The International Atomic Energy Agency has once again lost the remote connection to its safeguards surveillance systems installed at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), further underlining the need for the IAEA to go there very soon, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said today.
The IAEA has not been able to visit the ZNPP since before the current military conflict in Ukraine. Russian forces took control of the plant nearly four months ago, but its Ukrainian staff are continuing to operate it.
Director General Grossi has repeatedly stressed his determination to agree, organize and head an IAEA-led international mission to conduct essential nuclear safety, security and safeguards activities at the ZNPP, Ukraine’s largest such facility with six reactors.
He also recently expressed his increasing concern about the difficult conditions facing staff at the ZNPP and the impact of such conditions on the safety and security of the plant
“The fact that our remote safeguards data transmission is down again – for the second time in the past month – only adds to the urgency to dispatch this mission,” he said.
Earlier this month, the IAEA and the Ukrainian operator of the plant worked together to restore the remote transmission of safeguards data from the ZNPP to IAEA headquarters after a technical interruption of almost two weeks. The data from this time period was also recovered.
But the connection was lost again on 25 June, due to a disruption of the facility’s communication systems, Director General Grossi said, citing the assessment of IAEA technicians at its headquarters.
In addition, inspectors can only carry out essential nuclear material verification work when they are at the site. The interval of physical inventory verifications at nuclear power plants (NPPs) cannot exceed a specified duration. This is particularly important at two of the units at ZNPP. These units have also been refuelled in recent months and a physical verification of the nuclear material therein is a safeguards pre-requisite before re-starting them.
The IAEA is also facing a partial loss of remote safeguards data transmission from the Chornobyl NPP, the Director General said.
Safeguards data from IAEA systems installed at two of the NPP’s facilities are no longer being transmitted. The problem seems linked to safeguards equipment at the site, in which case IAEA technicians need to go there to restore communication, he added. The IAEA sent a mission to Chornobyl in late April and a second mission about four weeks ago, to conduct safety, security and safeguards work.
With the exception of the ZNPP, the IAEA continues to receive remote safeguards data from Ukraine’s three other operational NPPs.
Ukraine separately informed the IAEA today that eight of the country’s 15 nuclear energy reactors are currently connected to the grid, including two at the ZNPP, three at the Rivne NPP, two at the South Ukraine NPP, and one at the Khmelnytskyy NPP. The seven other reactors are shut down for regular maintenance or held in reserve. Safety systems remain operational at the four NPPs, and they also continue to have off-site power available, Ukraine said.