Maintenance impacted at Zaporizhzhia, says IAEA

24 April 2023

The current situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is having a significant impact on the plant's maintenance capability, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.

(Image: IAEA)

Plant management informed the IAEA experts present at plant that the scope of maintenance performed during outages on all units in 2022 was reduced compared with the planned scope, due to reduced maintenance staff, absence of external contractors who perform a significant part of the work, and a lack of spare parts needed for the maintenance, including critical components.

The Zaporizhzhia plant currently has only about one-quarter of its regular maintenance staff available, the IAEA said. It noted new staff are being hired but it will take some time until they are fully trained. The plant said a substantial list of required spare parts has recently been submitted to Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom.

"As a result of the significant reduction of staff, the ZNPP currently does not have a systematic maintenance and in-service inspection schedule," the IAEA said. "Before restarting any of the reactor units, the site is considering obtaining advice from an engineering organisation within Rosatom that will assess the status of the plant and provide recommendations for all structures, systems and components important to safety regarding their maintenance or any necessary replacement before operation. The site considers that this maintenance/replacement work may be undertaken using the services of a centralised Rosenergoatom company that is capable of performing these types of maintenance tasks."

"This shows again the continuing detrimental impact that the current situation on the site is having on the seven indispensable pillars for ensuring nuclear safety and security, in this case pillars two and five on safety and security systems and equipment and logistical supply chain,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

The IAEA noted that the Zaporizhzhia plant continues to rely on the only remaining functioning 750kV power line for the external electricity it needs for reactors cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions. Meanwhile, a back-up 330kV power line that was damaged on 1 March on the other side of the Dnipro River from the Russian-controlled plant remains unrepaired, with Ukraine having said military action is preventing its experts from safely accessing the location situated in territory it controls to repair the line.

Russia reported last month that Rosatom was working to remove damaged equipment from the open switchyard, with the aim of restoring three 330kV lines to the grid system in currently Russian-controlled territory. The IAEA team will access the site to assess the situation.

Four of the six reactors have been in cold shutdown, with two (units 5 and 6) in hot shutdown - which allows them to provide heat to the plant and the nearby town of Energodar where many of the workers live. However, the IAEA said that, with the weather warming, unit 6 has now been transferred to cold shutdown.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News