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The Safety, Security and Safeguards Implications of the Situation in Ukraine

Vienna, Austria
Oral Report to the Board of Governors

(As prepared for delivery)

Mr Chairperson,

Under extraordinary circumstances, the IAEA in close collaboration with Ukraine, has made notable progress in identifying and beginning to address what needs to be done to uphold the highest possible level of safety and security at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, while continuing to implement safeguards under Ukraine’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol.

Since the start of the war, I have reported on the situation at its nuclear facilities and on the IAEA’s relevant work. I have done so in my regular updates and in more detail in a written report published 28 April, and I will continue to do so. I am happy for the opportunity to present you with an oral report today.

Before I go into the detail of our work, I would like to reiterate what I said when we met in March, the best action to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and its people would be for this armed conflict to end now.

Mr Chairperson,

Let me start by taking you back to 24 February. The IAEA’s International Incident and Emergency Centre immediately initiated its prepared technical response framework for these unprecedented circumstances. On the night of 3-4 March, not 48 hours after I addressed the Board’s special session on the nuclear safety, security and safeguards implications of the conflict in Ukraine, the physical integrity of the site of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, was violated. The IEC immediately went to the highest alert level for the first time since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident. The IEC’s experts conferred with Ukrainian counterparts to assess the impact of the damage sustained by Ukrainian nuclear facilities and to provide a prognosis of the consequences of the shelling and fires.  Since that night, we remain on alert with teams on-call 24/7 to be able to respond within minutes whenever needed.

Military action has compromised the safety of radiation sources; destroyed infrastructure at Ukraine’s Neutron Source and other nuclear facilities; damaged waste repositories; threatened collateral damage at nuclear power plants, and has negatively impacted Chornobyl NPP and Exclusion Zone, and Zaporizhzhya NPP, and their staff, in multiple ways. Day after day, our Ukrainian colleagues and we have reviewed the technical status of the nuclear facilities. With this information, the IEC provides the factual, technical information and assessments we use to inform stakeholders globally.

But this has been far more than a communication exercise. Even amid this unprecedented and volatile situation, we have managed, together with Ukraine and with the generous support of many Member States, to develop and begin to deliver the comprehensive programme of assistance that will help to uphold the seven inalienable pillars of nuclear safety and security amid the first military conflict to be fought around the facilities of a major nuclear energy programme.

We have been able to do this because the IAEA has worked with Ukraine both remotely and in person, on-the ground in Ukraine. In the past months, I have led two missions to Ukraine, one to South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant and one to Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Exclusion Zone, which occurred a few weeks after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the site. These missions accomplished real progress. At Chornobyl, for example, we reestablished the flow of safeguards information; we took crucial measurements of radiation in the environment, assessed Ukraine’s needs, and delivered a preliminary batch of equipment.  

Our meetings, including my meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on 26 April, shaped our comprehensive programme of assistance, which is made up of four parts: remote technical assistance; on-the-ground technical assistance; the delivery of equipment; and the readiness to rapidly deploy assistance if needed.

The combined approach of remote and the on-the-ground technical assistance is crucial to the ongoing success of the programme. As many of you know, on-the-ground observations and hands-on implementation are indispensable and that is why we are committed to travelling to Ukraine. This approach has allowed us to develop an Assistance Action Plan and make detailed assessments of Ukraine’s security and safety needs.

At Chornobyl NNP, our most immediate on-the-ground assistance at the site is focused on radiation protection, safety of waste management, and nuclear security.

Just last week, a follow-up mission of experts travelled to Chornobyl NPP and Exclusion Zone. As I said in my statement to the Board on Monday, during the visit, Agency staff from the Department of Safety and Security:

  • Visited the main facilities for the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel to discuss and assess their status with staff there and to identify areas for future support
  • Provided training on the radiation monitoring equipment delivered by the IAEA in April
  • Observed the physical protection arrangements at nuclear, spent fuel, waste and radioactive material facilities located in the same area and identified potential areas of cooperation
  • Provided support on emergency preparedness and response and discussed the additional assistance that could be provided through the IAEA Response and Assistance Network (RANET) mechanism, and
  • Discussed the re-establishment of the automated radiation monitoring system and the forthcoming connection of this system with the IAEA International Radiation Monitoring Information System (IRMIS).

Separately, staff members of the IAEA Department of Safeguards:

  • Verified declared nuclear material and activities at facilities selected by the IAEA, and
  • Checked the functioning of the remote safeguards data transmission from the Chornobyl NPP to IAEA headquarters which was re-established at the end of April after two months of interruption.

Since then, further important progress has been made. Dozens of radiation detectors are once again transmitting data from the area around the Chornobyl NPP after Ukraine – with technical support from the IAEA – succeeded in reviving a vital information link that was cut at the start of the conflict more than 100 days ago. This important achievement is a testament to the dedication, skill and collaborative spirit of the operators at Chornobyl NPP.

In the meantime, eleven IAEA Member States registered in RANET have so far offered to provide specialised equipment to Ukraine, in response to a comprehensive request for equipment Ukraine said it needed for the safe and secure operation of its nuclear facilities. Ukraine’s list, submitted in late April, included radiation measurement devices, protective material, computer-related assistance, power supply systems and diesel generators, among other items. We have updated Ukraine’s list of needs with details of the offers received and with the ongoing preparations for equipment procurement and delivery. We are identifying priorities and avoiding duplications.

This endeavour and the crucial technical work and dialogue we have with Ukraine and our Member States every day, may not grab the attention of the world media, but it is what we are here to do, and it is what we are doing. Through this work we are upholding our responsibilities under the frameworks that govern our response to emergencies; and fulfilling our unique and indispensable mandate.

Mr Chairperson,

I will not sugar coat it. This work requires agility and tenacity so that we overcome challenges, whether it is that our progress is often affected by wider issues beyond our control; or because of the practical and logistical challenges of travelling and working amidst a military conflict.

I am now working actively to agree, organize an IAEA-led international mission to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya NPP to carry out essential nuclear safety, security and safeguards work at the site.

The site of Zaporizhzhya NPP, Ukraine and Europe’s largest NPP, remains under the control of the Russian forces there. I have repeatedly expressed my grave concern at the extremely stressful and challenging working conditions under which Ukrainian management and staff are operating the plant. The current situation is untenable. Every day it continues; every day that vital maintenance work is delayed; every day that supply chain interruptions cause a break in the delivery of vital equipment; every day the decision-making ability of Ukrainian staff is compromised; every day the independent work and assessments of Ukraine’s regulator are undermined; the risk of an accident or a security breach increases.

With concerns about interruptions in the supply chain of spare parts to Zaporizhzhya NPP, the number of indispensable nuclear safety and security pillars that have been compromised at the plant is at least five out of the seven. This is why IAEA safety and security experts must go to ZNPP.

As I said in my opening statement to the Board, one clear line of Ukrainian operational control and responsibility is vital, not only for the safety and security of Zaporizhzhya NPP, but also so that IAEA inspectors are able to continue to fulfil their regular, indispensable verification activities. There can be no delay in this. The transmission of safeguards information between Zaporizhzhya NPP and the IAEA has now been interrupted for more than a week. It is time.

Mr Chairperson,

Having said this, let me now turn in detail to the safeguards situation in Ukraine, first more broadly and then returning to the critical issue of safeguards at Zaporizhzhya NPP.

We continue to implement safeguards under Ukraine’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol in all the other facilities. We are in regular contact with the state authority responsible for safeguards, SNRIU; we receive reports and declarations from them and we perform field verification activities in accordance with our established annual implementation plans.

Since the beginning of the military conflict on 24 February, we have conducted all time-critical safeguards verification activities. Safeguards inspectors inspected all nuclear power plants in Ukraine with the exception of Zaporizhzhya NPP.

Safeguards technicians were also present on some of the missions to ensure the functioning of the remote data transmission systems that we have at Nuclear Power Plant sites. In the case of Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Exclusion Zone, there was a period of two months during which such transmission was interrupted. During my first mission to Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Exclusion Zone at the end of April, we deployed new transmission channels based on satellite technologies and managed to re-establish the connection between Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Exclusion Zone and the IAEA Headquarters.

Based on all our evaluations conducted so far, I can confidently state that we have not found any indication of the diversion of declared nuclear material or any indication that would give rise to a proliferation concern.

However, the Ukrainian regulator has informed us that they have “lost control over” the facilities nuclear material that is subject to the Safeguards Agreement between Ukraine and the IAEA. In addition, there has been a loss of safeguards data communication from Zaporizhzhya NPP to the IAEA.

In a written, public statement and in corresponding directly with the IAEA, the Ukrainian government at the highest levels has requested that the IAEA send a mission to Zaporizhzhya NPP. This mission is not a matter of wanting or wishing, it is an obligation on the side of Ukraine and on the side of the IAEA. The IAEA will go to Zaporizhzhya NPP under the legally binding safeguards agreement that Ukraine has with the IAEA.

It is vital that Ukraine be able to continue to fulfil its safeguards obligations unimpeded.

At Zaporizhzhya NPP we have reached the point where the presence of inspectors is essential. Though our safeguards systems are designed for data to be stored locally even when they are not being transmitted, the ongoing break in data reaching the IAEA is insupportable. Without the data, and without the in-person inspections that must occur in regular intervals, the IAEA cannot assure the nuclear material at Zaporizhzhya NPP is safeguarded.

The IAEA-led international mission to Zaporizhzhya NPP is essential and cannot be delayed, and therefore I have been engaging, and will continue to engage, with all parties to make it happen.

In closing, let me reiterate the following: Everyone here shares the same goal: that Ukraine’s nuclear facilities are safe, secure and well safeguarded. The need for us to be there is clear to all. Logistics and other such considerations must not prevent it. We must find a solution to the hurdles preventing progress at Zaporizhzhya NPP. It’s the IAEA’s responsibility and my job to continue to pursue this and I will. I count on your active support to get it done. Thank you.


Last update: 10 Jun 2022

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