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Update 194 - IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

A reactor unit of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) temporarily lost power earlier this week, forcing it to rely on an emergency diesel generator for the electricity it needs for cooling and other vital functions, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today.

The ZNPP is investigating the cause of the 90-minute power outage that occurred late on Wednesday at reactor unit 6. The IAEA experts at the site are also gathering information to make their own independent assessment. The affected unit is in cold shutdown, but still needs access to power. None of the ZNPP’s five other reactors lost power, three of which are also in cold shutdown, while two are in hot shutdown to generate steam and heating.

“While this was not a total loss of off-site power, as we have seen seven times before during the conflict, it once again highlights the precarious nuclear safety and security situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant,” Director General Grossi said. “The IAEA will continue to collect information so we can inform the international community about the situation at the plant.”

The day after the power outage, the ZNPP informed the IAEA experts that part of the safety system of the same unit was placed under planned maintenance.

The ZNPP continues to be connected to the electricity grid through a single 750 kilovolt (kV) main power line – out of four before the conflict – as well as a back-up 330 kV line, compared with six less than two years ago.

IAEA experts present at the ZNPP are continuing to hear explosions on a near-daily basis some distance away from the site, on the frontline of the conflict.

Separately, the IAEA experts have been informed that the chemical boron has been detected in the secondary cooling circuit of one of the steam generators of reactor unit 5, which is currently in hot shutdown. Borated water is used in the primary coolant to help maintain nuclear safety. The site has increased the frequency of boron measurements in the secondary cooling circuit of unit 5. The measurements remain relatively stable and are within the limits permitted by the reactor’s technical specifications. No radioactivity has been detected in the secondary cooling circuit.

The ZNPP stated that, as the boron concentration remains within the allowable limits, the site intends to keep unit 5 in hot shutdown, which will be reassessed after all the boilers, used for heating in the nearby town of Enerhodar, have started operating. At that time, the site will determine whether to move unit 5 to cold shutdown.

The ZNPP has been keeping reactor units 4 and 5 in hot shutdown to provide heating and steam for nuclear safety purposes on site, as well as heating for Enerhodar, where most plant staff live. The IAEA continues to follow the ZNPP’s progress to find an alternative source of steam generation. 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.

In other activities conducted by the IAEA experts over the past week, the team performed – for the first time – a walkdown on Wednesday of all six main reactor control rooms at the ZNPP, one after the other. It provided the team with an opportunity to gather more information about staffing there and to confirm the status of each reactor unit.

“This has been a positive development regarding access. I strongly encourage the plant to ensure that timely access and information sharing take place regularly. It will enhance our capability to report about the overall situation at the plant,” Director General Grossi said.

The same day, the IAEA experts also conducted a walkdown of the turbine hall of unit 5, but their access was partially restricted, as was the case also during a visit to the turbine hall of unit 1 last week, and of the turbine halls of units 1, 2, 4 and 5 during walkdowns in October. The IAEA experts continue to request access to all six turbine halls together as part of their activities to monitor compliance to the seven indispensable pillars and the five concrete principles for protecting the ZNPP.

Following last month’s closure of the reactor vessel of unit 3, the plant informed the IAEA experts this week that testing of the reactor’s primary cooling circuit was completed, and pressure testing of the secondary cooling circuit is expected to be completed in the coming days.

Over the past week, up to seven of the nine mobile diesel boilers installed at the ZNPP to provide additional heating during the winter have been in operation most days. Their usage depends on the requirements for steam at the plant and for heating in Enerhodar.

Elsewhere in Ukraine this week, IAEA experts observed an emergency exercise conducted at the Rivne Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) on 15 and 16 November, which also included support from staff at the South Ukraine and Khmelnitsky NPPs. The IAEA has teams continually present at these three plants, who followed the different aspects of the exercise, at the Rivne NPP from both the onsite and offsite emergency control room.

During the exercise, the SNRIU – the Ukrainian Competent Authority under the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency – shared information with the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre.

Following the emergency exercise, the Rivne NPP conducted a debriefing to discuss the conduct of the exercise, document lessons learned and to identify areas for improvement.

The ZNPP plans to conduct an emergency exercise next week, which the IAEA team will also observe.

The IAEA teams at the Khmelnitsky, Rivne and South Ukraine NPPs and the Chornobyl site report safe and secure operations of these nuclear facilities despite the continuation of the conflict.


Last update: 07 May 2024

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