Security & Safety

Ukraine / ‘Very Real Dangers’ Persist At Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station

By David Dalton
8 February 2024

IAEA chief says during latest visit that safety and security challenges remain

‘Very Real Dangers’ Persist At Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station
Grossi told Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv that there is absolutely no place for complacency. Courtesy IAEA.

International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Rafael Grossi has warned against any complacency towards “the very real dangers” that continue to face Europe’s largest nuclear power station in Ukraine.

Grossi said after his fourth visit to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia facility that it came under fire several times in 2022. It has also lost all offsite power eight times – most recently in December – forcing it to temporarily rely on emergency diesel generators to provide the power it needs for reactor cooling and other important nuclear safety and security functions.

Grossi said at the end of the visit on Wednesday (7 February) that the physical integrity of the six-unit station has been relatively stable, which is a positive development, though “we take it with enormous caution”.

He referred to nuclear safety and security challenges including assessing the station’s measures in recent months to find an alternative source of cooling water after the destruction in June 2023 of the downstream Nova Kakhovka dam, draining the huge reservoir that had been providing water to the site for decades. Grossi last travelled to Zaporizhzhia just days after the dam collapsed.

To provide a constant supply of water to the sprinkler ponds cooling the site’s six reactors, the plant has drilled 11 wells that are now operating, as witnessed by Director General Grossi this week.

“For now, with all the reactors in shutdown, the plant has sufficient water for its needs. But this is not a sustainable solution, especially if and when it starts producing electricity again,” he said.

Critical Issue Of Staffing

Grossi also raised the crucial issue of staffing at the station, following last week’s announcement by the plant that from 1 February no workers employed by Ukraine’s national operator Energoatom are being allowed at the site.

Grossi was told at the site that the current staffing is enough considering the shutdown state of the facility and that further recruitment is ongoing.

“The number of staff had already been significantly reduced from the pre-war level of some 11,500 employees,” Grossi said.

“Even though the six reactor units are in shutdown, the plant still requires sufficient numbers of qualified personnel to conduct both operational tasks and to ensure that equipment important for nuclear safety and security is properly maintained.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation in this regard.”

Grossi had earlier told Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv: “There is absolutely no place for complacency or to believe that everything is stabilised there. Far from it.”

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