The nuclear safety and security situation at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant remains highly unstable with "very real" potential threats of a major nuclear accident. This was stated by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi at a meeting of the UN Security Council. Also, he announced his fourth visit to ZNPP, which he plans to carry out in early February 2024.
“A nuclear accident has not yet happened. This is true. But complacency could still lead us to tragedy. That should not happen. We must do everything in our power to minimize the risk that it does”, said Grossi.
Also, the IAEA Director General outlined several problems that arose as a result of the occupation of the ZNPP by the russian federation:
- the plant has been operating on significantly reduced staff, who are under unprecedented psychological pressure;
- the reduced number of qualified and trained operating personnel and the challenging supply chain has had a negative impact on the maintenance of equipment which is essential for maintaining the safety of the plant;
- Zaporizhzhya NPP has already lost all off-site power eight times and had to rely on emergency diesel generators as the last line of defense against a nuclear accident to ensure the cooling of the reactor and spent fuel.
- there are occasions when the IAEA team at ZNPP did not have timely access to some areas of the plant, which is necessary for the Agency's experts to be able to effectively assess the situation regarding nuclear safety and security at ZNPP and record new events.
In his address to the UN Security Council, Rafael Mariano Grossi also noted that at other Ukrainian nuclear power plants located in the territory controlled by Ukraine, nuclear safety and security are maintained, despite difficult wartime circumstances, in particular frequent air raid alarms. Recall that IAEA experts, in addition to the mission at the occupied Zaporizhzhya NPP, are present at the Khmelnytskyi, Rivne, South Ukrainian NPP, as well as at the Chornobyl NPP site.
As previously stated by the Head of SNRIU - Chief State Inspector for Nuclear and Radiation Safety of Ukraine Oleh Korikov, the further occupation of Zaporizhzhya NPP will only complicate the state of nuclear and radiation safety at the industrial site.
“Last year we already had several operational events that could potentially lead to an accident with radiation consequences. Non-qualified personnel at the nuclear power plant, lack of proper maintenance and repairs, the presence of weapons, explosives, military equipment, invaders impede the work of experts of the IAEA permanent monitoring mission, do not provide them with full access, periodically there are losses of power supply to the station from the Ukrainian power system due to Russian shelling, etc. - these factors, if not eliminated, will inevitably lead to even greater degradation of nuclear and radiation safety at Zaporizhzhya NPP. Therefore, it is worth preparing for an increase in the number of operational events that will carry a potential threat of accidents with radiation consequences. Such risks will only grow. There is only one way out - demilitarization and de-occupation of Zaporizhzhya NPP, its return under the control of the legitimate operating organization SE «NNEGC «Energoatom» and the regulatory supervision of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine”, said Oleh Korikov.
He also stressed the inadmissibility of violating the conditions of licenses for the operation of ZNPP power units, which should be operated in a state of "cold shutdown." Nevertheless, the invaders continue to ignore the terms of licenses. Irresponsible actions of the occupants to warm up power unit №4, in the absence of appropriate maintenance and repair of equipment of ZNPP power units, undoubtedly harm the safety of nuclear installations - this carries additional risks of equipment failures, systems and elements important for safety, can initiate transients, which can result in abnormal operation and accidents, including severe damage to nuclear fuel.