Grossi heads to Ukraine, aims to assess Zaporizhzhia situation

12 June 2023

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is travelling to Ukraine to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky and says he also aims to assess the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following last week's damage to the Nova Kakhovka dam.

The IAEA director general heads to Ukraine (Image: @rafaelmgrossi/Twitter)

In a message posted on Twitter on Monday afternoon, he said that at his meeting with the president he would "present a programme of assistance in the aftermath of the catastrophic Nova Kakhovka dam flooding".

He added: "I will assess the situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant & conduct a rotation of ISAMZ with a strengthened team."

The ISAMZ team of IAEA experts at the plant is being expanded given their broader remit which now includes monitoring compliance with the five basic principles for protecting the plant which he presented to the UN Security Council last month.

Since then, however, the damaged dam has led to flooding and evacuations from a large area of Ukraine, and raised questions about the cooling water supplies to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is about 140 kilometres upstream of the dam, so not in an area at risk of flooding.

Although the level of the reservoir from which cooling water has been pumped has fallen - from 17 metres to 11.27 metres by the nearby Zaporizhzhia thermal power plant - it has been reported to have fallen further elsewhere and Grossi says the IAEA team need to get access to the site to "clarify the reason for the discrepancy" which "may be caused by an isolated body of water separated from the larger body of the reservoir. But we will only be able to know when we gain access to the thermal power plant".

The IAEA has been seeking access to the thermal plant over recent months to visit the electrical switchyard there as part of oversight of external power supply options for the nuclear power plant. There is currently external power to the nuclear power plant, and the water cooling pond at the nuclear power plant and the thermal plant discharge channel are full, with "sufficient water reserves for several months of cooling requirements", he said. But he added that "the thermal power plant plays a key role for the safety and security of the nuclear power plant a few kilometres away. I fully expect that our experts will be able to go there very soon to independently assess the situation. I will also personally raise this important matter with the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant".

Another issue likely to be discussed during his visit looks set to be the Ukrainian nuclear regulator's request for the one unit at the nuclear power plant in warm shutdown - in which state it can provide heat to the plant and nearby town of Energodar - be put into cold shutdown like the remaining five units.

In its latest update, the IAEA said "the plant is considering the possibility of installing an independent steam boiler that would allow also unit 5 to be put in cold shutdown while still meeting the need for steam supply to the site".

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is on the frontline of the Russian and Ukrainian forces. It has been under Russian military control since early March 2022. According to the company established by Russia to run it, unit 5 remains on Monday in a "hot shutdown" state, while the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir is 11.3 metres and the level in the nuclear power plant's cooling pond is 16.6 metres.

It says that on Sunday "employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia carried out work to seal the shandors (gates of hydraulic structures) and clean the head of the technical water wells at the station's cooling pond. These works are aimed at ensuring a reliable level of water supply to the nuclear power plant. The employees of the diving service carried out all the necessary work. Experts do not predict a decrease in the water level in the cooling pond".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News