Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Europe worried about Russian military controlling Ukraine’s nuclear plants: IAEA

“I’m extremely concerned about these developments that were reported to me today,” Mr Grossi stressed.

• March 7, 2022
Chernobyl
Chernobyl

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says reports of Ukraine’s and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant being under the control of Russian forces is a cause for grave concern.

IAEA expressed the concern in a statement on Sunday.

The IAEA chief said he had been informed by Ukrainian authorities that, although regular staff continued to operate the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, any action of plant management would require approval from the Russian forces.

He explained that any action of plant management, including measures related to the technical operation of the six reactor units, required prior approval by the Russian commander of the Russian forces that took control of the site last week.

Mr Grossi added that the development contravened one of the seven pillars of nuclear safety and security that he outlined at a meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors on Wednesday.

The director-general said he outlined at the meeting that “operating staff must be able to fulfil their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure.”

Ukraine’s nuclear regulator informed the IAEA that it was having major problems communicating with staff operating Zaporizhzhya due to Russian forces at the site switching off some mobile networks and blocking the internet.

Some mobile phone communication is understood to still be possible, albeit with poor quality, but fixed phone lines, as well as emails and fax, are reportedly no longer functioning.

The IAEA noted that this situation contravenes another of its seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety, that there must be “reliable communications with the regulator and others.”

“I’m extremely concerned about these developments that were reported to me today,” Mr Grossi stressed. “Just a few days after I presented the seven main elements of nuclear safety and security to the IAEA board, several of them are already being compromised.”

Despite the communication issues, the regulator was able to provide updated information about the operational status of the Zaporizhzhya NPP to the IAEA and confirm that radiation levels there remained normal.

Operational teams at the plant are now rotating in three shifts, but, the regulator added, the availability and supply of food were limited, negatively affecting staff morale.

Responding to reports that the technical staff and guards at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident site have not been rotated since February 23, Mr Grossi called on the Russian forces controlling the site to allow them to be relieved by other colleagues and rest, to carry out their jobs safely and securely.

(NAN)

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