IAEA update 92 – the situation in Ukraine

23 August 2022

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, on 19 August renewed his urgent appeal for maximum military restraint in the area of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzya nuclear power plant, following new signs of rising tension over Europe’s largest nuclear facility.

A week after he briefed the United Nations Security Council on the worsening nuclear safety and security situation at the ZNPP, Mr Grossi warned that any further escalation related to the six-reactor plant could lead to a severe nuclear accident with potentially grave consequences for human health and the environment in Ukraine and elsewhere.

In view of the serious situation, the DG reiterated the need to send an IAEA mission to carry out essential safety, security and safeguards activities at the site in southern Ukraine. He said the IAEA is in active consultations with all parties regarding its efforts to send such a mission as soon as possible. As during two previous IAEA missions to Ukraine during the conflict, Mr Grossi would himself lead this mission.

The director general welcomed recent statements indicating that both Ukraine and Russia supported the IAEA’s aim to send a mission to ZNPP. He made his 19 August latest statement in response to media reports and other information received by the IAEA in recent days indicating possible new nuclear safety and security risks related to the ZNPP, less than two weeks after shelling caused some damage at the plant, including impacting response activities in case of an emergency, that sparked widespread alarm about the situation there.

“In this highly volatile and fragile situation, it is of vital importance that no new action is taken that could further endanger the safety and security of one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants,” said Mr Grossi.

“There is an urgent need to lower the tension and take the necessary steps to help ensure nuclear safety and security and prevent any radiological consequences for the population and the environment. The IAEA can play an indispensable role in this regard.”

The IAEA has not been able to visit the ZNPP since before the conflict began six months ago.  Since early March, it has been controlled by Russian forces, but the Ukrainian staff are continuing to operate the plant.

Ukraine has informed the IAEA that it had decided to make “a change in” the regulatory licence for the ZNPP, instructing the Ukrainian operator to maintain reactor units 1 and 2 in cold shutdown. Currently, only reactor units 5 and 6 are operating at the plant. The IAEA continues to monitor the operational status of the reactors, as well as the nuclear safety and security situation more generally.

Ukraine also informed the IAEA today that ten of the country’s 15 nuclear energy reactors are currently connected to the grid, including the two at the ZNPP, three at the Rivne Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), three at the South Ukraine NPP, and two at the Khmelnytskyy NPP.

In relation to safeguards, Mr Grossi said the IAEA is continuing to receive remote safeguards data from the sites of the four operational NPPs in Ukraine, as well as from the Chornobyl NPP.

EU condemns Russian attacks on Zaporizhzhia

On 8 August the EU expressed its serious concerns about nuclear plant safety in Ukraine with an official statement from EU Commissioner Simson on the situation at ZNPP, in which the EU reaffirmed is view that the deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at the facility is an open violation of all internationally agreed safety, security and safeguards provisions.

“I wish to express my strong condemnation of the latest shelling at and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which has caused significant damage to infrastructure, including near the dry storage of spent nuclear fuel within the nuclear power plant perimeter” she said.

“This reckless behaviour by the Russian military forces poses a great danger to the plant's safe operation increasing significantly the risk of a nuclear accident and must not happen again.

“While information obtained from EU's radioactivity monitoring systems as well as international sources does not indicate any increase of radioactivity in Ukraine or EU nor any immediate radiation threat, military activities around nuclear power plants are unacceptably dangerous. The EU calls on Russia to ensure that repair works can be rapidly implemented and that the safety of the workers involved in them and in the operation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is guaranteed.”

The EU reaffirmed that the deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility is an open violation of all internationally agreed safety, security and safeguards provisions, ,and demanded that Russian military and other personnel withdraw from the site without delay so that the Ukrainian operator can operate the plant safely and as an integral part of Ukraine's energy system and electricity grid.  Ukrainian nuclear safety authorities must be allowed to exercise fully their regulatory control, including access to the site in view of carrying out their duties in accordance with international conventions and IAEA safety standards.

The Commission services are in close contact with both the IAEA and the Ukrainian authorities to assess risks stemming from recent incidents and support remedial actions. They will continue to monitor closely the situation with regard to the nuclear safety in Zaporizhzhia and more broadly in Ukraine.

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