did not have the opportunity to confirm the presence of drones.

“This latest military activity at the plant illustrates the persistently unstable situation that poses significant nuclear safety and security challenges for this major nuclear facility,” said Director General Grossi.

The IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) team continued discussions with the ZNPP this week about the maintenance activities planned for 2024 and beyond. The plant confirmed that it plans to continue postponed work on the most extensive maintenance activities to be conducted at the ZNPP since the start of the armed conflict over two years ago.

“Ensuring the reliable operation of equipment important to safety at any nuclear power plant demands rigorous procedures,” said Director General Grossi. “Maintaining equipment important to safety at the ZNPP—the first plant situated amidst an armed conflict—is both complex and paramount.”

The IAEA was informed that maintenance activities on the equipment important to safety of unit 1 are scheduled to resume in mid-May, starting with the first of the three safety trains. The maintenance works on unit 1 are planned to be completed by around the middle of the year, around the same time that maintenance will commence on unit 6 for approximately three months. Subsequently, approximately six months of maintenance activities are scheduled for unit 2, commencing later in 2024.

ISAMZ was informed that some safety systems will be serviced in a comprehensive way, including disassembly and reassembly of the components. The IAEA experts will be requesting to observe some of these maintenance activities, where practical.

The ISAMZ team continued its regular walkdowns this week at the ZNPP site. Yesterday, the team visited the 750 kilovolt (kV) open switchyard where they observed that only one of its four main 750 kV power lines remains connected. The team again was informed that there are no activities being performed to restore connections of the other lines to the plant, due to the ongoing conflict. The IAEA experts continue to request approval to visit the Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP) 330 kV open switchyard, but such requests continue to be denied.

The team visited the ZNPP cooling pond and waterworks facilities earlier today, where they were able to confirm the integrity of the ZTPP discharge channel isolation gate and view the measuring point of the ZNPP cooling pond. However, the team’s request to visit the ZNPP cooling pond isolation gate was not approved due to “security reasons”, therefore the team was unable to confirm the status of the reinforcement and the overall integrity of the gate. The IAEA was last permitted to visit the ZNPP cooling pond in November 2023.

Over the past week, the IAEA experts visited the unit 1 and unit 5 reactor buildings and safety system rooms, where they observed the cooling pumps for the reactor and spent fuel pool in operation. No nuclear safety issues were observed by the team. In unit 1, the team observed some preparatory work for upcoming maintenance on the safety systems heat exchangers. The team also visited the turbine halls of unit 1 and unit 2 where they were able to observe some of the equipment, but were, once again, not granted access to the western side of the halls.

Furthermore, this week, the ZNPP informed ISAMZ that it would be permitted to observe the emergency drill based on a scenario related to the cooling systems at the site, planned for mid-May.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the IAEA teams at the Khmelnytskyy, Rivne, and South Ukraine NPPs as well as at the Chornobyl site reported that nuclear safety and security continues to be maintained. The IAEA team at the Rivne NPP was informed that one of the two 750 kV lines was unavailable for a few hours from the early morning to approximately 13:00 on 26 April, which did not affect the safe operation of the plant.

This week the Agency arranged two new deliveries of nuclear safety and security related equipment to Ukraine, bringing the total number of deliveries to 46. The South Ukraine NPP received a video surveillance system for use in high radiation field and gamma spectrometers. The equipment was purchased with funding from Australia and the European Union and is envisaged to help enhance nuclear safety and security at the site.

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