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Monday, September 26, 2022

IAEA Director General Warns of Risk of ‘Severe Nuclear Accident with Potentially Grave Consequences’ at Zaporizhzya

The IAEA has not been able to visit the ZNPP since before Russia invaded. It is controlled by Russian forces, but Ukrainian staff are continuing to operate the plant.

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, today renewed his urgent appeal for maximum military restraint in the area of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) following new signs of rising tension over Europe’s largest such facility.

Just over a week after he briefed the United Nations Security Council on the worsening nuclear safety and security situation at the ZNPP, Director General Grossi warned that any further escalation related to the six-reactor plant could lead to a severe nuclear accident with potentially grave consequences for human health and the environment in Ukraine and elsewhere.

In view of the serious situation, the Director General reiterated the need to send an IAEA mission to carry out essential safety, security and safeguards activities at the site in southern Ukraine. He said the IAEA is in active consultations with all parties regarding its efforts to send such a mission as soon as possible. As during two previous IAEA missions to Ukraine during the conflict, Director General Grossi would himself lead this mission.

The Director General also welcomed recent statements indicating that both Ukraine and Russia supported the IAEA’s aim to send a mission to ZNPP.

The Director General made his latest statement today in response to media reports and other information received by the IAEA in recent days indicating possible new nuclear safety and security risks related to the ZNPP, less than two weeks after shelling caused some damage at the plant, including impacting response activities in case of an emergency, that sparked widespread alarm about the situation there.

“In this highly volatile and fragile situation, it is of vital importance that no new action is taken that could further endanger the safety and security of one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants,” Director General Grossi said.

“There is an urgent need to lower the tension and take the necessary steps to help ensure nuclear safety and security and prevent any radiological consequences for the population and the environment. The IAEA can play an indispensable role in this regard,” he said.

The IAEA has not been able to visit the ZNPP since before the conflict began half a year ago.  Since early March, it has been controlled by Russian forces, but the Ukrainian staff are continuing to operate the plant.

Separately today, Ukraine informed the IAEA that it had decided to make “a change in” the regulatory license for the ZNPP, instructing the Ukrainian operator to maintain reactor units 1 and 2 in cold shutdown. Currently, only reactor units 5 and 6 are operating at the plant. The IAEA continues to monitor the operational status of the reactors, as well as the nuclear safety and security situation more generally.

Ukraine also informed the IAEA today that ten of the country’s 15 nuclear energy reactors are currently connected to the grid, including the two at the ZNPP, three at the Rivne Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), three at the South Ukraine NPP, and two at the Khmelnytskyy NPP.

In relation to safeguards, Director General Grossi said the IAEA is continuing to receive remote safeguards data from the sites of the four operational NPPs in Ukraine, as well as from the Chornobyl NPP.

Read more at IAEA

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