IAEA expresses continued concern about Chernobyl staffing

29 March 2022

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues to closely monitoring the situation in the city of Slavutych a where many people live who work at the Chernobyl NPP, after the Ukrainian Nuclear Safety Authority (SNRIU) informed the IAEA it had been taken over by Russian forces.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said 26 March he remained concerned about the ability of staff at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to regularly rotate and return to their homes in the nearby city of Slavutych to rest. There has been no staff rotation at the Chernobyl site for nearly a week now, the regulator said.

Slavutych is located outside the Exclusion Zone that was set up around the Chernobyl NPP after the 1986 accident. Russian forces took control of the nuclear power plant on 24 February. Last week, Ukraine’s regulatory authority said that shelling of checkpoints in Slavutych had prevented technical staff of the Chernobyl NPP from travelling to and from the site. In a later update, the regulator said Slavutych was surrounded and few hours later, it cited Chernobyl NPP management as confirming media reports that the city was under Russian control.

The regulator said the last staff rotation was on 20-21 March, when a new shift of technical personnel arrived from Slavutych to replace colleagues who had worked at the Chernobyl NPP since the day before the Russian military entered the site. There was “no information when or whether” a new change of work shift would take place, it said.

Update on nuclear facilities elsewhere in Ukraine

In the north-eastern city of Kharkov, the regulator said shelling was for a second day preventing measures to dispose of an unexploded rocket near a nuclear research facility. The previously damaged facility has been used for research and development and radioisotope production for medical and industrial applications. Its nuclear material is subcritical and the radioactive inventory is low. Personnel at the facility were maintaining the operability of the nuclear installation’s equipment and radiation was within “standard limits”. However, it was not possible to restore off-site power to the facility due to the shelling, the regulator added.

At the Zaporozhye nuclear plant, the regulator said repairs to the transformer of reactor unit 6 had been completed after it was damaged on 4 March, and the unit would be kept in reserve.

Of Ukraine’s 15 operational reactors at four sites, the regulator said eight were continuing to operate, including two at Zaporozhye, three at Rovno, one at Khmelnitsky, and two at South Ukraine. The other reactors are shut down for regular maintenance, it added.

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

The previous day, after being contacted by the IAEA, the State Agency for the Management of the Exclusion Zone provided additional detailed technical information about the Central Analytical Laboratory in Chernobyl town, which it earlier said had been “looted by marauders”.

It told the IAEA that it could not confirm the safety and security of the laboratory’s calibration sources nor the condition of environmental samples stored there. It also had no information about the status of the server for the Exclusion Zone’s radiation monitoring system, also located in the laboratory. Based on the additional information provided, the IAEA continues to assess that the incident does not pose a significant radiological risk.

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