IAEA's Grossi 'learned a lot' from Zaporizhzhia visit

16 June 2023

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said it was important to "see with my own eyes" the water supply situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after leading the latest rotation of agency experts to the plant where they will be stationed.

There is sufficient water at the plant for cooling for months (Image: IAEA)

The IAEA team had to cross the frontline between Russian and Ukraine controlled areas on foot to reach, and later return from, what is Ukraine's and Europe's largest nuclear power plant. Grossi said his visit, which lasted a matter of hours was "compact, but was important for me because it concentrated on the situation as a consequence of the destruction of the dam".

He was able to see the water levels of the reservoir, the canal and inlets and the cooling ponds at the plant itself and discuss with plant managers the "contradictory" readings there appeared to have been at times since the Nova Kakhovka dam was damaged earlier this month.

(Image: IAEA)

Grossi also said he was able to visit the nearby Zaporizhzhia thermal power plant, which the IAEA has been seeking to visit for a number of weeks, to see the switchyard which could help improve the security of power supplies to the plant, which is currently relying on one external high voltage line.

Speaking during the visit on Thursday, he said: "What is essential for the safety of this plant is that the water that you see behind me stays at that level ... with the water that is here the plant can be kept safe for some time. The plant is going to be working to replenish the water so that safety functions can continue normally."

Answering media questions, he said that it was not realistic in the current conflict to expect the two sides to sign a formal agreement on nuclear safety measures for Zaporizhzhia, but said that there had been political agreement at the United Nations Security Council - including from Russia and Ukraine - on the five basic safety principles he outlined, which include not firing on the nuclear plant, not firing from the nuclear plant and not using it as a military base.

He said that the expanded IAEA team of experts stationed at Zaporizhzhia will be monitoring compliance with those principles, adding: "The IAEA is not going anywhere, we are staying and I will be back here."

In a message on Twitter posted after he left the plant, Grossi added that "we believe we have gathered a good amount of information for an assessment of the situation".

A destroyed bridge means part of the journey was on foot (Image: IAEA)

The team climbing up a slope (Image: IAEA)

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been under the control of Russian forces since the start of March 2022. Five of the six reactors are in cold shutdown and one is in "hot shutdown" which means it can continue to produce heating for the plant and the nearby homes in Energodar. The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine has said that the last reactor should also be put into cold shutdown for safety reasons, but Russia's Tass news agency quoted Renat Karchaa, advisor to the director general of Russia’s Rosenergoatom nuclear power engineering company, as saying "these demands cannot be justified from a legal or technological point of view".

The news agency also quoted Rosatom Director General Alexei Likachev as saying that in-person talks "with the IAEA are planned next week, the date and venue are being agreed".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News