Chernobyl during Russia and Ukraine Conflict

Mendel

Senior Member.
Article:
09 Jun 2022

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano this morning reiterated the need for an expert mission to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, the site of which is under the control of Russian forces.

“The current situation is untenable. Every day it continues; every day that vital maintenance work is delayed; every day that supply chain interruptions cause a break in the delivery of vital equipment; every day the decision-making ability of Ukrainian staff is compromised; every day the independent work and assessments of Ukraine’s regulator are undermined; the risk of an accident or a security breach increases,” Mr Grossi said.

He said IAEA safeguards inspectors must be able to continue to fulfil their regular, indispensable verification activities at the plant in line with Ukraine’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and that the transmission of safeguards information to the IAEA had now been interrupted for more than a week.

Mr Grossi said the Ukrainian government at the highest levels has requested that the IAEA send a mission to Zaporizhzhya: “This mission is not a matter of wanting or wishing, it is an obligation on the side of Ukraine and on the side of the IAEA. The IAEA will go to Zaporizhzhya NPP under the legally binding safeguards agreement that Ukraine has with the IAEA.”

Mr Grossi detailed how on 24 February the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) was activated and that on the night and early morning of 3 and 4 March, the physical integrity of the site of the Zaporizhzhya plant was violated. For the first time since 2011, the IEC went to the highest alert level and has remained on alert since with teams on-call 24/7.

Mr Grossi said that military action has compromised the safety of radiation sources; destroyed infrastructure at Ukraine’s Neutron Source and other nuclear facilities; damaged waste repositories; threatened collateral damage at nuclear power plants and has negatively impacted the plants in Chornobyl and Zaporizhzhya, and their staff, in multiple ways.


Article:
12 Jun 2022

The transfer of safeguards data from IAEA systems installed at the ZNPP was cut on 30 May and re-established earlier today. The images recorded by IAEA surveillance cameras during this time period are now being downloaded for review by Agency inspectors to confirm that continuity of knowledge has not been lost.

The interval of physical inventory verifications at NPPs cannot exceed a specified duration. This is particularly critical at two of the units at ZNPP. In addition, these units have been refuelled in recent months and a physical verification of the nuclear material therein is a safeguards pre-requisite before re-starting them.

“If I am not able to dispatch inspectors to perform the required verification at ZNPP, implementation of safeguards in Ukraine will be compromised,” Director General Grossi added.


Article:
24 Jun 2022

The IAEA is aware of recent reports in the media and elsewhere indicating a deteriorating situation for Ukrainian staff at the country’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP), Director General Grossi said.

“The situation at this major nuclear power plant is clearly untenable. We are informed that Ukrainian staff are operating the facility under extremely stressful conditions while the site is under the control of Russian armed forces. The recent reports are very troubling and further deepen my concern about the well-being of personnel there,” he said.


Article:
27 Jun 2022

Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that shelling had caused additional damage to a nuclear research facility in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv on 25 June, but that radiation levels at the site remained normal, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said today.

The facility is designed to conduct research – in areas such as nuclear physics, radiation materials science, biology and chemistry – and radioisotope production for medical applications. Its nuclear assembly is subcritical, and the radioactive inventory is low. Before the conflict, the facility was under commissioning, but it is not currently operating.

The facility has been hit previously during the conflict and it lost its external power supply in March.

In the latest shelling, Ukraine told the IAEA that the facility’s infrastructure, including the cooling system and the diesel generator building, had been damaged. However, the diesel generator remained available if needed, it said.

Measurements carried out with a portable dosimeter on the same day showed that the radiation background in the experimental hall of the Neutron Source building was “within the standard limits”, Ukraine said.


Article:
29 Jun 2022

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.

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.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
ISW reports on Ukrainian propaganda efforts around Zaporizhzhia NPP:
Article:
Ukrainian sources warned on June 29 that Russian forces may be planning a false flag provocation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) to accuse Ukrainian authorities of mishandling nuclear facilities.[6] Ukrainian nuclear operating enterprise Energoatom stated that Russian occupation authorities are planning to throw unsafe objects into the cooling system at the NPP in order to compromise the plant’s cooling mechanisms.[7] Mayor of Enerhodar Dmytro Orlov added that Russian troops have been kidnapping and torturing employees of the NPP to coerce confessions that employees dropped weapons into the cooling systems to sabotage the plant and blame Ukrainian authorities for paying inadequate attention to the management of the NPP.[8]

False flag warnings reported this way often fail to be followed by actual false flag operations. So far, IAEA has not confirmed any of these reports. They may be an attempt to put political pressure on Russia to allow the overdue IAEA visit to the site.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Another ISW report:
Article:
Olga Kosharna, an independent expert on nuclear energy, stated on June 30 that Russia’s Rosatom (Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation) employees have been taking measures at the Zaporizhzhia NPP to potentially divert its energy to the Russian energy grid.[2] Kosharna added that Russian forces have been working in Chonhard (southern Kherson Oblast) to repair the main energy transmission line that runs into Crimea, which Ukrainian forces had destroyed in 2015 following Russia’s seizure of the transmission line after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Representatives of Ukraine’s Ukrenergo electricity transmission operator had stated as recently as late May that it would be physically impossible for Russia to divert Ukrainian electricity to Russia following the destruction of those transmission lines.[3]
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Article:
For the second time in a month, the IAEA on 25 June lost the connection to its safeguards surveillance systems installed at ZNPP. The IAEA worked with the operator to fix the problem and the transfer of data resumed on 1 July and has continued over the weekend, the Director General said. The previous time, the connection was lost for nearly two weeks, from 30 May until 12 June.

The IAEA has not been able to visit the ZNPP since before the current military conflict in Ukraine.

The IAEA is still experiencing a partial loss of safeguards data transfer from the Chornobyl NPP.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Article:
Ukraine informed the IAEA that the shelling had damaged the plant’s external power supply system but that two power lines remained operational, the Director General said. It had also triggered the emergency protection system of one of the plant’s three operating reactors. This unit was disconnected from the grid as a result of Friday’s events, Ukraine said.

Ukraine also informed the IAEA that there had been no damage to the reactors themselves, no radiological release and no reports of injuries. However, it said a nitrogen-oxygen station, which supports plant operations, and an auxiliary building were damaged. Firefighters had quickly extinguished a fire at the nitrogen-oxygen station, but it still needs to be repaired, Ukraine said. The IAEA has also received information about shelling near the spent fuel storage facility.

On Saturday morning, two of the ZNPP’s six units were operating and the radiation situation was normal, Ukraine told the IAEA.

Based on the limited information available, Director General Grossi said IAEA experts had made a preliminary assessment that the current nuclear safety and security situation at the ZNPP seemed stable, with no immediate threat to nuclear safety.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Article:
09 Aug 2022

Ukraine has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that a shelling incident on Saturday near the dry spent fuel storage facility at the country’s Zaporizhzya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) caused some damage, but that available radiation measurements continued to show normal levels at the site, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said today.

According to Ukraine, Saturday’s event – which occurred a day after previous shelling damaged the plant’s external power supply system – injured a Ukrainian security guard at the ZNPP. It also damaged walls, a roof and windows in the area of the spent fuel storage facility, as well as communication cables that are part of its radiation control system, with a possible impact on the functioning of three radiation detection sensors, Ukraine told the IAEA. But there was no visible damage to the containers with spent nuclear fuel or to the protective perimeter of the facility.

Article:
11 Aug 2022

The IAEA’s presence at the Zaporizhzya Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine would allow the organization to carry out important technical activities in nuclear safety, security and safeguards and at the same time provide a stabilizing influence, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told the UN Security Council today.

In a session to discuss the situation at the plant, which has been occupied by Russia since March, Mr Grossi reiterated his call for all military action to stop at the site, which came under shelling on 5 and 6 August.

The IAEA has received contradictory information from Ukraine and Russia about the status of the facility, its operation and the damage it sustained, and without a physical presence on site, IAEA experts are unable to corroborate these assessments.

Article:
12 Aug 2022

Ukraine said the latest incident – following last week’s shelling at the ZNPP – took place on Thursday afternoon and caused some damage, including of radiation monitoring equipment at the plant’s fire station. Ukraine initially also reported that a scheduled shift change had to be stopped, but it later told the IAEA that personnel rotation was back to normal. There were no casualties at the plant and its safety systems were not damaged, Ukraine added.


Not from IAEA:
Article:
Russian and Ukrainian authorities again accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Enerhodar, Zaporizhia Oblast on August 13. Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that Russian forces shelled the Zaporizhzhia NPP from positions in Vodyane on the southwestern outskirts of Enerhodar on the Dnipro River, damaging the first block of the pumping station of the Thermal and Underground Communicatons Workshop.[25] Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Ambassador to Russia Rodion Miroshnik claimed that Ukrainian forces fired nine rounds of unspecified munitions at the NPP from unspecified positions.[26] Geolocated footage posted to Twitter and Telegram on August 13 shows a Russian Pion 203mm artillery system operating roughly 11km from the Zaporizhzhia NPP.[27]
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
There's a spate of Zaporizhzya-related news from the IAEA that I haven't had time to report on, mostly related to the military actions involving the site.

Article:
Ukrainian authorities shut down the last active reactor at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on September 11. Ukrainian nuclear energy agency Energoatom announced that it began to prepare nuclear reactor no. 6 for a cold shutdown after Energoatom restored a backup powerline connecting the ZNPP to the Ukrainian power grid on September 11.[7] Energoatom stated that the reactor had been producing energy at 10-15% of its capability, the bare minimum necessary to sustain ZNPP operations.[8] Energoatom stated that a cold shutdown is the safest state for the ZNPP as frequent Russian shelling continues to damage power lines necessary to operate the plant safely.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Catching up on IAEA press releases:

Article:
05 Sep 2022

Also today, four IAEA experts left the ZNPP as planned after several days of essential nuclear safety, security and safeguards work. Two others are staying to maintain a continuing IAEA presence at the site, enabling the Agency to observe the situation there and provide independent assessments.

The six experts arrived at the ZNPP on 1 September as part of a team led by Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi that crossed the frontline to establish the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) at the plant in southern Ukraine. The ZNPP is held by Russian forces since early March, but its Ukrainian staff are continuing to operate the plant.


Article:
11 Sep 2022

IAEA experts present at the site of the ZNPP since 1 September – as part of the team led by Director General Grossi to establish the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) at the facility – were informed by senior Ukrainian plant staff that reactor unit 6 was shut down at 03:41am local time (02:41am CET). The other five units were already in cold shutdown and the plant is currently not providing any electricity to households, factories and others relying on it for their needs. The ZNPP is held by Russian forces since early March, but its Ukrainian staff are continuing to operate the plant.

Reactor unit 6 had been providing power to the ZNPP since the plant was disconnected from the grid on 5 September. But operating a reactor at low power is not a sustainable solution for a longer period because it could over time damage key equipment of the nuclear power plant, such as electricity-producing turbines and pumps.


Article:
12 Sep 2022

“This situation is untenable, and we are playing with fire. We cannot continue this situation where we are one step away from a nuclear accident. The safety of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is hanging by a thread.”


There are various reports of shelling and damage to the plant and to the power lines it depends in, but IAEA does not attribute this damage to a conflict party. They have also not said anything about military equipment stationed at the site, although the urgency Grossi attaches to his calls for a nuclear safety zone there would be in line with that.
 
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