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IAEA Director General Grossi Marks 35th Anniversary of Chornobyl, Discusses Ongoing Cooperation with Ukraine President and Ministers


Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other senior officials expressed strong support for ongoing bilateral cooperation with the IAEA, during their meetings with Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in Kyiv today. The discussions took place on the margins of events commemorating the 35th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear accident.

Today is the first day of Mr Grossi’s official two-day visit to Ukraine, in which he attended the opening ceremony of the exhibition Chornobyl. Journey, alongside President Zelenskyy, at the National Expocenter of Ukraine. “We solemnly remember those who died; we stand with those whose lives have been affected; and we recognize the recovery efforts led by the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine,” Mr Grossi stated. “The IAEA, together with other international organizations and nations, has worked tirelessly: offering emergency assistance; analysing the accident’s human and environmental impact; helping to manage the contamination, nuclear waste and wreckage, and restoring livelihoods that depend on the health of farms, forests and water sources in the area. You can count on us also to keep expanding and updating the international channels of collaboration on nuclear safety for the benefit of all.”

On 26 April 1986, the Number Four reactor at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the former Soviet Union during improper testing at low-power, resulted in loss of control that led to an explosion and fire that demolished the reactor building and released large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. As safety measures were ignored, the uranium fuel in the reactor overheated and melted through the protective barriers – leading to the most severe nuclear accident in history.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) and IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi (centre) marked the 35th anniversary of the Chornobyl accident today at the opening ceremony of the Chornobyl. Journey exhibition in Kyiv. (Photo: E. Perez Alvan/IAEA)

Continuous cooperation

Mr Grossi reiterated to President Zelenskyy that the IAEA will continue to support Ukraine in addressing decommissioning, radioactive waste and environmental remediation in and around Chornobyl – as well as in areas in the peaceful use of nuclear technology in general, from sharing best practices in nuclear power plant management to the safe use of radiation in cancer care. Since 2005, Ukraine has received more than €9 million in IAEA assistance. The Agency has supported 77 fellows and 228 scientific visitors from Ukraine for trainings, while 47 Ukrainians have also served as lecturers in the technical cooperation programme.

Ukraine is looking to expand the use of nuclear power, as it is progressing towards a decarbonized economy to fight climate change, and can count on the IAEA’s support, Mr Grossi said.

“We need nuclear now if we are to stem global warming and avoid the worst effects of climate change,” Mr Grossi stated. Ukraine’s 15 operational reactor units produced 53.9% of the country’s total electricity in 2019. Ukraine’s Energy Strategy Through 2035 notes commitment to keep the share of nuclear energy at half of total electricity production through 2035.

The IAEA fosters sustainable nuclear energy development by supporting nuclear programmes around the world. It provides capacity-building, conducts review missions and offers guidelines, standards and workshops on developing a safe, secure and sustainable nuclear power programme. On the request of Ukraine’s government, the IAEA will conduct a review mission on the Safety Aspects of Long-Term Operation (SALTO) in August, followed by an Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) mission in 2022.

Nuclear for development

In meetings with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, Mr Grossi discussed safeguards, nuclear safety, human health and the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to COVID-19, the IAEA is providing Ukraine a PCR/diagnostic kit and two mobile medical diagnostic X-ray units. Mr Grossi emphasized the value of ZODIAC, a major initiative to prevent future outbreaks of diseases that spread from animals to humans, and recognized Ukraine’s National Scientific Institute for Experimental and Clinical Veterinary Medicine as a ZODIAC focal point.

Master’s students at the National Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute” (NTUU KPI) received Mr Grossi as a guest lecturer. In his talk that covered nuclear safety and nuclear energy, Mr Grossi emphasized the role of international cooperation. “The IAEA adopted this role as the international hub for nuclear cooperation,” he said. “The international community is facing two major challenges where nuclear science, technology and application have a role to play – the pandemic and climate change.”

In 2019, the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine established the master's degree programme, Physical Protection, Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, at NTUU KPI with support from the IAEA and the governments of Canada, Sweden and the USA. Study materials and the curriculum were developed based on content from the International Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN), which the IAEA Division of Nuclear Safety and Security helped establish in 2010.

Mr Grossi will visit the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone and attend the International Chornobyl Cooperation Account (ICCA) Assembly of Contributors on Tuesday.

Read more about the IAEA’s response to the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear power plant accident.

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