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Update 139 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

A 330 kilovolt (kV) back-up power line to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), that was disconnected last week due to damage caused by shelling, has still not been restored underlining further the facility’s fragile supplies of electricity from the grid, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi said today.

Connection to the Ferosplavna 1 back-up line was lost on 29 December due to damage caused by shelling on the other side of the Dnipro river from the ZNPP site. The line is the last remaining of six 330 kV external lines providing electricity through the switchyard of the nearby thermal power station to the ZNPP, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Though all six reactors at the ZNPP are in shutdown, the plant continues to receive the off-site electricity it needs for essential nuclear safety and security functions from the last operating 750 kV main external power line. In case of loss of external power, all the site’s 20 diesel backup generators are ready to supply the site with the electricity needed for all safety related equipment.

The IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) team currently present at the plant was informed that work to restore the Ferosplavna 1 line (330 Kv) started on 30 December 2022 but it is still not clear when the work would be completed. Efforts to restore the line had been interrupted for a period of days due to shelling near the location of the damage, though it is understood that the work has once again resumed.

The situation demonstrates once again the need for all military action with the potential to have an impact on the nuclear safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants (NPPs) to stop immediately, Director General Grossi said.

The Director General is continuing consultations with Ukraine and Russia aimed at agreeing and implementing a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP as soon as possible.

The ISAMZ team at the plant has been made aware of exhaustion and stress amongst the ZNPP operational staff. The team reported worrying levels of fatigue in the staff arising from the effects of increased working hours and additional shifts and the stress from the close exposure to the ongoing conflict.

Director General Grossi has repeatedly expressed grave concern about the impact of the challenging working conditions at the ZNPP. “As set out in the seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security, operating staff must be able to fulfil their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure,” he added.

The ISAMZ team was informed that despite the challenges, the plant still has adequate operational staff to maintain the safe operation of all units at the plant’s current level of functioning.

“The courageous staff working at the ZNPP continue to perform their duties professionally, determined to maintain the safe operation of the plant,” Director General Grossi said.

The ISAMZ team was also informed that all nine mobile diesel-fuelled boilers on site are now in operation, providing about 34 MW of heating to the ZNPP and the nearby city of Enerhodar. An additional 43 boilers are operating throughout the city.

Separately, Ukraine informed the IAEA that electrical power production levels at the country’s three other NPPs were fully restored following a decrease in output after the missile attacks in the last days of 2022.

The IAEA continues to prepare to deploy soon IAEA teams on a continual basis to the four other Ukrainian nuclear facilities, the Khmelnitsky, Rivne and South Ukraine NPPs, as well as the Chornobyl site, as agreed as agreed in Paris in December 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 with a potential radiological impact on the population and the environment.

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