IAEA Ukraine mission aims to help safety and security

16 January 2023

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts are being permanently stationed at Ukraine's nuclear power plants, and Chernobyl, "to provide assistance in nuclear safety and security" as the Russia-Ukraine war continues.

The IAEA mission to Ukraine (Image: @rafaelmgrossi/Twitter)

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi travelled to Ukraine with the IAEA team on Monday, tweeting that the organisation was expanding its presence in the country "to help prevent a nuclear accident during the ongoing conflict. I’m proud to lead this mission to Ukraine, where we’re deploying in all of the country’s NPPs to provide assistance in nuclear safety and security".

Grossi is heading to the South Ukraine and Rivne nuclear power plants, as well as Chernobyl, to establish the permanent missions of two IAEA experts at each site. A two-person team will also be stationed at the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant, while the IAEA already has four experts stationed at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant - Zaporizhzhia - which has been under the control of the Russian military since early March.

Speaking ahead of the trip, Grossi said: "This is an important step in our work to help Ukraine during these immensely difficult and challenging times. Our nuclear safety and security experts will monitor the situation at the plants, assess their equipment and other needs, provide technical support and advice, and report their findings to IAEA headquarters."

The presence of the experts at the nuclear power plants was requested by Ukraine and builds on short-term visits during the conflict. Having experts stationed at Zaporizhzhia has already been credited with providing direct reporting of the situation on the ground, as well being able to assist and advise as required and their presence has been perceived as being a deterrent.

Meanwhile, Grossi continues his long-running efforts to establish a safety and security zone around the six-reactor Zaporizhzhia plant, which is on the front line of the war. He is expected to meet senior Ukrainian government officials during his visit, and he has said he hopes to visit Russia again for further talks in the coming weeks. 

He said: "I remain determined to make the much-needed protection zone a reality as soon as possible. My consultations with Ukraine and Russia are making progress, albeit not as fast as they should. I remain hopeful that we will be able to agree and implement the zone soon."

The plant's six reactors are in shutdown but still need electricity for reactor cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions. It has had to rely on emergency diesel generators on a number of occasions during the conflict and, Grossi said, he continued to have concerns about the pressures on the Ukrainian staff at the plant under the control of the Russian military saying that reduced staffing levels "combined with psychological stress due to the on-going military conflict and the absence of family members who fled the area have created an unprecedented situation that no nuclear power plant staff should have to endure".

Staff at Zaporizhzhia are also continuing to be urged to sign contracts with the Russian state company Rosatom at the site, while the national Ukrainian operator Energoatom is urging them not to do so, the IAEA said, adding that their inspectors at the plant have nonetheless reported that "despite all the challenges, the plant still has adequate operational staff to maintain the safe operation of all units at the plant’s current level of functioning".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News