IAEA Prepares Visit to Zaporizhzya Nuclear Power Plant Despite Russian Occupation and Opposition from Kyiv

PeopleOther ♦ Published: June 9, 2022; 23:20 ♦ (Vindobona)

The International Atomic Energy Agency prepares a visit to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in the Russian-occupied zone of Ukraine. While this in itself is a difficult undertaking because of the Russian occupation forces, Kyiv's defensiveness added to this, complicating the IAEA's efforts to assess and ensure the nuclear safety of Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

Zaporizhzhya NPP is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons /Ralf1969, CC BY-SA 3.0

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is actively preparing a visit by experts to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which is occupied by Russian troops. The IAEA confirmed this in a press release today.

As reported by Vindobona.org, Zaporizhzhya is home to the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. The Russian army had taken control of the nuclear plant shortly after its invasion of Ukraine in early March.

Russian occupation and the Zaporizhzhya NPP

The largest nuclear power plant in Europe is located in territory occupied by the Russian army.

Russian war maneuvers and tactics disrupt routine and nuclear security at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi emphasized that the situation at the nuclear plant is untenable. For example, he said, important maintenance work at the nuclear plant was constantly being postponed and essential equipment was not being delivered, leading to an increased risk of accidents.

Five out of the seven nuclear safety and security pillars have been compromised at the plant. "This is why IAEA experts need to go to the site," said Grossi.

In his view, IAEA safeguards inspectors must be able to continue to carry out their regular, essential verification duties at the plant in line with Ukraine's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol.

Even the transmission of safeguards information to the IAEA had now been interrupted for more than a week. Nuclear safety at Europe's largest nuclear power plant is at risk.

The Director-General described how military action has compromised the safety of radiation sources, destroyed infrastructure at Ukraine's Neutron Source and other nuclear facilities, damaged waste repositories and threatened collateral damage at nuclear power plants and negatively impacted the plants in Zaporizhzhya, and their staff.

The IAEA is therefore preparing for a mission to ensure nuclear safety and remedy the maintenance crew.

The same problems occurred in Chernobyl during Russia's occupation there in March.

Kyiv's opposition

The Ukrainian government had recently refused a visit by IAEA representatives to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant as long as it was occupied by Russian troops.

Kyiv fears the legitimization of Russia if an international organization travels to the Russian-occupied territory.

According to the ORF, the IAEA chief had already written on Monday on the online service Twitter that his agency was currently preparing an expert visit to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.

According to Reuters, Ukraine's Energoatom, the atomic energy agency of Ukraine, then said on Thursday that Ukraine had "not invited Grossi to visit the Zaporizhzhya power plant and has refused to allow him to make such a visit in the past."

According to ORF, Energoatom argued that a visit by IAEA experts could "legitimize the presence of the occupiers." Energoatom emphasized that such a visit would be possible only when Ukraine regained control of the plant.

However, the IAEA noted that it will work closely with Ukraine to ensure that Ukraine's nuclear facilities are kept as safe and secure as possible as well as continue to practice nuclear safeguards.

IAEA remains persistent

Grossi commented, "It is not a matter of wanting or desiring this mission, it is a commitment on the part of both Ukraine and the IAEA."

Grossi and the IAEA expressed many times their concerns about the extremely stressful working conditions of Ukrainian personnel at the nuclear plant. The IAEA repeatedly reiterates the need for IAEA experts to be sent on-site.

Director-General Grossi stressed, “Even amid this unprecedented and volatile situation, we have managed, together with Ukraine and with the generous support of many Member States, to develop and begin to deliver the comprehensive programme of assistance that will help to uphold the seven inalienable pillars of nuclear safety and security amid the first military conflict to be fought around the facilities of a major nuclear energy programme."

The IAEA and Mr. Grossi condemn Russia's war in Ukraine and have repeatedly stated that the country's nuclear security must not be compromised.

Director-General calls for an end to the war and stated, “The best action to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and its people would be for this armed conflict to end now."

International Atomic Energy Agency