IAEA ready to deploy to Ukraine 'immediately'

24 March 2022

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA's) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has said "we cannot afford to lose any more time" in concluding an agreed framework for ensuring nuclear safety and security in Ukraine.

The IAEA director general's appeal for rapid progress came in a video message (Image: Screengrab IAEA on YouTube)

Grossi, who expressed "grave concern" about the situation, has been seeking to secure an agreement with the two sides since meeting the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine two weeks ago in Turkey.

He said the IAEA "is ready and able to deploy immediately and provide indispensable assistance for ensuring nuclear safety and security in Ukraine".

"I have personally expressed my readiness to immediately come to Ukraine to conclude such an agreement, which would include substantial assistance and support measures, including on-site presence of IAEA experts at different facilities in Ukraine, as well as the delivery of vital safety equipment," he added.

Russian forces have taken over the Chernobyl site as well as Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaporozhe. In both cases Ukrainian staff have continued to operate the sites, but the same shift remained at Chernobyl for 25 days before being able to rotate, while at Zaporozhe a training centre a few hundred metres from one of the reactors was damaged during hostilies. There were also a few days when there was a full loss of external power to Chernobyl, and at Zaporozhe the military conflict has led currently to the loss of two out of five external power lines. A nuclear research laboratory in the city of Kharkov has also had its building damaged during shelling.

A positive outcome in his talks with the two sides had yet to be reached despite "intensive consultations", Grossi said, and "the need to prevent a nuclear accident becomes more pressing with each day that passes".

He added: "I hope to be able to conclude this agreed framework without further delay. We cannot afford to lose any more time. We need to act now."

In its update on 24 March, the Ukrainian nuclear power plant operator Energoatom said that its four power plants continued to operate within normal safety limits.

The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) said in an update on the afternoon of 24 March that at Chernobyl the Russian military were not following all the radiation safety requirements in the area "which leads to deterioration of the radiation situation at the site". It added that Russian forces were "right now trying to seize" Slavutych, which was built after the 1986 accident and is where most of the current Chernobyl workers and their families live.

It also emerged on 24 March that Russia's mission to the IAEA said that four Rosatom workers had been detained at the Rivne nuclear power plant, where they had delivered a fresh shipment of nuclear fuel on 23 February, the day before the Russian attack on Ukraine began.

"Since then the Russian specialists are forcefully detained on the site ... in the wagon where the shipment was previously held," the statement, circulated by the IAEA, said.

They requested that the IAEA "provide any possible assistance in solving this humanitarian issue, as well as to circulate this information among all IAEA member states as soon as possible".

Energoatom disputed the Russian mission's version of events. It said there were four armed guards from Russia who had "accompanied the cargo" and "according to the contract, until the moment of unloading and transfer to the Ukrainian side, they guarded it. Yesterday this cargo was unloaded. After the completion of these works, the guards left the territory of the station accompanied by SBU officers, who ensure their security and transfer to the Russian side".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News