A team of UN atomic energy experts set out on 29 August for Zaporizhzya nuclear power station in Ukraine, after months of rising tensions between Ukrainian and Russian forces, who have accused each other of shelling the plant.
An International Atomic Energy Agency Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) is now traveling to the plant with the object of ensuring its nuclear safety and security and undertaking vital safeguards activities.
“We must protect the safety and security of Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility” said IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi.
Zaporizhzya Nuclear Power Plant has been controlled by Russian forces since March but is operated by its Ukrainian staff. This month the site has come under repeated shelling, and last week temporarily lost connection to its last remaining operational 750 kV external power connection.
In the most recent update from the power plant over the 27/28 August weekend, Ukraine informed the IAEA that the site had come under renewed shelling but that all safety systems remain operational and there had been no increase in radiation levels. Ukraine said it did not yet have complete information on the nature of the damage from the shelling.
The ISAMZ should be able to bring clarity to the situation and help address any contradictory information about the status of the facility, its operation and the damage it has sustained. Speaking to the United Nations Security Council earlier this month about the deteriorating situation at Zaporizhzhya NPP, Mr Grossi said: “It is those facts, gathered during a site visit, that are needed for the IAEA to be able to develop and provide an independent assessment of the nuclear safety and security risks.”
Once reaching Zaporizhzhya later this week, ISAMZ will assess the physical damage to the facilities, determine the functionality of the main and backup safety and security systems, and evaluate the working conditions of the control room staff. At the same time, the mission will undertake urgent safeguards activities to verify that nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes.