IAEA continues to press for access to Zaporizhzhya NPP

7 June 2022

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on 3 June he is continuing his efforts to organise an IAEA mission to Ukraine’s largest NPP, Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya, to carry out important nuclear safety, security and safeguards activities at this site. With respect to safeguards, transmission of remote safeguards data to IAEA headquarters from the Zaporizhzhya NPP stopped on 30 May, the Agency said. However, with the assistance of the plant operator, the IAEA is continuing technical attempts to re-establish the data transmission

The plant was occupied by Russian troops in March and Rosatom specialists are also at the site although the facility is still operated by Ukrainian technicians. On 3 June, Ukraine’s General Defence Intelligence Directorate said: "A critical situation has developed at the ... plant in terms of ensuring stable and safe operations. There are practically no spare parts and expendable materials left."     

Work at the plant is currently being carried out on a shift basis. Shifts last for one week. The Russian management of the station is reportedly studying the possibility of connecting the station to the Russian power grid. However, this is not possible due to technical reasons, the directorate said.

Nuclear utility Energoatom on 3 June denied a statement by Yuriy Boyko, an adviser to the Prime Minister of Ukraine that the plant might be shut down. "Today, there have been reports in the information space about possible scenarios for shutting down the Zaporizhzhya NPP (ZNPP). In this regard, Energoatom officially declares that today there is only one scenario - it is the stable and reliable operation of the ZNPP in the energy system of Ukraine. Its shutdown is impossible from a technical [point of view], from a security [point of view], and from an economic or political point of view," Energoatom said in a statement published on the company's Telegram channel.

Energoatom head Petro Kotin has repeatedly criticised the IAEA for limiting its activities to providing technical assistance and has pressed for the Agency to demand Russia’s withdrawal from the plant. On 27 May, the Acting Head of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) to the International Atomic Energy Agency Oleh Korikov made similar remarks. In a public statement he noted “the absence of a clear position and effective response from IAEA to Ukraine's numerous appeals”. He added: “The management of IAEA not only encourages further escalation of ZNPP occupation, but also rebroadcasts the theses of the Kremlin propaganda.”

He said: “We call on Mr Grossi to assist Ukraine in our demands for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops, military equipment and Rosatom personnel from ZNPP site and the city of Energodar, which would be the best guarantee for the safe operation of Zaporizhzhia NPP.”

Faced with hostility from both Energoatom and SNRIU, the IAEA faces an almost impossible situation as it tries to arrange a visit to ZNPP. The purpose of the Agency is to ensure safety and security at nuclear facilities and for this it needs to remain impartial. Grossi noted during a recent video conference with European parliamentary committees, the problem he faces is that both Ukraine and Russia had agreed to an IAEA visit but only under the flags of their respective countries. He described it as a “schizophrenic situation”. He said the reality “is that I am confronted with a situation where the format, the political modalities of the visit, are even more important for them than the technical mission that I need to perform”.

Image: The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine 

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