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Update 31 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

44/2022
Vienna, Austria, posted at 21:05 CET

Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today that Russian forces were shelling Ukrainian checkpoints in the city of Slavutych where many people working at the nearby Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) live, putting them at risk and preventing further rotation of personnel to and from the site, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

Ukraine’s regulatory authority said the shelling was endangering “the homes and families of those operational personnel that ensure the nuclear and radiation safety” of the Chornobyl NPP, which is under the control of Russian forces since 24 February. Slavutych is located outside the Exclusion Zone that was established around the NPP after the 1986 accident.

Director General Grossi expressed concern about this development, which comes just a few days after technical staff at the Chornobyl NPP were finally able to rotate and go to their homes in Slavutych and rest after working for nearly four weeks without a change of shift, and he said the IAEA would continue to closely monitor the situation. Staff now working at the site also come from Slavutych.

Earlier today, the regulator also informed the IAEA that it does not expect wildfires burning in the vicinity of the Chornobyl NPP to cause any significant radiological concern, a day after the country’s regulator said Ukrainian firefighters were trying to extinguish blazes in the area.

Ukraine’s regulatory authority said radiation measurements were currently not carried out in the Chornobyl NPP Exclusion Zone. But the regulator still assessed the radiological risks as low based on years of experience of such fires and detailed data on the locations and amounts of residual radioactive contamination in the soil following the 1986 accident.

IAEA experts agree with their Ukrainian counterparts’ assessment of the situation, Director General Grossi said.

The regulator told the IAEA yesterday that “fire events” had been registered in the area of the Exclusion Zone, set up after the accident 36 years ago, and that slight increases in caesium air concentrations were detected in the capital Kyiv and at two NPP sites west of Chornobyl, without posing any radiological concerns. It had earlier said it was closely monitoring the situation in the Exclusion Zone ahead of the annual “fire season” when spontaneous fires often occur in the area.

The local fire station in the town of Chornobyl, located in the Exclusion Zone, still does not have access to the electricity grid and instead relies on diesel generators, the regulator said today. The NPP site, where radioactive waste management facilities are located, continues to have off-site power available.

Also in Chornobyl town, the State Agency for the Management of the Exclusion Zone reported that an environmental laboratory had been “looted by marauders” and its equipment stolen. It was not possible to verify the whereabouts of the laboratory’s radiation calibration sources and environmental samples, it added. The Agency is seeking to obtain more information from the operators of the laboratory. However, based on the information provided, the IAEA assesses that the incident does not pose a significant radiological risk.

In today’s update, the Ukrainian regulator also said that, out of the country’s 15 reactors at four sites, eight were continuing to operate, including two at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya NPP, three at Rivne, one at Khmelnytskyy, and two at South Ukraine. Personnel at the four operating plants were rotating in eight-hour shifts, also at the Zaporizhzhya NPP, and radiation levels were normal.

In relation to safeguards, the Agency said that the situation remained unchanged from that reported previously. The Agency was still not receiving remote data transmission from its monitoring systems installed at the Chornobyl NPP, but such data was being transferred to IAEA headquarters from the other NPPs in Ukraine.

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Last update: 28 Mar 2022

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