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Update 231 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria

The challenging nuclear safety and security situation in Ukraine was in the spotlight again this week at the International Atomic Energy Agency, with its Board of Governors discussing recent developments detailed in a new IAEA report and Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi meeting the country’s energy minister.

Director General Grossi and Energy Minister German Galushchenko discussed the IAEA’s ongoing efforts to support nuclear safety and security in Ukraine in their meeting today on the sidelines of the regularly scheduled June Board session at IAEA headquarters, where the Director General earlier in the week made clear his continued deep concerns about the situation.

Nuclear safety and security remains especially precarious at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), and is potentially also fragile elsewhere in Ukraine following attacks on its energy infrastructure in recent months, including on electricity sub-stations which are vital in providing off-site power to the operating nuclear power stations, as well as to the ZNPP, Director General Grossi said after his talks with Minister Galushchenko.

Nuclear power plants (NPPs) need reliable access to off-site power in order to cool their reactors and for other essential nuclear safety and security functions, as underlined in the Seven Pillars of Nuclear Safety and Security. However, Ukraine’s electricity grid has been severely impacted by the conflict, with the ZNPP repeatedly losing connections to all its power lines.

“For the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in particular, the external power situation remains extremely vulnerable, prone to frequent outages. But it is also a wider concern in the current circumstances, where a loss of off-site power event has the potential to be even more serious given the higher nuclear fuel temperatures for reactors in operation in Ukraine.  We are continuing to follow the situation very closely in this regard, as I also informed Minister Galushchenko in today’s meeting,” Director General Grossi said.

Director General Grossi, who had met with Rosatom head Alexey Likhachev in the Russian city of Kaliningrad last week, reiterated to Ukraine’s energy minister that there was an understanding that the ZNPP would not be re-started as long as nuclear safety and security remained in jeopardy due to the conflict.

“In these circumstances, operating this major nuclear plant would not be advisable,” he said.

Ahead of this week’s Board meeting, the Director General issued the 11th report on nuclear safety, security and safeguards in Ukraine since the conflict began in February 2022, covering developments in the three months to 24 May this year.

At the ZNPP this week, the IAEA team of experts stationed at the site has continued to conduct regular walkdowns to monitor nuclear safety and security at the plant.

At the same time, the team has continued to hear explosions some distance away from the site, a regular reminder of the ZNPP’s frontline location.

A year after the destruction of the downstream Kakhovka dam disrupted the ZNPP’s supplies of cooling water, the team visited the site’s cooling pond and observed that its height was almost 1.5 metres below the level before the dam was destroyed.

The plant, whose six reactors are all in cold shutdown, receives the cooling water it needs, for the reactors in the current shutdown state, from 11 groundwater wells that were built to supply about 250 m3 of water per hour to the site’s sprinkler ponds.

The IAEA team continues to closely monitor the maintenance activities at the plant, another area highlighted by the Director General as posing a potential risk to nuclear safety and security in his Board statement on Monday.

As part of these activities, the IAEA experts visited the 750 kilovolt (kV) open switchyard and discussed ongoing maintenance on the relay protections for the transformer of reactor unit 2, among other activities.  

They saw that some of the switchyard components, for one of the 750 kV lines, that were damaged in 2022 had been dismantled. However, the ZNPP is not currently planning to complete repairs, at this time, as the line itself remains unavailable due to damage sustained earlier in the conflict, away from the site. The ZNPP had four 750 kV lines available before the conflict, but only one is remaining.

The IAEA experts were informed that western-supplied switchyard equipment, installed before the conflict, remained in good condition. The ZNPP also stated that some spare parts remain available on site from western supplies and, if required, it can order similar equipment through suppliers from the Russian Federation. 

The IAEA team of experts also visited the two fresh fuel storage facilities and the turbine building of unit 6, once again without being granted access to the western side of the building.

In addition, the ZNPP informed the IAEA experts on the status of its on- and off-site radiation monitoring stations. The team was informed that all four on-site radiation monitoring stations are operational, but that three of the 14 off-site stations remain damaged as a result of military activities in 2022.

The ZNPP said that manual radiation monitoring measurements are also carried out, and that there are plans to purchase new radiation monitoring stations consistent with the regulations of the Russian Federation, and a mobile radiation measurement laboratory for use in case of a nuclear or radiological emergency.

The IAEA experts present at Ukraine’s other NPPs – Khelmnytskyy, Rivne and South Ukraine – and the Chornobyl site continue to perform routine walkdowns and assess nuclear safety and security. The teams 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.

One reactor unit at each of the Rivne and the South Ukraine NPPs were in shutdown over the last week for planned maintenance and refuelling, while one other unit at the South Ukraine NPP is in planned outage. 


Last update: 06 Jun 2024

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