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Update 122 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

A landmine explosion cut the main power supply connection to one of the reactors of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), in the latest incident underlining the fragile nuclear safety and security situation at the facility during the current military conflict, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today.

The explosion occurred yesterday evening outside the ZNPP’s perimeter fence, disconnecting the 750 kilovolt (kV) external power line between plant’s switchyard and the main electrical transformer of reactor unit 4.

Unit 4 is instead receiving the electricity it needs for cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions from a back-up line connecting the ZNPP to the switchyard of the nearby thermal power plant, Director General Grossi said, referring to information provided by the team of IAEA experts present at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

In a further sign of the precarious situation in the area of the ZNPP, the IAEA team said there had been shelling in the vicinity of the plant in recent days, following a period of reduced military activity. Yesterday, shelling near the thermal power plant switchyard temporarily disconnected one of the ZNPP’s three back-up power lines through which the town of Enerhodar has been receiving electricity. This 150 kV power line was re-connected later the same day.

“Operating staff at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant are working hard in very challenging circumstances to prevent the kind of repeated power outages we saw in early October,” Director General Grossi said. “While their determined efforts have had some positive results, the plant’s power situation remains extremely vulnerable.”

Director General Grossi has engaged in high-level talks with both Ukraine and Russia in recent weeks aimed at agreeing and implementing a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP as soon as possible.

Of the ZNPP’s six reactors, Unit 5 is in hot shutdown to produce steam needed for the plant’s operations and Unit 6 is now also being heated up for the same purpose. The four other units remain in cold shutdown.

Director General Grossi also today expressed his continued grave concern about the increasingly difficult and stressful working conditions for the plant’s Ukrainian operating personnel, who are being requested by Russia to sign new employment contracts with an entity it has set up, replacing their current contracts with the Ukrainian national operator, Energoatom. Russia has announced it has taken control of the ZNPP following the creation of a Russian state operating organization for the site.

Director General Grossi, who has repeatedly stated that the plant is Ukrainian, warned that the situation could affect both the availability of key personnel and operational decision-making, with a potentially negative impact on nuclear safety and security, increasing the risk of a nuclear accident at the ZNPP.

The IAEA team at the ZNPP has been informed about the recent release of one of two Ukrainian plant personnel who were detained some two weeks ago. He is reportedly in good health. Director General Grossi welcomed the news of the release and made an appeal for the other staff member to be released soon. 

Also today, Director General Grossi said IAEA inspectors had begun – and would soon complete – verification activities at two locations in Ukraine, following a written request from the Ukraine government to send teams of inspectors there.

Ukraine’s request was issued after the Russian Federation made allegations about activities related to the possible production of “dirty bombs” at the two locations, which are under IAEA safeguards and have been visited regularly by IAEA inspectors. The purpose of the safeguards visits is to detect any possible undeclared nuclear activities and materials related to the development of “dirty bombs”. The IAEA inspected one of the two locations a month ago and no undeclared nuclear activities or materials were found there.

Director General Grossi said he would later this week provide his initial conclusions about the latest verification activities at the two sites.

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