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International Atomic Energy Agency provides updates on Ukraine’s nuclear facilities following Russian invasion

01 March 2022

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has provided several daily updates in recent days on the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors following the Russian invasion of the country which began on February 24. Ukraine has four nuclear power sites with a total of 15 reactors and is also the location of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant  - Image: Wikimedia/User:Ralf1969
Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant - Image: Wikimedia/User:Ralf1969

In an initial statement on February 24, the IAEA said it was following events in Ukraine closely with grave concern and appealed for maximum restraint to avoid any action that may put the Ukraine’s nuclear facilities at risk. The IAEA has been in constant contact with the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) which has in turn maintained continuous communications with the country’s operational nuclear power plants.

In the statement, IAEA’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that in regard to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), “unidentified armed forces” took control of all facilities of the State Specialized Enterprise Chernobyl NPP, located within the Exclusion Zone. The SNRIU said that there had been no casualties nor destruction at the industrial site. Director General Grossi said it is of vital importance that the safe and secure operations of the nuclear facilities in that zone should not be affected or disrupted in any way.

In its first update on February 25, Ukraine confirmed that all of the country’s nuclear power reactors were operating safely and securely. Following reports of higher radiation measurements at the Chernobyl site, Ukraine’s regulatory authority said that they may have been caused by heavy military vehicles stirring up soil still contaminated from the 1986 accident.

The IAEA assessed the readings reported by SNRIU and said they are low and remain within the operational range measured in the Exclusion Zone since it was established, and therefore do not pose any danger to the public.

In its February 26 update, the IAEA said that Ukraine’s four nuclear power sites, which consist of 15 reactors providing roughly half of the country’s electricity, remained stable and in normal operation. Director General Grossi said: “The safety and security of nuclear sites and material in Ukraine must under no circumstances be endangered. For now, the plants are operating as normal and their nuclear material remains under control. It is of paramount importance that this continues to be the case and that plant staff remain able to carry out their vital work without any undue pressure or stress.”

The SNRIU said that an electrical transformer at a low-level radioactive waste disposal site near the north-eastern city of Kharkiv had been damaged on February 26, but no release of radioactive material was reported.

In its update on February 27, the IAEA said it had been informed by Ukraine that missiles hit the site of a radioactive waste disposal facility in Kiev overnight but there were no reports of damage to the building or any indications of a radioactive release. The SNRIU told the IAEA that both its communications with the facility and the radiation monitoring system at the site had been restored during the morning. SNRIU said it expects to receive the results of on-site radioactive monitoring soon and that the facility’s staff had been forced to take shelter during the night but would later assess the situation.

The incident came a day after the electrical transformer near Kharkiv was damaged. Director General Grossi said: “These two incidents highlight the very real risk that facilities with radioactive material will suffer damage during the conflict, with potentially severe consequences for human health and the environment. Once again, I urgently and strongly appeal to all parties to refrain from any military or other action that could threaten the safety and security of these facilities.”

The IAEA is continuing to closely monitor developments in Ukraine, with a special focus on the safety and security of its nuclear power reactors. The IAEA remains in constant contact with its counterpart and provides regular updates on the situation in Ukraine via its website.

In another update on February 28, the IAEA said that Ukraine's Foreign Ministry had confirmed news reports that Russian troops were approaching the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Operators at the site had reported that Russian forces were operational near the site, but had not entered it.
SNRIU confirmed to the IAEA that it was continuing to gather information and that there had been no change in the "physical protection regime" of the Zaporizhzhia NPP and that its six units were in safe condition.

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