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Saturday, February 4, 2023

IAEA Delivers Equipment to Secure the Safety of Nuclear Plants in Ukraine as Missile Reported

Ukraine’s nuclear regulator has formally informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that on April 16, 2022 on-site video surveillance recorded the flight of a missile flying directly over the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant. “The IAEA is looking into this matter, which, if confirmed, would be extremely serious. Had such a missile gone astray, it could have had a severe impact on the physical integrity of the NPP potentially leading to a nuclear accident,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

The Director General published a report on April 28 which provides a summary of the situation in Ukraine regarding safety, security and safeguards of nuclear facilities, and activities involving radioactive sources in Ukraine. It includes actions taken by the IAEA in response to Ukraine’s request for assistance, and some initial findings of the IAEA expert missions to Ukraine led by the Director General.  

These actions include the delivery of specialized equipment to Ukraine to help the country ensure the safety and security of its nuclear facilities during the ongoing conflict.

Responding to an earlier request from Ukraine for equipment, an IAEA team, headed by Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, arrived at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26 to conduct radiological assessments and restore safeguards monitoring systems as well as to deliver equipment such as radiation detectors, spectrometers and personal protective clothing.  

Included in the batch of equipment are personal radiation detectors to detect and monitor radiation levels throughout the site. These robust and versatile personal radiation detectors are widely used by nuclear safety and security experts worldwide.

“The equipment, under the guidance of our staff on the ground, can be operational within minutes and can immediately support the staff at Chernobyl to fulfill their nuclear safety and security tasks,” said Carlos Torres Vidal, Director of the IAEA Incident and Emergency Center.

The IAEA team also handed over spectrometers which assess the level of radiation in the environment and provide a spectrum that is like a fingerprint identifying the type of radiation. This will help Chernobyl staff to assess the radiological situation at the site and the Exclusion Zone, spanning 30 kilometers around the plant.

Spectrometers carried in personal backpacks were provided to support extended surveying with GPS mapping capabilities. The backpack lets the user focus on walking safely around an area instead of looking at a screen and numbers. This is especially necessary in an area like the Exclusion Zone.

As a result of the conflict and the prevailing conditions following the 1986 accident, the situation in the Exclusion Zone is uniquely challenging. Ukraine recently informed the IAEA that Chernobyl’s analytical laboratories for radiation monitoring were destroyed, and analytical instruments stolen, broken or otherwise disabled. 

The IAEA assistance team also brought personal protective equipment from Vienna. Such protective garments provide protection against some types of radiation, as well as from radioactive contamination and inhalation, and therefore help to manage the risks posed to staff who due to the nature of their work are exposed to radiation.

In addition to nuclear safety and security assistance, IAEA safeguards staff traveled within the assistance team to Chernobyl to conduct on-site safeguards work. They will install equipment to reactivate remote data transmission from its monitoring systems installed at the Chernobyl plant.

The agency said this mission was just a “first step” and that more equipment would be delivered to Ukraine in the coming weeks and months.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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