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Update 215 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, met Russian President Vladimir Putin this week as part of the IAEA’s persistent efforts to help prevent a nuclear or radiological accident during the ongoing conflict.

Director General Grossi described Wednesday’s meeting with President Putin as “professional and frank”, with the discussions focused on the paramount importance of reducing the still significant nuclear safety and security risks at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in southern Ukraine, controlled by Russia for the past two years.

It was their second meeting, following one in Saint Petersburg in October 2022, and it took place a month after Director General Grossi on 7 February crossed the frontline to travel to the ZNPP for the fourth time during the war. On the way to the plant, he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

“As I have repeatedly stated, I must talk to both sides to help reduce the danger of a potentially severe nuclear accident that would recognize no borders. No one stands to gain from a nuclear disaster, and we must do everything possible to prevent it. This was also my message to President Putin and other senior Russian officials this week,” the Director General said after his meetings in the Russian town of Sochi.

During his discussions in Sochi, Director General Grossi emphasized once again that the nuclear safety and security situation at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP) remains precarious, with six out of the seven pillars of nuclear safety and security that he outlined early during the conflict being compromised fully or partially.

He also reiterated his call for maximum military restraint and strict observance of the five concrete principles established at the United Nations Security Council on 30 May 2023.

At the ZNPP this week, the IAEA experts stationed at the site have continued to hear explosions and other indications of military activity not far away from the facility. Three times this week, they reported hearing several successive explosions within a few minutes, as well as one explosion yesterday evening and multiple explosions this morning, possibly indicating the use of heavy weapons from an area close to the plant.

On 1 March, the IAEA experts heard an explosion some distance away from the ZNPP. The following morning, the team was informed by the plant that there had been shelling in parkland a few hundred metres away from the city hall administrative building of the town of Enerhodar, where many plant staff live. On arrival at the location, later the same day, the IAEA experts were informed that debris from the alleged munitions used had already been removed. While the team observed some damaged trees and marks on the ground, it was not possible to conclude whether or not shelling had actually occurred.

Further underlining the fragile nuclear safety and security situation at the ZNPP, the plant remains without back-up external power after the only remaining 330 kilovolt (kV) line was disconnected more than two weeks ago, on 20 February. As a result, the ZNPP remains dependent on its only functioning 750 kV power line, out of four such lines available before the conflict. The IAEA team was informed that the 330 kV line is not expected to be reconnected for at least another week.

The ZNPP informed the IAEA team that it has commenced maintenance activities on reactor unit 1, except for those planned to be performed on safety systems and electrical equipment, which have been postponed until the 330 kV line is reconnected.

The IAEA experts also continue to collect information on the authorizations of operating staff in the ZNPP’s main control rooms. The regional head of ZNPP Nuclear and Radiation Safety Inspections of Rostekhnazdor, the Russian regulatory body, late last month informed the IAEA team during a visit that a total of 143 applications for authorizations of operating personnel had been received, of which 91 authorizations had so far been issued. The ZNPP says it has sufficient staff for the current shutdown status of the plant’s six reactors.

“The staffing situation at the plant remains a vital issue for nuclear safety and security that we will continue to monitor closely,” Director General Grossi said.

During their walkdowns at the site this week, the IAEA team visited the temporary emergency response centre and were informed that the emergency preparedness and response arrangements at the ZNPP continue under a temporary emergency plan, while a new plan is expected to be completed this year. The team was also informed that a major exercise is being planned for late 2024.

In addition, the IAEA experts visited the ZNPP’s electrical and mechanical warehouses to assess the availability of spare parts essential for maintenance, observing some spare parts in each warehouse. The plant informed the team that the site has spare parts for upcoming maintenance and for the reactors in their current shutdown states, adding that the spare parts are provided from the Russian Federation.  

During other walkdowns this week, the team observed the current management of solid radioactive waste at the ZNPP and also went to the turbine halls of reactor units 3 and 5. Once again, access was restricted. The IAEA experts were not able to access the western part of the halls nor the plant equipment on the ground floor of the turbine building of unit 5. The IAEA expert team expects to gain access to these areas soon.

The IAEA teams present at the Khmelnytskyy, Rivne and South Ukraine NPPs as well as at the Chornobyl site have reported that nuclear safety and security is being maintained despite the challenging war-time circumstances, including the frequent sound of air raid alarms at some of the facilities. The IAEA experts at Chornobyl rotated earlier this week.

This week, the IAEA made its 38th delivery of equipment to Ukraine aimed at assisting in maintaining nuclear safety and security. Contamination survey meters and physical protection equipment were delivered to VostokGOK and to the Chornobyl NPP site, with support from the contributions made by the United Kingdom and the European Union.




Last update: 07 May 2024

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