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HomeNuclearUpdate 227 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Update 227 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is continuing to monitor observance of the five concrete principles aimed at protecting Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) during the military conflict, where nuclear safety and security remain precarious, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said today.

Over the past week, the IAEA team of experts stationed at the ZNPP have heard military activities on most days, including artillery and rocket fire some distance away from the plant, as well as small arms fire both near to and further away from the site.

Yesterday, the IAEA experts reported that there was an air raid alarm with restrictions on movement outside of buildings for about 90 minutes, which the ZNPP informed the team was allegedly due to drones being present in the area of the cooling pond. The experts did not hear any explosion during the period of the restriction on movement. Earlier today, another air raid alarm was heard, again restricting outside movement and resulting in the team’s planned walkdown within the site perimeter being postponed.

The persistent dangers facing Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP) were underlined early last month, when the site was targeted in several drone strikes. As stated last week, the IAEA is also aware of reports alleging that a training base for drone operators as well as drone launch pads have been deployed near the ZNPP’s reactor unit 6 and its training centre. The IAEA experts have not seen any evidence of drones being launched, or the presence of training facilities or launching pads, within the site perimeter, but have requested access to the rooftop of a nearby laboratory building. The ZNPP has informed the IAEA team that the request is under consideration.

“The five concrete principles – widely supported by the members of the United Nations Security Council – are very clear in this regard. There must be no attack of any kind from or against this major nuclear facility,” Director General Grossi said.

The IAEA team has continued to conduct regular walkdowns across the site this week, including to its two fresh fuel storage facilities as well as within the site perimeter where the experts performed radiation monitoring, with all the measured values being within the normal range.

The experts also measured the water levels of the site’s sprinkler ponds, confirming that there is enough water available to provide cooling to the reactor units in their current cold shutdown state.

Regarding the staffing situation at the plant, the ZNPP informed the IAEA team that it currently has about 5,000 staff, which represents an increase from last year, but still significantly fewer than it had before the conflict.

As previously reported, the ZNPP has informed the IAEA that that nominal staffing levels for nuclear power plants (NPPs) operated by Rosatom are significantly lower than the corresponding staffing levels of Ukraine. The plant said it was continuing to hire personnel and currently has 800 open positions. Nevertheless, the ZNPP said that it has recruited enough qualified staff, including the required number of authorised operators for the main control rooms, for the current shutdown status of the units.

However, the IAEA experts continue to be prevented from freely talking to main control room staff, affecting the Agency’s ability to independently assess the knowledge and experience of these personnel that are essential to maintaining nuclear safety at the ZNPP.

For maintenance of equipment and systems, the ZNPP said it was using more contractors than in the past. The ZNPP also said it had hired some more training instructors.

“We are continuing to monitor the staffing situation closely, as it is of vital importance for nuclear safety and security. For this purpose, our experts would also require an opportunity to discuss with the operators of the main control rooms, and other qualified staff,” Director General Grossi said.

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 stationed at Chornobyl was replaced by a new team earlier today.  The IAEA experts stationed at these facilities also perform regular walkdowns including periodic visits to the plants’ emergency response centres, environment monitoring laboratories and off-site emergency response facilities to discuss their current capabilities.

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