Vienna: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today said that its experts were still waiting to gain the necessary access to the rooftops of reactor units 3 and 4 of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) following recent reports that explosives may have been placed there.
While terming the nuclear safety and security situation at ZNPP as “very precarious”, the IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said today the experts had in recent days continued to inspect parts of ZNPP “without seeing any mines or explosives”.
In recent days, Grossi said, the IAEA experts had heard a series of explosions apparently taking place some distance away from the ZNPP but still a stark reminder of potential nuclear safety and security risks facing the facility during the military conflict in the country.
One blast occurred in the morning of July 8, several in the evening of July 10, one yesterday morning and five in the evening. While it was not possible to determine the exact locations of the explosives or the explosions, the IAEA experts were able to confirm that the site had not been impacted.
Today the experts visited the corresponding areas in Unit 3. Yesterday, the team also visited the unit 1 reactor hall, coolant pumps and safety system pumps. On July 10, the experts went to the main control room, emergency control room, rooms where electrical cabinets of the safety systems are located and the turbine hall of reactor unit 1. On July 9, the IAEA team went to areas just inside the site perimeter and around the sprinkler cooling ponds. The experts reported that they had unrestricted access to these areas.
The IAEA stated that it continues to closely follow developments related to the availability of water for cooling the ZNPP’s six reactors and other essential nuclear safety and security functions, following the destruction of the downstream Kakhovka dam in early June and the subsequent depletion of the huge reservoir near the plant.
The IAEA team said the two main bodies of water – the ZNPP’s cooling pond and the discharge channel of the nearby Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP) – had been relatively stable, with the water level decreasing by 1-2 centimetres per day due to usage and evaporation. The site continues to have sufficient water for some months.
As part of ongoing efforts to explore backup options, the plant is planning to construct additional wells that could be used to replenish essential cooling water for the sprinkler ponds, which are currently utilizing underground water pumped from the site’s drainage system.
During the past week, a submersible pump was used to transfer some of the residual water in the ZTPP inlet channel into the ZTPP discharge channel, slightly increasing the height of the water in this channel.
The plant is separately preparing to move reactor unit 4 from cold shutdown to hot shutdown – after which unit 5, currently in hot shutdown, will be placed in cold shutdown in order to carry out preventive maintenance activities that are only possible in cold shutdown. The other units remain in cold shutdown.
The site uses the steam generated from one reactor unit in hot shutdown for various nuclear safety purposes including the processing of liquid radioactive waste collected in storage tanks. However, the IAEA experts are strongly encouraging the ZNPP to investigate all possible options to install an external boiler to generate the steam required, which would enable the site to bring all units into a cold shutdown state. The Ukraine national regulator – SNRIU – has issued regulatory orders to limit the operation of all six units to a cold shutdown state.
The IAEA is continuing to request the ZNPP to improve the conditions on-site for Agency staff, including better accommodation, living and working conditions.
Since January this year, the IAEA also has a permanent presence at Ukraine’s other nuclear power plants – the Khmelnytskyi (KhNPP), Rivne (RNPP), South Ukraine (SUNPP) and the Chornobyl (ChNPP) sites – where the most recent rotations of experts took place last week.
The IAEA teams report that the sites are continuing to maintain their operating and refuelling schedules despite the challenges faced by the conflict. They also confirm that there are no nuclear safety or security-related issues at the four sites.
Among other activities, these IAEA experts help facilitate the delivery of assistance to Ukraine’s NPPs, organised by IAEA staff in Vienna, by discussing the technical specifications of safety and security equipment requested with their counterparts at the sites.
In the last two weeks, two deliveries of equipment to Ukraine took place, bringing the total to 21 since the conflict began in February 2022.
With the most recent deliveries, the KhNPP, SUNPP and RNPP received medical equipment and supplies that are essential for providing medical care and support, both to Ukrainian operating staff as well as to IAEA personnel at the sites.
In addition, the RNPP, SNRIU and State Enterprise Eastern Mining and Processing Plant, SE VostokGOK, received IT equipment, power supply systems, infrared sensors and portable tritium detectors. This equipment was procured with funds provided by Australia, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America as well as with the support of the European Union.
It may be mentioned that Director General Grossi had established five basic principles on May 30, 2023, at the United Nations Security Council that there should be no attack from or against the plant and that it should not be used as storage or a base for heavy weapons – multiple rocket launchers, artillery systems and munitions, and tanks.
– global bihari bureau