Ukraine says any IAEA visit to occupied Zaporizhzhia ‘unacceptable’

27 May 2022

The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) says that an inspection mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should not take place until the six-reactor nuclear power plant is no longer under Russian control.

The IAEA has sought to visit Zaporizhzhia throughout the three months of occupation (Image: Energoatom)

In a statement posted on its website, the SNRIU said it proposed that the visit the IAEA wants to make to Zaporizhzhia be "postponed until the territory is liberated from Russian invaders".

It says that the power plant and the city of Energodar contain Russian military forces and weapons, with fighting taking place nearby and, it says, evidence of Russian missiles flying directly over the plant: "Therefore, the proposal to conduct an IAEA mission is unacceptable for Ukraine until the deoccupation of the Zaporizhzhia industrial site and the city of Energodar.

"We hope that the liberation of the Zaporizhzhia region from the Russian occupiers will take place in the near future and we will be able to return to the issue of planning the IAEA inspection at this facility."

The nuclear power plant - the largest in Europe - is still being operated by its Ukrainian staff, but has been under the control of Russian military forces since the start of March.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi says that concerns about the situation at Zaporizhzhia are "what keeps us awake at night", telling an audience at the World Economic Forum that its inspectors need to have access to carry out checks, as it does at all nuclear power plants, on its safe operations and to audit the uranium stocks to ensure they are all accounted for.

And earlier this month he told Members of the European Parliament that both sides agreed on the importance of a visit but not under the other's flag. He told the MEPs it was clear that the nuclear power plant was in Ukraine and was Ukrainian but "at the same time I deal with realities, and the reality is that this plant is under Russian military control … the reality is that I am confronted with a situation where the format, the political modalities of the visit, are even more important for them than the technical mission that I need to perform”.

The SNRIU said that the IAEA was "currently receiving inventory change and balance sheet reports on nuclear material, information on inspection planning, non-interference and security, IAEA storage/surveillance facilities, including a remote monitoring system".

It said this meant that the agency's "continuity of knowledge about nuclear material at nuclear power plants is ensured” so it “does not see an urgent need for a visit of safeguards inspectors to the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant”, before adding: "However, at the same time, it cannot be ruled out that the possibility of misuse of nuclear material by Russian representatives may pose a threat to the entire world community."

The statement from the SNRIU came after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said the IAEA was "in touch both with the Ukrainian side and the Russian side regarding the organisation of this trip" to inspect Zaporizhzhia.

According to Interfax, Peskov noted the difficulties of arranging such a visit: "Naturally, the organisation of such a trip is accompanied by the need to resolve a whole range of logistics and technical issues - from which side to enter, from which territory, through which crossing points, on what transport, etc. All of these details have yet to be finalised."

There was no date set for any visit, he added: "Contacts are ongoing. Work is under way."

Ukraine’s nuclear power plant operator Energoatom says that all four of the country’s nuclear power plants continue to operate within their normal safety limits.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News