More than 40 Incidents at Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plants since the Beginning of the War

PeopleOther ♦ Published: February 24, 2023; 17:48 ♦ (Vindobona)

Since the war in Ukraine began a year ago, the country's nuclear power plants have been affected by more than 40 incidents. Nuclear security in Ukraine is still at a worrying risk. This is according to a report published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

Officials from Rivne NPP walk down to the water service system with IAEA Support and Assistance Mission in Rivne (ISAMIR). / Picture: © IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency / Photo Credit: Rivne NPP / Flickr Attribution (CC BY 2.0,

The war in Ukraine is raging on and is starting its second year. The international community is working hard to find a solution to the conflict and prevent any further catastrophes. The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna has published a report on the nuclear security situation in Ukraine and acknowledged threats and a worrying interim balance. Constant fighting over nuclear facilities and constant shelling of them only exacerbates the situation.

In Ukraine, every single one of the seven indispensable pillars of the IAEA has been compromised, including the physical integrity of nuclear facilities, the operation of security and safety systems, the working conditions of employees, supply chains, communication channels, radiation monitoring, and emergency arrangements, as well as the crucial off-site power supply.

There are four operational nuclear power plants in Ukraine, Khmelnytskyy (KNPP), Rivne (RNPP), South Ukraine (SUNPP) and Zaporizhzhya (ZNPP), operated by the National Nuclear Energy Generating Company "Energoatom" with water-cooled, water-moderated reactors (VVER). Additionally, the Chornobyl NPP in Ukraine, operated by the State Specialized Enterprise Chornobyl NPP, contains high-power channel reactors (RBMK). A wet spent fuel storage facility (ISF-1) and a dry spent fuel storage facility (ISF-2) are also located at the site.

All five locations are threatened by the ongoing war and fighting. Shelling is one of the biggest threats and critical infrastructure, such as nuclear facilities, is targeted, especially by the Russian side.

At the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russian troops had seized for several weeks the former Chernobyl power plant, where radiating waste is still stored since the devastating nuclear accident in 1986. On March 4, the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, was occupied. It remains under Russian control to this day.

Especially last summer, facilities in and around Zaporizhzhya were repeatedly shelled and damaged. Moscow and Kyiv held each other responsible for this. In addition, power lines supplying the cooling systems of Ukraine's nuclear power plants failed many times in the past twelve months due to the war. In November, all four power plants were cut off from the external power supply for two days. Emergency generators were used to prevent nuclear accidents.

For weeks, the IAEA in Zaporizhzhya has been monitoring the falling water level of a reservoir that feeds the nuclear power plant's cooling water. The government in Kyiv blames Russia for this.

Further, nuclear material is used and stored at the Kharkiv Institute for Physics and Technology (KIPT) Neutron Source installation and the Institute for Nuclear Research in Kyiv. As soon as the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February 2022, KIPT was put into a deep subcritical state, and the spent fuel from the research reactor in Kyiv was unloaded and stored.

"We have been fortunate that no nuclear accident has happened yet, and we must do everything possible to minimize such a risk," IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi wrote. Grossi has been negotiating a cease-fire zone around Zaporizhzhya with Kyiv and Moscow for months - so far without success.

In the foreword of the report, Rafael Mariano Grossi writes, "One year has passed since the beginning of the Ukrainian war, marking the first time in history that a war has been fought amid nuclear power facilities." Further, he states, “As this tragic war enters its second year, I want to reassure the people of Ukraine and the international community that they can count on the IAEA, and me as its Director General, to do everything possible within our remit to assist them and to avert the danger of a nuclear accident that could cause even more suffering where there is already far too much.” He noted that several of Ukraine's five nuclear power plants and other facilities have been shelled in the past year.

The nuclear facilities had been involved in more than 40 incidents. The threat to nuclear safety in Ukraine has not been eliminated. The IAEA monitoring missions are continuing to ensure the safe and secure operation of nuclear facilities despite the difficult conditions in which they carry out their work. Still, the IAEA noted that the current situation is untenable and an end to the conflict is the best action to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine's nuclear facilities.