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Update 33 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria, posted at 19:40

The International Atomic Energy Agency is closely monitoring the situation in a Ukrainian city where many people live who work at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) after the country’s nuclear regulator today informed the IAEA it had been seized by Russian forces, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

The Director General said he remained concerned about the ability of staff at the Chornobyl NPP to regularly rotate and return to their homes in the nearby city of Slavutych to rest. There has been no staff rotation at the NPP for nearly a week now, the regulator said.

Slavutych is located outside the Exclusion Zone that was set up around the Chornobyl NPP after the 1986 accident. Russian forces took control of the NPP on 24 February. Earlier this week, Ukraine’s regulatory authority said that Russian shelling of checkpoints in Slavutych prevented technical staff of the Chornobyl NPP from travelling to and from the site.

In an update this morning, the regulator said Slavutych was surrounded. A few hours later, it cited Chornobyl NPP management as confirming media reports that the city had been seized.

The regulator said the last staff rotation was on 20-21 March, when a new shift of technical personnel arrived from Slavutych to replace colleagues who had worked at the Chornobyl NPP since the day before the Russian military entered the site, where radioactive waste management facilities are located. There was “no information when or whether” a new change of work shift would take place, it said.

Director General Grossi has repeatedly expressed deep concern about the difficult situation for staff operating Ukrainian nuclear sites held by the Russian military, also including the Zaporizhzhya NPP. He has stressed that the ability of NPP staff 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.

In the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, the regulator said shelling was for a second day preventing measures to dispose of an unexploded rocket near a nuclear research facility. The previously damaged facility has been used for research and development and radioisotope production for medical and industrial applications. Its nuclear material is subcritical and the radioactive inventory is low. Personnel at the facility were maintaining the operability of the nuclear installation’s equipment and radiation was within “standard limits”. However, it was not possible to restore off-site power to the facility due to the shelling, the regulator added.

At the Zaporizhzhya NPP, the regulator said repairs to the transformer of reactor unit 6 had been completed after it was damaged on 4 March, when Russian forces took control of this site, and the unit would be kept in reserve.

Out of the country’s 15 operational reactors at four sites, the regulator said eight were continuing to operate, including two at Zaporizhzhya, three at Rivne, one at Khmelnytskyy, and two at South Ukraine. The other reactors are 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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