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Update 228 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

A new team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) today, crossing the frontline to reach the site as part of the IAEA’s indispensable mission to help prevent a nuclear accident during the armed conflict, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

Replacing colleagues who have been monitoring nuclear safety and security at the ZNPP for the past several weeks, it is the 19th team of IAEA experts stationed at the site in southern Ukraine since Director General Grossi established a permanent presence there more than 20 months ago.

“The IAEA will remain present at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant for as long as it is needed. The nuclear safety and security situation at the plant remains extremely precarious and challenging. Thanks to our experts at the site, we can inform the world about developments there. We will continue to do everything in our power to keep this major nuclear facility safe and secure,” Director General Grossi said.

The potential dangers facing the plant are constant and the situation can take a sudden turn for the worse at any moment. Over the past week, the IAEA experts have continued to hear indications of military activity in the areas around the ZNPP. These included outgoing artillery and rocket fire at some distance away as well as small arms fire closer to the site. Late last week, an air raid alarm restricted movement outside the ZNPP’s buildings for 24 hours, but no explosions were heard during this time.

Having robust emergency preparedness and response arrangements in place is crucial at nuclear power plants (NPPs). On Wednesday, the IAEA experts observed an emergency drill at the ZNPP, based on a hypothetical scenario of damage to a pipe connected to one of the sprinkler ponds providing water to cool reactor unit 1 and its safety systems. Under the exercise scenario, plant staff pumped water into the sprinkler pond and repaired the damaged pipe, while also ensuring that the safety systems and diesel generators remained operational.

The IAEA team’s opinion was that the exercise was well organized and that the personnel responded effectively.

“It is essential for all nuclear facilities to have effective emergency preparedness and response arrangements. For this purpose, regular drills and exercises are necessary. Clearly, for the Zaporizhhya Nuclear Power Plant, they are especially important in view of the extraordinary risks it is currently facing,” Director General Grossi said.

The IAEA experts have also continued to perform regular walkdowns across the site, including to all six main control rooms, to observe the activities of staff with roles and responsibilities that are vital for nuclear safety and security at the plant. However, the experts were still not permitted to talk to the main control room personnel, reducing their ability to fully assess staff experience and expertise.

The IAEA team this week also went to reactor unit 2 and its safety systems rooms where they observed the steam generators, pressurizer, and the successful start-up of a spent fuel pool pump as part of a scheduled switch from another pump. The team noted that no leaks of boron were observed and that the general situation in the areas was satisfactory, except for an oil leak coming from the crane.

In addition, the IAEA experts carried out walkdowns within the site perimeter and other buildings, which they are permitted to access to monitor adherence to the five concrete principles for the protection of the plant during the conflict. They did not observe any heavy weapons or indications that drones could have been launched from the ZNPP. However, the IAEA experts are still not permitted to access all areas of the ZNPP.

The IAEA experts present at the Khelmnytskyy, Rivne and South Ukraine NPPs and the Chornobyl site reported that nuclear safety and security is being maintained despite the effects of the ongoing conflict, including air raid alarms on several days over the past week.

At the Rivne NPP, the IAEA team reported that attacks last week on the electrical power infrastructure elsewhere in Ukraine had resulted in instability in the back-up power lines connected to the plant. The scheduled maintenance and refuelling activities are progressing according to schedule at two of the four reactor units at the Rivne NPP and one unit of the South Ukraine NPP.

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