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Update 14 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria, posted at 20:57 CET

Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today that a new nuclear research facility producing radioisotopes for medical and industrial applications had been damaged by shelling in the city of Kharkiv, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said. The national nuclear regulator said the incident did not cause any increase in radiation levels at the site.

The facility in north-eastern Ukraine is used for research and development and radioisotope production. Because the nuclear material in the facility is always subcritical and the inventory of radioactive material is very low, the IAEA’s assessment confirmed that the damage reported to it would not have had any radiological consequence, the Director General said.

Nevertheless, Sunday’s incident highlighted once again the risks facing Ukraine’s nuclear installations during the armed conflict, adding urgency to an IAEA initiative aimed at ensuring nuclear safety and security in the country.

“We have already had several episodes compromising safety at Ukraine’s nuclear sites,” Director General Grossi said.

On 27 February, Ukraine said missiles hit the site of a radioactive waste disposal facility in the capital Kyiv but there was no radioactive release. That came a day after an electrical transformer at a similar disposal facility near Kharkiv was damaged. On 4 March, when the site was taken over by Russian forces, Ukraine said the training centre of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) was hit by a projectile, causing a fire that was later extinguished.

In addition, the regulator said there continued to be no communication with enterprises and institutions using Category 1-3 radiation sources in the eastern port city of Mariupol, including its Oncological Centre. Therefore, their safety and security could not be confirmed. Such radioactive material can cause serious harm to people if not secured and managed properly.

“We must take action to help avert a nuclear accident in Ukraine that could have severe consequences for public health and the environment. We can’t afford to wait,” Director General Grossi said.

To help protect the country’s nuclear facilities, he has expressed his readiness to travel to the Chornobyl NPP to secure the commitment to the safety and security of all Ukraine’s nuclear power plants from the parties of the conflict.

“I have said I am willing to travel to Chornobyl, but it can be anywhere, as long as it facilitates this necessary and urgent action,“ he told an IAEA Board of Governors meeting today.

At Chornobyl, the site of the 1986 accident that is under the control of Russian forces since 24 February, the current shift of around 210 technical personal and guards has still not been able to rotate, the regulator said. The same staff have been on the site for 12 days now.

Director General Grossi has repeatedly stressed the importance of operating staff being able to rest to carry out their important jobs safely and securely.

In another worrying development, Ukraine’s regulator today also informed the IAEA that it was currently not possible to deliver spare parts or medicine to the Zaporizhzhya NPP, a day after the country said plant management was now under orders from the commander of the Russian forces controlling the site. Plant personnel were, however, able to rotate, it added.

The Director General reiterated that having operating staff subject to the authority of the Russian military commander contravenes an indispensable pillar of nuclear safety.

Regarding the status of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, the regulator said eight of the country’s 15 reactors were operating, including two at the Zaporizhzhya NPP.


Last update: 07 May 2024

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