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Update 222 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi today called for maximum military restraint and full observance of the five concrete principles for protecting Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), days after a series of drone attacks had “significantly" increased the risk of a nuclear accident at the site.

Addressing an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Director General Grossi said it was of paramount importance to ensure that “these reckless attacks do not mark the beginning of a new and gravely dangerous front of the war”.

The IAEA Director General will address the United Nations Security Council in New York on Monday.

Today’s session of the 35-nation Board was convened by its Chair after he received two separate requests from the Russian Federation and Ukraine for such a meeting.

“I firmly appeal to military decision makers to abstain from any action violating the IAEA’s five concrete principles to prevent a nuclear accident and ensure the integrity of the plant and I urge the international community actively to work towards a de-escalation of what is a very serious situation,” Director General Grossi said in his opening statement.

The meeting was held less than a week after three drone strikes hit the site of the ZNPP, endangering nuclear safety and security and deepening concern about the already highly precarious situation at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP), located on the frontline of the armed conflict.

It was the first time since November 2022 that the ZNPP was directly targeted in military action. It also represented a clear violation of the five principles aimed at protecting the facility that were established by Director General Grossi at the United Nations Security Council in May last year and, he told the Board, “shifted us into an acutely consequential juncture in this war”.

Although the strikes – as well as others reported by the plant both before and after Sunday’s events – did not cause damage compromising nuclear safety and security at the ZNPP, they marked a “major escalation” of the dangers, Director General Grossi said.

Stressing that “no one can conceivably benefit or gain any military or political advantage” by attacking a nuclear power plant, he said:

“I urge you to make this your highest priority and to support me and the IAEA in doing everything in your power to stop this devastating war becoming unconscionably more dangerous through further attacks on the Zaporizhzhya NPP or any other nuclear power plant.”

At the site in southern Ukraine, the team of IAEA experts stationed there have continued to report about the frequent sound of military action, including numerous rounds of outgoing artillery fire from near the facility.

Despite the heightened military-related challenges in recent days, the IAEA experts have conducted walkdowns across the site over the past week, visiting the main control rooms of the six reactor units, the off-site radiation monitoring laboratory, as well as the site’s radioactive waste storage facility.

However, they were not granted access to parts of the turbine hall of unit 2 when they went to this reactor, nor to some parts of the waste facility, which meant they were not able to verify its current status. As reported previously, the ZNPP has not provided timely and appropriate access for the IAEA experts to all areas that are important to nuclear safety and security.

“In these extremely challenging circumstances, the presence of IAEA experts at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is more important than ever. Their impartial and technical work enables us to inform the world about events there in an independent and timely manner. In order to carry out these crucial tasks, they need prompt and unrestricted access to all areas that are important for nuclear safety and security,” Director General Grossi said.

Separately, the ZNPP informed the IAEA experts that it intends to start transitioning unit 4 to cold shutdown from tomorrow morning, after the nearby town of Enerhodar – where most plant staff live – officially ended the winter heating season.

The ZNPP stopped generating electricity for the national grid in September 2022, but it has kept at least one of its six units in hot shutdown to provide district heating as well as process steam for liquid waste treatment at the site.

After the plant earlier this year started operating four newly-installed diesel steam generators to handle such waste, as recommended by the IAEA, reactor unit 4 has remained in hot shutdown primarily to help keep Enerhodar warm. The five other reactors are in cold shutdown.

When in cold shutdown, in case the heat removal is interrupted, there is an additional response margin of several days before the cooling of the nuclear fuel in the reactor might be challenged. The reactor also needs less cooling water than in hot shutdown.

“Switching to cold shutdown is a positive step for nuclear safety and security, although one that is currently overshadowed by the great military dangers facing the plant,” Director General Grossi said.

The ZNPP separately informed the IAEA team that the plant – throughout the past week – once again had access to its only remaining back-up power line, which was lost in early April. The plant now has access to one of its four main 750 kilovolt (kV) power lines, as well as the last of six 330 kV back-up lines, which was disconnected for a few days.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the IAEA experts at the Khmelnytskyy, Rivne and South Ukraine NPPs as well as at the Chornobyl site have reported that nuclear safety and security continues to be maintained, despite multiple air raid alarms that occurred over the past week. Units 1 and 4 at the Rivne NPP are in planned outage. The IAEA experts at the Khmelnytskyy NPP rotated on 8 April.







Last update: 07 May 2024

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