The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is going to establish a permanent presence at all operating nuclear power plants in Ukraine, as well as at Chernobyl, with the move seen as particularly important “at a time when Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the war and in the middle of winter”.
It means the Khmelnitsky, Rivne and South Ukraine plants will have permanent IAEA staffing, which is already the case at the Zaporizhzhia plant which is under Russian military control.
The announcement came after talks in Paris between IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhall, with Grossi saying: “Our mission at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has shown the vital importance of the IAEA being there to monitor the situation and give technical advice. Thanks to this presence, the IAEA is providing the world with impartial, technical and factual information about developments on the ground.”
The IAEA has already sent week-long nuclear safety and security missions to the four non-occupied sites over the past month, at Ukraine’s request.
Meanwhile at Zaporizhzhia, which has been under Russian military control since the start of March and which is on the frontline of the war between the two countries, the IAEA said that the plant had lost its backup 330kV power line, although it continues to receive electricity it needs for safety and security functions from a 750kV main external power line.
A number of mobile diesel-fuelled boilers are being tested and put into operation at the site, the IAEA said, and were “intended to prevent the critical systems from freezing during the winter, including heating of the working environment”.
These mobile generators are in addition to the 20 emergency diesel generators which are in stand-by mode ready to provide power if Zaporizhzhia loses its external supply. They have already been needed on a number of occasions this year but are not intended to be relied on for long-term use. The IAEA says that mobile generators are now also being added to the emergency back-up “as a precautionary measure”.
Talks are continuing about establishing a security and protection zone around the Zaporizhzhia plant. French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that steps were being taken towards an agreement, involving the removal of heavy weapons from the site.
However, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the Vienna-based international organisations, Mikhail Ulyano, said that the security zone was an issue for the IAEA, Russia and Ukraine, adding, according to the TASS news agency “it is not worthy of a French leader to release untrue assertions into the global media space”.
The plant has been hit by shelling a number of times during the war with both sides blaming the other. Ukraine has accused Russia of treating it as a military base. Ulyano said there had never been heavy weaponry at the facility, acccording to TASS, just “a limited number of light weapons” which were needed to “protect it from Ukrainian attacks and ensure physical nuclear security, in accordance with IAEA norms”.
Energoatom, the Ukrainian nuclear power plant operator, said that, away from Zaporizhzhia, all nine of its units were now operating at maximum capacity.