Director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi held talks with senior Russian officials in Moscow last week as part of his continuing efforts to agree and implement a nuclear safety and security protection zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, where a planned rotation of a team of experts from the IAEA has been delayed owing to increased military activity.
Mr Grossi – who also recently discussed the proposed zone with president Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials in Kyiv – met with the head of state nuclear company Rosatom, Alexey Likhachev, and an intergovernmental group of the Russian Federation after his arrival in Moscow on 9 February.
“Both in Kyiv and Moscow, we are continuing our determined diplomatic work aimed at establishing the zone as soon as possible ... the meetings in Moscow were important in this regard, enabling us to discuss the plan in detail with senior representatives of the Russian government. I remain hopeful that the zone will be established, although progress should have been faster. For the sake of nuclear safety and security in Ukraine and beyond, I will continue my efforts until the zone has become a reality,” said Mr Grossi on his return to IAEA headquarters in Vienna.
Importance of safety measures
The precarious situation and the importance of protective measures were underlined once again during the past week, when military activity delayed a scheduled rotation of the IAEA team, present at the ZNPP for the past month. The IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya was established on 1 September last year, and the current team is the fifth so far.
“The situation around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant remains volatile and unpredictable, as it is an active combat zone. The postponement of the planned rotation demonstrates all too clearly the need for urgent measures to protect the plant and the people working there,” Mr Grossi said.
The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine has informed the IAEA that it would only permit ZNPP to resume power-generating operations after it has been returned to the control of Ukraine and a thorough inspection programme and the implementation of any measures deemed necessary to restore the plant to safe working conditions have been completed. Currently, the plant’s six reactors are either in cold or hot shutdown mode.
The Ukrainian regulator has also informed the IAEA that two of the three operating Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs) – Rivne and South Ukraine – had reduced power output as a precautionary measure due to renewed shelling of the country’s energy infrastructure. The instability in the electrical grid from the shelling also caused one of the Khmelnitsky reactor units to shut down. These developments were confirmed by the IAEA Support and Assistance Missions onsite at the plants, who also confirmed that all nuclear safety systems at Khmelnitsky worked as expected.
The IAEA is also continuing to organise and co-ordinate deliveries of equipment to help Ukraine ensure nuclear safety and security. In the ninth such delivery, Ukraine’s national regulator today received equipment procured by the IAEA with extra-budgetary funding from the United States.
Image: IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has held talks with senior Russian officials in Moscow to discuss ongoing efforts to agree and implement a nuclear safety and security protection zone around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya NPP (courtesy of Rosatom)