The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, on 4 May met with Alexey Likhachev, Director General of Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, and other senior Russian officials in Istanbul.

Grossi said he was continuing timely and professional discussions where he stressed the urgency of ensuring the safety of Ukraine’s Zaporozhye NPP. The IAEA is ready to play its indispensable role, he said.

Russian military seized control of the Zaporozhye nulcear plant on 4 March and officials from Rosatom are now overseeing activities at the plant, which AFP reported on 3 May was operating normally.

In a statement, Rosatom said the officials reviewed the entire agenda of the Russia-IAEA working relationship. “In particular, the parties discussed in detail the matter of ensuring safety of nuclear facilities in Ukraine under current complicated circumstances.”

Likhachev and Grossi “paid particular attention to the state of affairs at the Zaporozhye NPP, including taking into account the IAEA Director General’s intention to organise a technical mission of the IAEA specialists to this NPP”. Likhachev “stressed ensuring safe operation of nuclear installations in the broadest sense possible was an absolute priority for the Russian side and for the Russian nuclear industry”.

The parties agreed to continue regular contacts.

In an interview with the Tyzhden newspaper on 3 May, Petro Kotin, acting head of Ukrainian nuclear utility Energoatom once again made clear his lack of confidence in the IAEA, which he described as “very reticent” alleging that there “is a lot of Russian influence in this organisation”.

With respect to the situation in Zaporozhye he said: “The IAEA must react harshly to all this, but it is doing nothing. The IAEA and its director, Rafael Mariano Grossi, have taken a very compromising position. He says the IAEA is not dealing with political issues, but only technical ones. The technical issue in this case depends on a political solution, namely the liberation of the station from the presence of the military.”

He expressed concern about the large amount of nuclear material at Zaporozhye. “Guarantees regarding the preservation and safety of nuclear material are a major task of the IAEA, which it does not currently fulfil through the Director General.”

However, Grossi has made clear repeatedly that he wishes to visit the plant and to provide any support deemed necessary, and is continuing negotiations to try to organise this. Notably, in an earlier interview with Interfax on 14 April, Kotin when asked whether the IAEA would visit Zaporozhye while the Russian troops were in control, he said: “I will not allow it. We will not go for that, it is clear.” He said he “did not expect anything special” from the IAEA.

“Some free aid is being organised and will be presented there, this applies to gadgets that are important to us, such as radiation monitoring devices, radiation dose control, and some other tools that are useful during the elimination of accidents and to minimise their consequences.” He added: “This situation has shown that the IAEA provides no relevant guidance on actions, neither on their own, nor on the NPP operator, nor on the regulator. Nobody expected that.” 

Ukraine separately informed the IAEA on 4 May that there had been no significant developments related to nuclear safety and security in the country over the past 24 hours. Regarding Ukraine’s 15 operational reactors at four NPPs, seven are currently connected to the grid, including two at the Zaporozhye NPP, two at the Rovno NPP, two at the South Ukraine NPP, and one at the Khmelnitsky NPP. The other eight are shut down for regular maintenance or held in reserve. Safety systems remain operational at all four NPPs, and they also continue to have off-site power available, Ukraine said.

In relation to safeguards, following the recent visit of IAEA inspectors and technicians to the Chernobyl NPP, IAEA said data from all unattended monitoring systems installed at the site has now been fully recovered. Also, as a result of the deployment of new transmission channels based on satellite technologies, the remote transfer of the safeguards data to the Agency’s Vienna headquarters has been fully restored with the exception of one facility for which technical work is still required. The transmission from Chernobyl had been interrupted for two months. For the other NPPs in Ukraine, remote data continues to be transferred to the IAEA.

Alexey Likhachev, the Rosatom Director General, and Rafael Mariano Grossi, the IAEA Director General met on 4th May (Photo: Rosatom)