International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi recently held talks with senior Russian officials in Moscow. Discussions focused on ongoing efforts to agree and implement a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the Zaporizhia NPP (ZNPP). Grossi noted that a planned rotation of a team of IAEA experts had been delayed due to increased military activity.

The Russian delegation at the talks was led by Rosatom Director General Elexey Likhachev. Also present were the head of regulator Rostekhnadzor, Alexander Trembitsky; the head of the Radiation, Chemical & Biological Protection Troops of the Russian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov; the head of the Federal National Guard Troops Service, Vladimir Mashevsky; and Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry Department for Nonproliferation & Arms Control Igor Vishnevetsky.

Likhachev spoke about the steps being taken to ensure nuclear and physical nuclear safety at ZNPP as well as about the measures aimed at ensuring comfortable social and living conditions for the station workers and their families. He said that Russia intends to act absolutely transparently with respect to the IAEA in relation to the ZNPP. He said his talks with Grossi had “brought us a step closer” to the establishment of a security and protection zone around ZNPP. He noted in particular, “the professional approach of the Director General and the Agency in their very important work, in an unpoliticised way, to search for a real compromise solution”. He praised the personal courage of the IAEA staff in their work.

He added: “For Russia, the safety of nuclear facilities is an absolute priority, whatever the venue or legal ownership of the facility.” He said it was also “an absolute priority to work with the IAEA”, and noted the increasing importance of the IAEA presence at ZNPP and the need to work closely with the IAEA at the plant.

Grossi, in response, said his visit to Moscow was “a continuation of the work undertaken for many months to establish a security and protection zone at “ZNPP”. He said the fact that there were representatives of Rosatom, security bodies and the regulator around the table “ shows the complexity of the issues involved”. He added that the situation” continues to be very precarious and fragile”. He stressed that the fact that the rotation of IAEA personnel at ZNPP had to be delayed because of the security situation “shows that we cannot delay this work”.

On his return to Vienna Grossi noted: “Both in Kyiv and Moscow, we are continuing our determined diplomatic work aimed at establishing the zone as soon as possible.” He said the meetings in Moscow “were important in this regard, enabling us to discuss the plan in detail with senior representatives of the Russian government”. He added: “I remain hopeful that the zone will be established, although progress should have been faster. For the sake of nuclear safety and security in Ukraine and beyond, I will continue my efforts until the zone has become a reality.”

Meanwhile, Rosenergoatom reported that ZNPP had hired more than 300 new employees in January. Renat Karchaa, adviser to the general director of Regenerator told Tass that the total number of staff members who had signed agreements was in the order of 3,300.

Karchaa also confirmed that the new rotective measures being put in place at ZNPP were almost complete. "The erection of engineering and construction structures, which are designed to provide additional protection for important infrastructure facilities of the nuclear power plant, including those related to the storage of radioactive materials, is at the completion stage," he said.

Image: IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has held talks with senior Russian officials in Moscow to discuss ongoing efforts to agree and implement a nuclear safety and security protection zone around Ukraine's Zaporizhia NPP (courtesy of Rosatom)