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Update 193 - IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts have been informed that 21 natural gas boilers have been installed at the industrial zone nearby Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) as part of measures to provide additional heating during the winter, including for the nearby city of Enerhodar, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today.

The IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) team confirmed that the new gas boilers can provide an extra 57MW of heating. In addition, all nine mobile diesel boilers, located at the ZNPP, have been in operation most days to generate the heating needed as the autumn weather gets colder prior to the onset of winter for the plant and the nearby city of Enerhodar.

The ISAMZ team have learned that the three large capacity diesel boilers located at the Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP) and at the industrial zone are planned to be converted to natural gas within the next month. Additional heating is provided by the ZNPP units 4 and 5 in hot shutdown, which also produce the steam required for nuclear safety and security related activities at the ZNPP, and by over 50 mobile boilers located throughout the city of Enerhodar.

Ukraine’s national regulator, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU), issued regulatory orders in June to limit the operation of all six units of the ZNPP to a cold shutdown state. Units 1, 2, 3 and 6 are currently in cold shutdown.

“With the continuing precarious nuclear safety and security situation at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, the team will monitor closely the efforts taken to prepare for the difficult coldest months of the year,” Director General Grossi said. “Our presence remains essential.”

During the past week, the new team of IAEA experts who recently crossed the frontline to begin their rotation at the ZNPP heard explosions outside the plant on a near-daily basis, highlighting the dangers posed by an armed conflict in such close proximity to a nuclear power plant.

The team was informed of the maintenance activities being performed in recent days. Pressure testing of unit 3’s steam generators – a necessary procedure following the closure of its reactor vessel, which had been left open for over 18 months - was completed successfully and sealing of the steam generators is being performed. The ZNPP informed the IAEA experts today that maintenance is being performed on the primary circuit this week, after which final pressure testing will be conducted on it.

ZNPP also informed the IAEA that maintenance of the number 1 safety train of unit 6 would take place in the near future. ZNPP reactors each have three separate and independent redundant systems – known as safety trains – comprising the units’ safety systems, which are normally in stand-by mode ready to activate if needed to maintain safety. Maintenance on the other two safety trains was conducted in October.

During the past week the team was informed that maintenance of the main unit transformers of units 1, 2 and 3 will commence this week, similar to that recently performed on the unit transformers of units 4, 5 and 6.

The IAEA has been concerned that some of the maintenance activities that have been carried out on the safety systems of the reactor units may have been  incomplete, warranting additional maintenance to be carried out. This was apparent in July and August after unit 4 was placed in hot shutdown following maintenance on its safety systems. However, after unit 4 was returned to cold shutdown in August due to a water leak in one of the steam generators, further maintenance was also required to clean the heat exchangers of the unit’s safety systems.

“As a result of the ongoing conflict, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, has not been able to maintain a comprehensive systematic maintenance programme, especially due to the reduction of experienced maintenance staff,” Director General Grossi said. “Nuclear safety and security remain at risk the longer the plant has reduced levels of trained and experienced staff. It is not a sustainable situation for Europe’s largest nuclear power plant”.

The IAEA team at the site continues to perform daily walkdowns. On 7 November, during a visit to the main control room, emergency control room and electrical room of unit 3, the team confirmed the unit’s cold shutdown status. A walkdown of the emergency diesel generators of units 1 and 2 was conducted on 8 November and on 10 November, respectively, the IAEA experts also visited the ZNPP cooling pond and cooling towers and confirmed the integrity of the isolation gates.

The Agency continues to stress that it needs access to all six turbine halls to assess safety but again on November 10 the experts at the site were prevented from visiting parts of the turbine hall of unit 1, after receiving similar restricted access to the turbine halls of units 1, 2 and 4 during walkdowns in October.

During walkdowns of the site perimeter on 3 and 5 November, the team did not observe any mines or explosives, including in areas where they had been previously observed.

Outside of the perimeter of the site, the IAEA visited the three large diesel fuel storage tanks at the storage facility. This stored fuel is required to run the 20 emergency diesel generators at the ZNPP for at least 10 days. The storage facility is also being used to supply fuel for the mobile diesel boilers. The team was informed of the amount of fuel in the tanks and observed the filling of trucks taking diesel fuel to the mobile boilers.

Regarding the water used at the site for reactor cooling and other nuclear safety and security functions, the ZNPP confirmed that insulation of the 11 groundwater wells was ongoing. The wells feed approximately 250m3/h of cooling water to the sprinkler ponds for reactor cooling. Insulation works are planned to be completed by the end of November. The IAEA experts were also informed that the power supply for the pumps in the wells is provided by the essential electricity consumer outlets. In case of a loss of off-site power, the IAEA experts were informed that the pumps from the wells can be powered through the two common emergency diesel generators, thus ensuring the availability of cooling water if all off-site power was lost.

The IAEA team at the site learned that the ZNPP emergency exercise is planned to be conducted later in November. The last major exercise at ZNPP was conducted in November 2021, prior to the start of the conflict. Since that time, there has been an unprecedented change in the number of the ZNPP staff which could impede the site’s ability to be able to effectively respond to emergency situations. The Agency stresses the need for the ISAMZ team to be permitted to observe the upcoming exercise and to receive the lessons learned from the exercise.

As part of its work at the site, the IAEA continues to gather information on the status and condition of staff. This includes building an understanding of the training and licensing of operating staff at the plant under Russian Federation regulations.  The IAEA experts visited the ZNPP training centre on 7 November and gathered more information regarding the number of trainers and their training processes.

In terms of regulatory functions at the site, the IAEA was also informed this past week that Rostekhnadzor, the Russian regulatory body for nuclear and radiation safety, is establishing a more permanent presence at the ZNPP with the arrival at the site of the Head of ZNPP Nuclear and Radiation Safety Inspections. The team was informed that the intent is to provide constant supervision and regulatory control of the nuclear power plant (NPP), in accordance with Russian state laws and to give licenses to the employees.

Separately last week, the IAEA conducted successful rotations of its teams at the Chornobyl site, and the Rivne, Khmelnitsky and South Ukraine NPPs. The teams each reported the safe and secure operations of these nuclear facilities.

The IAEA team at Khmelnitsky NPP observed a plant-wide emergency response exercise on 11 October, noting at the time that the exercise was well planned and implemented and that emergency response arrangements appeared to be effective. During the past week the Agency’s experts were informed that the follow-up activities for the exercise were conducted and an action plan has been developed for the identified areas of further improvement, including on- and off-site communication, fire protection, and decontamination.

Additionally, over the last week, the IAEA conducted a medical and coordination assistance mission in Ukraine. The team visited the Chornobyl site, Slavutych Municipal Hospital and the Slavutych local center that provides mental health support for staff at Chornobyl. The team also met various authorities in Kyiv to discuss the coordination and collaboration on the overall technical support and assistance to Ukraine, including on the mental health support programme.

The team noted progress in recent months in various areas impacted by the armed conflict owing to the support provided through the Agency, as well as through other bilateral or multilateral arrangements and from the national authorities, but noted the difficult and improvised living conditions of the operating staff at the Chornobyl site. Staff are required to sleep in adapted living conditions and in unventilated and humid premises, in rooms often accommodating six persons or more, which lack the basic supplies.

“Such a situation is taking its toll on the physical and mental health of the operating staff and is not sustainable in the longer term” Director General Grossi said.

Also in the last week the Agency arranged the 32nd delivery of equipment to Ukraine. The equipment was donated by Canada under the IAEA Response and Assistance Network, RANET. This delivery was the second shipment of equipment from Canada, and one additional and final shipment is in preparation. With this delivery the Rivne and South Ukraine NPPs, Chornobyl, as well as the Public Health Centre of Ministry of Health, the State Register of Ionizing Radiation Sources and Individual Radiation Doses and SNRIU, received personal protective equipment, IT equipment, potassium iodide pills, first aid kits and similar items.


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