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Update 181 - IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

Today marks one year since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, visited Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) for the first time and established the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ). The permanent presence of IAEA experts at ZNPP has been essential in reducing the likelihood of a nuclear accident.

The IAEA has also provided ongoing assistance and monitoring in Ukraine since the start of the war, including missions, experts at all Ukraine’s nuclear power plants (NPPs), facilitating international financial support, and information sharing.

“As I said one year ago, having the IAEA permanently present at the ZNPP is of great value. There is no doubt that this presence was a game changer,” Director General Grossi said. “The presence of the ISAMZ team at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant on the front lines of war has been a crucial part of the IAEAs activities to monitor the situation and assist Ukraine.”

“The presence of the IAEA was essential in helping to stabilize the situation and keeping the world informed about Zaporizhzhya NPP. I am particularly proud of the courageous staff who carry out this important work, as well as those at the other Ukraine NPPs and the Chornobyl site,” Director General Grossi added.

In order to prevent a nuclear accident that could affect people and the environment, it continues to be of paramount importance that the five basic principles for the protection of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant are respected and adhered to, Director General Grossi said.

The anniversary comes just one day after a successful tenth ISAMZ rotation, with IAEA experts once again crossing the front line as the teams departed and arrived at the plant.

During the previous rotation on 3 August 2023, IAEA experts had been granted access to the reactor rooftops of units 3 and 4, which allowed them to verify that no mines or explosives were placed there or on the rooftops of the turbine halls. The ISAMZ team, therefore, expected similar access to the rooftops of the remaining four units during the current rotation. However, no such access was granted this time.

Director General Grossi reiterated the importance of IAEA experts being granted timely access to all areas of the ZNPP to monitor full compliance with the five basic principles.

The IAEA experts continue to hear explosions and the sounds of military activity taking place some distance away from the ZNPP. The ISAMZ team was informed by ZNPP that a drone had hit a residential building in Enerhodar on 23 August and that no casualties were reported. The IAEA experts confirmed that these events had no impact on the site. Director General Grossi said that these are yet another reminder of potential nuclear safety and security risks facing the facility during the military conflict in the country.

Unit 4 at the ZNPP has been in cold shutdown since 12 August after a water leak was identified in one of the four steam generators. The cause of the water leak has been repaired, initial tests were successfully performed, and further testing is ongoing. Unit 6 remains in hot shutdown for steam production on site. Units 1 to 5 remain in cold shutdown.

As previously reported, the Ukraine national regulator – SNRIU – has issued regulatory orders to limit the operation of all six units to a cold shutdown state.

In addition to the maintenance work that was performed on the steam generator, the site is performing other maintenance activities on the safety and electrical systems of the reactor units.

The team was informed, however, that there has been a considerable reduction in maintenance staff – currently at about one-third in comparison to before the armed conflict in Ukraine began -- raising further concerns about the ability of the site to properly maintain the systems, structures and components important for nuclear safety and security at the plant. ZNPP said that new staff had been recruited, but it would take time for them to complete training and gain the necessary experience to work on the site - though they added that maintenance contractors from Rosenergoatom can attend at short notice to assist in the performance of maintenance tasks.

The ZNPP’s large cooling pond and its other main supply of water – the discharge channel of the nearby Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP) – remain intact, the IAEA experts said. The height of the ZNPP cooling pond continues to drop by about one centimetre per day while water from the ZTPP inlet channel is regularly pumped into its discharge channel to compensate for water used for cooling or lost through natural evaporation. The site continues to have sufficient cooling water available for many months.

The team continues to monitor the construction of wells close to the plant’s sprinkler ponds. There are now four wells in operation after the fourth well was drilled this week. ZNPP has informed ISAMZ that it intends to build a total of 10-12 wells around the sprinkler ponds in the coming weeks, which will then become the main source of cooling water for the six shutdown reactor units and spent fuel pools.

The IAEA team also continues to conduct regular walkdowns across the site. Over the past ten days, the experts have visited: the main control room, emergency control room and other safety-related rooms of unit 1, as well as the unit’s reactor hall, main pumps, steam generators, and safety system rooms; the main control room, emergency control room and other safety-related rooms of unit 4; the plant perimeter and two of the on-site radiation monitoring stations.

During these walkdowns, the team observed the presence of military trucks in the turbine hall of unit 1, but they did not observe any mines or explosives other than those previously reported.

In addition, the team visited the ZNPP 750 kilovolt (kV) open switchyard on 25 August and observed that all possible repairs had been completed and the yard was preparing for winter. Only one of the four 750kV off-site power lines remains connected, however, most recently on 10 August this power line was disconnected twice during the day, leaving the site to rely on off-site power from the backup 330kV line.

IAEA experts maintain a continued presence at Ukraine’s other NPPs and the Chornobyl site. The IAEA will conduct rotations at Rivne, Khmelnitsky, and South Ukraine NPPs next week.

This week the Agency delivered medical supplies to the Chornobyl NPP site bringing the total deliveries to Ukraine to 22 since the conflict began in February 2022. The medical supplies will be of benefit to the ChNPP personnel, and also to Agency staff present at the site. They were procured with funds provided by Germany.


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