Concerns are growing over the operation of nuclear power plants in Ukraine without concrete agreements between Russia and Ukraine on safety and security, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday, adding that his agency , the UN’s nuclear watchdog, was working urgently to facilitate a meeting with the two sides.
There was no release of radiation, he said, and the agency is remotely monitoring nuclear material there. Still, problems, including personnel and supply problems, have arisen at nuclear power plants in Kharkiv, Mariupol and other places. If factories cannot access equipment, normal operations could be difficult to maintain.
“We shouldn’t waste any time,” the agency’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, told reporters in Vienna on Monday, adding that the agency was receiving reports from Ukraine’s nuclear regulator. “Almost every day there is a new episode.”
“All of these are indications – more than indications, confirmations – that we cannot go on like this,” Grossi said. “There must be a clear understanding and clear commitments not to approach nuclear installations when it comes to military operations.”
Russian representatives rejected an initial offer by the agency to meet at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Grossi said, adding that the agency was communicating with Ukrainian representatives. He said the agency had not ruled out sending support staff to factories.
The agency said on Sunday that according to Ukraine, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – the largest in Europe – was under the control of Russian forces, although its regular staff were still on site. He said he was “seriously concerned” by Ukrainian reports that management of the plant was subject to the approval of a Russian commander and that communications with staff were unreliable.
Operations are safe, Mr Grossi said, “but there are many, many questions about the ability to sustain this for much longer if we don’t support it in some way.”