Comment & People

Ukraine / Grossi Calls For Urgent IAEA Mission To Occupied Zaporizhzhia

By Kamen Kraev
27 June 2022

Russian troops still in control of Europe’s largest nuclear station
Grossi Calls For Urgent IAEA Mission To Occupied Zaporizhzhia
IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi during a visit to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in late March 2022. Image courtesy IAEA.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must send a mission to Ukraine’s occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station as soon as possible to address concerns about staff conditions and “other urgent issues”, said the agency’s director-general Rafael Grossi.

The six-units Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, the largest in Europe, was taken by Russian troops after an armed assault on 4 March 2022 and has since remained occupied but operational in a reduced state.

The IAEA is aware of recent reports in the media and elsewhere warning of a deteriorating situation for Ukrainian staff at Zaporizhzhia, Mr Grossi said.

“The situation at this major nuclear power plant is clearly untenable. We are informed that Ukrainian staff are operating the facility under extremely stressful conditions while the site is under the control of Russian armed forces. The recent reports are very troubling and further deepen my concern about the well-being of personnel there,” he said.

According to Mr Grossi, efforts continue to agree, organise and lead an IAEA international mission to conduct essential nuclear safety, security and safeguards activities at the station, stressing that “other considerations should not prevent” it from taking place.

The IAEA has been considering the organisation of a mission to Zaporizhzhia since April 2022 following another such mission at Chernobyl, after the plant had been liberated from Russian occupation.

Mr Grossi said at the time the IAEA had been speaking to the Russian side to gain access to Zaporizhzhia and that Ukraine was “understandably” reluctant to see inspectors visiting its own nuclear plant while it was under the occupation by the forces of a third country.

No progress on a mission has seemingly been made to date despite the IAEA's insistence. Most recently, Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear operator Energoatom denied a visit to the station to the IAEA and earlier lashed out at the agency’s leadership saying the station would be visited after its liberation from Russian control.

The IAEA said a mission to Zaporizhzhia needs to also address other safety and security pillars which had been compromised in recent months, including those related to the the physical integrity of nuclear facilities, secure offsite power supplies, and uninterrupted logistical supply chains.

Mr Grossi said IAEA inspectors and safeguards technicians must carry out important verification activities at the site, where large amounts of nuclear material are present to honor its safeguards regime.

In early June, the IAEA and the Energoatom worked together to restore the remote transmission of safeguards data from Zaporizhzhia to IAEA headquarters after a technical interruption of almost two weeks. However, the agency said that some “essential” physical inventory verifications cannot be done remotely and require the physical presence of IAEA inspectors.

Eight of Ukraine’s 15 commercial nuclear power reactors are connected to the grid. They are two at Zaporizhzhia, three at Rivne, two at South Ukraine and one at Khmelnitski. The seven other reactors are shut down for regular maintenance or held in reserve. Safety systems remain operational at the country’s four stations and they continue to have offsite power available.

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