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Update 32 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria, posted at 18:43

Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today that there had been no rotation of technical staff at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) since 21 March and it did not know when it might next take place, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

Ukraine’s regulatory authority told the IAEA yesterday that Russian shelling of checkpoints in the nearby city of Slavutych, where many Chornobyl NPP staff live, prevented them from travelling to and from the plant. The current staff shift arrived at the NPP on 20-21 March to replace personnel who had been there since Russian forces took control of the site on 24 February. Slavutych is located outside the Exclusion Zone that was established around the NPP after the 1986 accident.

Director General Grossi has in recent weeks expressed deep concern about the difficult situation facing staff operating Ukrainian nuclear facilities where the Russian military is present. He has stressed that their ability to carry out their important tasks without undue pressure is one of the seven indispensable pillars for nuclear safety that he outlined earlier this month.

Separately today, after being contacted by the IAEA, the State Agency for the Management of the Exclusion Zone provided additional detailed technical information about the Central Analytical Laboratory in Chornobyl town, which it earlier this week said had been “looted by marauders”.

It told the IAEA that it could not confirm the safety and security of the laboratory’s calibration sources nor the condition of environmental samples stored there. It also had no information about the status of the server for the Exclusion Zone’s radiation monitoring system, also located in the laboratory. Based on the additional information provided, the IAEA continues to assess that the incident does not pose a significant radiological risk.

The regulator did not provide any new information about wildfires in the vicinity of the Chornobyl NPP site, where various radioactive waste management facilities are located.

In the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, the regulator confirmed reports of an unexploded rocket of the multiple launch rocket system 9K58 Smerch “detected in the immediate vicinity" of a nuclear research facility that has previously been damaged by shelling. The regulator said “constant shelling” of the area meant that no measures had yet been taken to dispose of the rocket. The IAEA will continue to monitor the situation.  The facility is used for research and development and radioisotope production for medical and industrial applications. Its nuclear material is subcritical and the radioactive inventory is low.

Out of the country’s 15 operational reactors at four sites, the regulator said eight were continuing to operate, including two at the Zaporizhzhya NPP, three at Rivne, one at Khmelnytskyy, and two at South Ukraine. The other reactors are in shut down for regular maintenance, it added.

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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