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Update 158 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

A location near the town of Enerhodar – home to most staff of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) – reportedly came under artillery fire this morning in the latest incident indicating an increasingly tense military situation in the area, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today.

IAEA experts present at the ZNPP – located just a few kilometres from Enerhodar – informed headquarters that the plant itself had not been affected, but the proximity once again underlined persistent nuclear safety and security dangers at a time of heightened speculation of future military operations in the region, the Director General said.

Director General Grossi reiterated his determination to secure the protection of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP) – which has been shelled several times during the 15-month conflict – and said he was engaged in intense negotiations with all involved parties to achieve this vital objective and help prevent the risk of a severe nuclear accident on the continent.

“It is very simple: don’t shoot at the plant and don’t use the plant as a military base. It should be in the interest of everyone to agree on a set of principles to protect the plant during the conflict,” he said.

The plant has seen a major fall in staff numbers since the armed conflict in Ukraine began in February last year, with plant personnel and their families facing extremely difficult and stressful conditions in the frontline region during the conflict.

A recent evacuation of some residents from Enerhodar added to the uncertainty about the staffing situation and the IAEA experts earlier this month observed a further reduction in the plant’s staffing to essential personnel only. However, on 15 May, regular day staff returned to the plant and have continued to work during the week. The size of the workforce is still far below that of the pre-conflict level, however.

“Our experts have seen a notable increase of personnel at the plant this week. At the moment, it has enough staff for a plant whose reactors are all in a shutdown mode. It remains clearly insufficient, however, for carrying out necessary maintenance and other regular work. The longer the plant has this kind of reduced staffing, the bigger the nuclear safety and security risks become. The situation remains unsustainable,” Director General Grossi said.

Further underlining potential nuclear safety and security risks, the ZNPP still relies on the only remaining functioning 750 kilovolt (kV) power line for the external electricity it needs for reactor cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions. Before the conflict, the plant had four such off-site power lines available. The last functioning back-up 330 kV power line that was damaged on the right bank of the Dnipro River on 1 March has still not been repaired.

The IAEA team at the site continues to engage with their counterparts on the issue of gaining access to the nearby Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP) following assurances by Russian state nuclear company Rosatom that this would be granted. The ZTPP operates its 330 kV open switchyard, through which back-up power has in the past been provided to the ZNPP. In addition, Director General Grossi said the IAEA team is engaging to have full access to the ZNPP’s turbine halls. 

The IAEA experts are also continuing to monitor the height of the Kakhovka Reservoir, which provides cooling water for the ZNPP. The height of the reservoir has risen significantly over the past month and on 6 May it was at historically high levels of 17.12 metres, which had raised concerns that the high levels could adversely affect the plant. The height is currently stable at 17.06 metres. The elevation of the ZNPP site is 22 metres, approximately five metres above the current height of the reservoir.



Last update: 07 May 2024

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