IAEA chief's fresh Zaporizhzhia talks, Ukraine brings in nuclear sanctions

06 February 2023

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is expected in Russia this week for more talks on establishing a safety and security zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The IAEA's Grossi is due to return to Moscow for talks (Image: IAEA)

Safety and security zone at Zaporizhzhia

Grossi has spent months seeking to get agreement on the details of a safety and security zone around the six-unit Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant - Ukraine's largest - which has been under Russian military control since early March 2022. The plant is on the frontline of the war and parts of the site have been damaged by shelling during the war, as well as having had to use emergency diesel generators when connection to outside power sources has been lost. At the weekend he said: "While some progress has been made in those discussions, it remains too slow and more determined efforts are required from all sides."

Russia's official Tass news agency reported that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that there were no plans for a meeting between Grossi and President Vladimir Putin, but "Grossi is awaited in Russia by his colleagues from Rosatom and from the foreign ministry ... Russia expects substantive negotiations" to take place at the designated level. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov was earlier reported by Tass as saying that the visit would take place this week, adding "we are looking forward, as always, to a deep and professional conversation". The aim of establishing a zone at and around the nuclear power plant is supported by both sides in the war, but there has yet to be agreement on how it would work in practice.

Ukraine imposes sanctions of Russia's nuclear power industry

On Sunday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country had introduced sanctions against Russia's nuclear industry. He also said the country's diplomats would continue efforts "to extend global sanctions to this part of the Russian aggression machine". Last week, the European Parliament voted in favour of the EU also imposing such sanctions, but any such decision would require all member states to back the plan, and Hungary has publicly pledged to veto such a move.

Rosatom responds to sanctions moves

On Monday, a statement from Rosatom said: "When conducting our activities, including on international markets, we have always taken the view that nuclear energy should remain outside of politics. Rosatom works transparently all around the world in the interests of its customers and partners, and with strict adherence to international and national legislation."

The latest IAEA update on Zaporizhzhia

On Friday, the IAEA reported that there had been a recent reduction in the water level of the main Kakhovka reservoir, forming part of the Dnipro river, which provides cooling water for the nuclear power plant. By design, the large cooling pond next to the ZNPP reactor units is kept above the level of the Kakhovka reservoir. But Grossi said: “Even though the decreased water level does not pose an immediate threat to nuclear safety and security, it may become a source of concern if it is allowed to continue. It again shows the many potential risks for this major nuclear plant during the war and underlines that we must never become complacent about its safety and security."

The IAEA director general also said that explosions had been heard in the areas near the plant and he reiterated his concerns about the stress being faced by the plant's staff. Of the six reactors, four units are in cold shutdown mode, with two in hot shutdown to supply steam and heat to the plant and the nearby city of Energodar, where most of the workforce lives.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News