The IAEA is increasingly concerned about the safety of nuclear power plants in Ukraine

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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is increasingly concerned about the harsh conditions faced by personnel at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant (ZNPP) and says it must go there as soon as possible to address this and other pressing issues.

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said yesterday that he was continuing his determined efforts to agree, organize and lead an international mission led by the IAEA to carry out essential nuclear safety, security and safeguards activities at the ZNPP, stressing to again that “other considerations should not prevent” it taking place.

The IAEA is aware of recent reports in the media and elsewhere of a deteriorating situation for Ukrainian personnel at the country’s largest nuclear power plant, Director General Grossi said.

“The situation at this large nuclear power plant is clearly untenable. We have been informed that Ukrainian personnel are operating the facility under extremely stressful conditions while the site is under the control of the Russian Armed Forces. The recent reports are very disturbing and further heighten my concern for the welfare of staff there,” he said.

The CEO noted that the seven essential pillars to ensure the nuclear safety and security in Ukraine which he described at the beginning of the military conflict, one of them stipulates that the personnel of nuclear power plants “must be able to fulfill their safety and security duties and have the ability to make decisions without undue pressure”.

Further underscoring the need for an IAEA-led mission to visit the southern Ukraine facility, several other pillars of safety and security have also been compromised at the ZNPP in recent months, including those relating to the physical integrity of nuclear facilities, security of offsite power supplies and uninterrupted logistics supply chains, he said.

With regard to safeguards, IAEA safeguards inspectors and technicians must carry out extensive verification activities at the site, where large quantities of nuclear material are present.

Earlier this month, the IAEA and the ZNPP operator worked together to restore the remote transmission of safeguards data from the facility to IAEA headquarters after a technical interruption of nearly two weeks. But essential nuclear material verification activities, such as physical inventory checks, cannot be performed remotely and require the physical presence of IAEA inspectors.

The interval of physical inventory checks at nuclear power plants cannot exceed a specified duration. This is particularly important in two of the ZNPP units. In addition, these units have been refueled for the past few months and a physical verification of the nuclear material they contain is a prerequisite for safeguards before restarting them.

“This week, I dispatched safeguards inspectors to Ukraine to carry out essential verification activities at the nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. Unless I am able to do the same for the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant as soon as possible, the implementation of safeguards in Ukraine will be compromised,” Director General Grossi said.

The IAEA continues to receive safeguards data from its systems installed at the other three operational nuclear power plants in Ukraine and from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Regarding the country’s operational reactors, Ukraine informed the IAEA yesterday (June 24) that eight are currently connected to the grid, including two at ZNPP, three at Rivne NPP, two at South Ukraine NPP and one at the Khmelnytskyy power plant. The other seven reactors are shut down for regular maintenance or placed in reserve. Safety systems remain operational at all four nuclear power plants, and they also continue to have offsite power supply, Ukraine said.

Read the statement to the IAEA


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