IAEA hopes to visit Zaporizhzhia 'as soon as possible'

22 August 2022

With shelling continuing in the area of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has welcomed recent statements indicating that both Ukraine and Russia support the IAEA's aim to send a mission to the plant.

The Zaporizhzhia plant (Image: Energoatom)

The Zaporizhzhia plant has been under Russian military control since early March, but continues to be operated by its Ukrainian staff. It is the first time a nuclear power plant has been occupied by a military force. There has been continued military action in and around it, with both sides blaming the other for the intensified shelling over the past two weeks.

"In this highly volatile and fragile situation, it is of vital importance that no new action is taken that could further endanger the safety and security of one of the world's largest nuclear power plants," Grossi said. "There is an urgent need to lower the tension and take the necessary steps to help ensure nuclear safety and security and prevent any radiological consequences for the population and the environment. The IAEA can play an indispensable role in this regard."

He said the IAEA is in active consultations with all parties regarding its efforts to send such a mission as soon as possible. As during two previous IAEA missions to Ukraine during the conflict, Grossi would himself lead this mission.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a 19 August telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, said he was in favour of sending a mission from the IAEA to the Zaporizhzhia plant. The Élysée Palace said Putin had indicated "his agreement to the deployment of this mission and the methods mentioned". A statement from the Kremlin said "the Russian side confirmed its readiness to provide the Agency inspectors with the necessary assistance."

The Élysée Palace noted that Macron had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on 16 August and they had "discussed the terms of such a mission".

In a 19 August address, Zelensky said: "Ukrainian diplomats, our partners, representatives of the UN and the IAEA are working out the specific details of the mission to be sent to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. With this mission, the restoration of full security at the ZNPP and in [the nearby town of] Enerhodar can begin."

Zaporizhzhia units

Currently, only two of Zaporizhzhia's six reactors - units 5 and 6 - are in operation.

On 19 August, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) announced it had made changes to the operating licences for units 1 and 2 of the plant. The order - signed by SNRIU Acting Chairman Oleg Korikov the previous day - calls for unit 1 to only be operated in fuel reload and cold shutdown modes, while unit 2 must remain in cold shutdown.

The IAEA said it continues to monitor the operational status of the reactors, as well as the nuclear safety and security situation more generally.

In addition to the two units at Zaporizhzhia, three at the Rivne plant, three at the South Ukraine plant and two at the Khmelnitsky plant are supplying electricity to Ukraine's grid.

The World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) said it continues to support the IAEA "in condemning any military action in or around the nuclear power plant, and strongly supports the need for an IAEA mission to Zaporizhzhia as soon as possible."

It added, "WANO commends the operators of Ukraine's nuclear plants, particularly those at Zaporizhzhia, for their continued dedication to nuclear plant safety under extremely difficult working conditions. WANO continues to request that plant operators must be allowed to do their work safely without interference from any outside source."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News