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Ukraine’s nuclear regulator restores communications with Chernobyl

21 April 2022

Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on April 19 that direct communications between the national regulator and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had been restored, more than a month after contact was lost when Russian forces seized control of the site.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

The IAEA’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi welcomed the re-establishment of phone communication between the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) and Chernobyl. He said it was another important step in the process of resuming Ukraine’s regulatory control of the site of the 1986 accident, where various radioactive waste management facilities are now located.

Russian forces seized the Chernobyl plant on February 24 and held it for five weeks before withdrawing on March 31. Ukraine informed the IAEA on 10 March that it had lost contact with the site. The regulator continued to receive information about the situation at Chernobyl through senior off-site management of the plant.

“This was clearly not a sustainable situation, and it is very good news that the regulator can now contact the plant directly when it needs to,” Director General Grossi said. Reliable communication with the regulator is one of seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security that he outlined at the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine.

The Director General plans to head a mission of IAEA experts to the Chernobyl site to conduct nuclear safety, security and radiological assessments, deliver vital equipment and repair the Agency’s remote safeguards monitoring systems there.

On April 21, the IAEA said that staff rotation was now “taking place regularly and according to plan”, three weeks after Russian forces withdrew. The Chernobyl site carried out its first staff rotation in three weeks on April 10 due to Russian forces preventing any rotation while they held the site for five weeks..

“It is very positive that staff at this important nuclear facility can now carry out their activities in a more normal situation after many weeks of working in very difficult conditions, allowing them to go home for rest and to see their families on a regular basis. They have demonstrated admirable courage and resilience in continuing to conduct their vital duties also during the conflict. When I visit the site later this month, I will be able to thank them personally,” Director General Grossi said.

Regarding the country’s 15 operational reactors at four nuclear power plants, Ukraine said seven are currently connected to the grid, including two at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, two at the Rivne plant, two at the South Ukraine plant, and one at the Khmelnytskyy plant. The eight other reactors are shut down for regular maintenance or held in reserve. Safety systems remain operational at the four nuclear power plants and they also continue to have off-site power available, Ukraine has said.

In relation to safeguards, the IAEA said it was still not receiving remote data transmission from its monitoring systems installed at Chernobyl, but such data was being transferred to IAEA headquarters from the other NPPs in Ukraine.

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