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Update 137 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

Diplomatic efforts to establish a nuclear safety and security protection zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) are making headway, with the aim to agree and implement the much-needed measure soon, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi said today after a new round of talks on his proposal.

Director General Grossi spoke after meeting senior Russian government officials in Moscow yesterday, including Alexey Likhachev, Director General of Russian state nuclear company Rosatom. He has earlier on several occasions discussed the proposed zone with senior Ukrainian officials in Kyiv. The consultations with both sides will continue in the near future.

The hours-long meeting in the Russian capital yesterday was “another round of necessary discussions on the creation of a protection zone for the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant,” Director General Grossi said. “It’s key that the zone focuses solely on preventing a nuclear accident. I am continuing my efforts towards this goal with a sense of utmost urgency.”

The plan will help prevent a nuclear accident by stopping shelling to and from a zone around the plant, Europe’s largest. Although the plant itself has been relatively quiet in recent weeks after it came under intense shelling about a month ago, the clear sound of military activity can still be heard in the vicinity of the facility, underlining persistent nuclear safety and security risks.

“As we have experienced several times before during the war in Ukraine, the situation can take a sudden – and dramatic – turn for the worse at any moment. The plant is located on an active frontline in the middle of a large-scale war. The situation remains extremely precarious and potentially dangerous, and the protection zone remains urgently needed,” Director General Grossi said.

At the ZNPP, the 330 kilovolt (kV) back-up power line to the electricity grid was re-connected on 14 December, a day after the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) team reported it had been disconnected. The ZNPP now receives the electricity it needs for essential nuclear safety and security functions from both a 750 kV main external power line and the back-up power line. 

On 16 December, ZNPP’s on-site power grid fluctuated for some two hours as a result of shelling on the northern side of the Dnipro River, but there was no loss of off-site power, no impact to plant equipment and all systems remained in operation.

As previously reported by the ISAMZ team, staffing at the ZNPP remains at reduced levels. The ISAMZ team have been informed that ZNPP staff, as well as the residents of the nearby city of Enerhodar, are under psychological stress caused by the on-going military conflict in the region. The staff’s workload has increased due to the reduced staffing and the need to repair damage caused by shelling and to ensure the plant’s nuclear safety and security.  Director General Grossi has repeatedly expressed serious concern about the pressure that ZNPP staff are facing, with potential consequences for nuclear safety and security.

Nine mobile diesel-fuelled boilers with power in the range of 1-6.5 megawatts (MW) have been delivered to the ZNPP and are being installed, with four already operating. The nine boilers will provide about 34 MW of heating to the ZNPP site and to Enerhodar. In addition, up to 70 MW heating capacity will be provided by such boilers to be installed in Enerhodar.

ZNPP has 20 fixed emergency diesel electrical power generators in stand-by mode that are ready to provide electricity if off-site electrical power is not available. To provide further redundancy and back-up capability, seven 1 MW mobile diesel electrical power generators are currently being tested and installed. Two of them are already connected to one reactor unit and are in stand-by mode. The remaining five mobile generators will be connected to other reactor units.

On 20 December, the IAEA reviewed the impact freezing temperatures may have on the external components of the reactors’ cooling system. The team concluded that the current low-to-freezing temperatures do not have a significant effect on the site’s nuclear safety and security at this time.

The team did not observe any ice near the inlet channels that direct cooling water from the reservoir to the reactor units, but a thin layer of frozen water was seen in the area near the cooling outlet. The cooling water reservoir’s bulk water temperature on 20 December was above freezing at approximately 6oC.

The IAEA mission also reported that the Russian Federation’s nuclear regulator Rostekhnadzor, the Federal Service for the Supervision of Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management, plans to maintain a rotating team at the ZNPP.

The IAEA is preparing to deploy IAEA teams on a continual basis to four other Ukrainian nuclear facilities, the Khmelnitsky, Rivne and South Ukraine nuclear power plants (NPPs), as well as the Chornobyl site, as agreed last week by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and IAEA Director General Grossi. These missions aim to provide technical support and assistance as needed in order to help maintain a high level of nuclear safety and security and reduce the risk of a nuclear incident or accident.

On 16 December, significant shelling was experienced throughout Ukraine. This resulted in the Khmelnitsky and Rivne NPPs reducing power and the South Ukraine NPP disconnecting from the electrical grid. None of the nuclear power plants in Ukraine experienced a loss of off-site power.  Now, all nine reactors are operating once again at these three NPPs.


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