Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 12 April that there had been no significant new developments related to nuclear safety and security over the past 24 hours, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said. On 10 April, IAEA reported that Ukraine had carried out the first staff rotation at the Chernobyl NPP in three weeks – the second since late February when Russian forces took over the site.

Grossi welcomed the news as a much-needed positive step for the wellbeing of the NPP’s personnel and their families, who have been living and working under extremely stressful and difficult circumstances during the conflict. The shift change was also important for the safe and secure operation of the Chernobyl NPP, which was controlled by the Russian military for five weeks until they withdrew on 31 March, he said. The previous change of staff on duty took place on 20-21 March, which in turn was the first since the Russian military entered the site on 24 February.

However, the fact that those taking part in Saturday’s staff rotation had to be transported to and from the site by boat on the Pripyat River – as publicly reported by nuclear utility Energoatom – underlined that the situation at the NPP and the Exclusion Zone around it remained far from normal, he said. Energoatom said river transportation was currently the only way for people living in the city of Slavutych outside the Zone to get to the NPP.

“While it is very positive that Ukrainian authorities are gradually restoring regulatory control of the Chernobyl site, it is clear that a lot of work remains to return the site to normality,” he said. “As soon as it is possible, I will head an IAEA mission to Chernobyl to conduct a radiological assessment there, resume remote safeguards monitoring of the facility and its nuclear material and deliver equipment, including spare parts and components, for the NPP’s safe and secure operation. I’m in close consultations with Ukraine on setting a date and organising a programme of work for the visit, which is expected to take place soon.”

Ukraine also provided more information about the damage to the site’s analytical laboratories for radiation monitoring, saying the premises were destroyed and the analytical instruments stolen, broken or otherwise disabled. In addition, an associated Information and Communication Centre had been looted, parts of its communication lines destroyed, and the automated transmission of radiation monitoring data disabled.

Ukraine informed the IAEA already last month that the Central Analytical Laboratory in Chornobyl town had been “looted by marauders” and that it could not confirm the safety and security of its calibration sources nor the condition of environmental samples stored there. Based on the information provided at that time, the IAEA then assessed that the incident did not pose a significant radiological risk.

In its latest report, IAEA said seven of Ukraine’s 15 operational reactors at four NPPs were currently connected to the grid, including two at the Russian-controlled Zaporozhye NPP, two at the Rovno NPP, two at the South Ukraine NPP, and one at the Khmelnitsky NPP. The eight other reactors are shut down for regular maintenance or held in reserve. Safety systems remain operational at the four NPPs and they also continued to have off-site power available.

In relation to safeguards, the IAEA said that the situation remained unchanged from that reported previously. The Agency was still not receiving remote data transmission from its monitoring systems installed at the Chernobyl NPP, but such data was being transferred to IAEA headquarters from the other NPPs in Ukraine.