IAEA teams in place at Ukraine's nuclear plants

19 January 2023

The International Atomic Energy Agency's newly-established missions at Ukraine's nuclear power plants are not just symbolic, but signify the presence of internationally renowned experts who "will provide advice and technical support at this very difficult time", IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

Grossi launching the IAEA's permanent mission at Chernobyl (Image: Chernobyl NPP)

The stationing of IAEA teams at Ukraine's operating nuclear power plants and Chernobyl, which is in decommissioning, was requested by Ukraine. The IAEA has already had a team of experts present at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is under the control of Russian forces, since September.

At a media conference in Kiev during his visit to the country, Grossi said that the plan was to have the permanent teams to help at the three other nuclear power plants and Chernobyl, noting that "every facility is facing different challenges and different problems", with issues such as ensuring there was external power supply and facilitating transfer of equipment.

Grossi added: "Very importantly we are going to be looking at the situation of the staff. We have a tendency to focus on the situation at Zaporizhzhia but the nuclear staff at all these facilities are operating under very difficult circumstances ... sometimes under attack or under threats of attack, and we have to support them in every possible way. So this work has started now."

The teams have been launched at Chernobyl, Rivne and the South Ukraine nuclear power plants this week, with the mission to the Khmelnitsky plant set to be in place in the next few days.

Asked how long the teams will be stationed at the nuclear plants, Grossi said they would stay for as long as their presence was requested, saying "we believe that in the current circumstances there is a need for a rather prolonged presence because of the challenges of the situation, for as long as the war continues and perhaps even after that", with damaged infrastructure and other issues that will benefit from IAEA involvement.

During his visit to Ukraine, his sixth since the war began in February 2022, Grossi said he was continuing to have talks about establishing a safety and security zone around the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is on the frontline of the war and has been affected by shelling and loss of external power on a number of occasions.

Grossi said: "We are making progress ... there are some specific nuclear technical issues that have been discussed and there are also other matters related to the area of the zone, the specific extension of the zone needs also to be discussed with the military authorities, which makes the process a bit longer.

"One thing I can tell you, I think we are closer to having a good outcome. I think it's necessary. No-one could disagree with the fact that we need to protect this facility, we need to avoid an accident. We need to make sure that when the war finishes the plant is intact, it's ready to be operated. And at this point it requires protection and this is what the zone is intended to do."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News