International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the safety and security of Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility must be protected, as he and a team of IAEA experts and inspectors set off from the Agency’s headquarters in Vienna for the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) in Ukraine on Monday. The IAEA mission will help ensure nuclear safety and security at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and undertake vital safeguards activities.
Zaporizhzya Nuclear Power Plant has been controlled by Russian forces since March but is operated by its Ukrainian staff. This month the site has come under repeated shelling, and last week temporarily lost connection to its last remaining operational 750 kilovolt (kV) external power line.
In the most recent update from the power plant over the weekend, Ukraine informed the IAEA that the site had come under renewed shelling but that all safety systems remain operational and there had been no increase in radiation levels. The country said it did not yet have complete information on the nature of the damage from the shelling.
The ISAMZ will bring clarity to the situation and help address any contradictory information about the status of the facility, its operation and the damage it has sustained. Speaking to the United Nations Security Council earlier this month about the deteriorating situation at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, Mr Grossi said: “It is those facts, gathered during a site visit, that are needed for the IAEA to be able to develop and provide an independent assessment of the nuclear safety and security risks.”
Once reaching Zaporizhzhya later this week, ISAMZ will assess the physical damage to the facilities, determine the functionality of the main and backup safety and security systems, and evaluate the working conditions of the control room staff. At the same time, the mission will undertake urgent safeguards activities to verify that nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes.