Following the shelling which caused damage in and around Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Mariano Grossi has met Rosatom’s director general to discuss the situation, and possible safety measures.
The meeting was announced by the IAEA via a tweet saying Grossi had “met a Russian delegation led by Rosatom DG Alexey Likhachev in Istanbul today, for consultations on operational aspects related to safety at Zaporizhzhya NPP in Ukraine & on urgently establishing a nuclear safety & security protection zone”.
Russia’s official TASS news agency reported Rosatom – Russia’s nuclear energy company – as saying: “Rosatom CEO Alexey Likhachev held a regular working meeting with IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi in Istanbul on 23 November. The meeting was attended by Rostekhnadzor chief [Alexander] Trembitsky.”
It said the three men “discussed in detail the situation” at and around the plant “and the role the IAEA mission has been playing in ensuring safety there. In this light, the IAEA’s prompt reaction to massive bombardments of the power plant that took place on November 20 was highlighted. The sides agreed to continue their cooperation. They had a substantive and candid conversation”.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has six reactors, making it the largest in Europe. It has been under the control of Russian military forces since early in March, although its Ukrainian staff have continued to operate it. It is located on the frontline of the war, with Russia claiming that it is now Russian as a result of annexation of Ukrainian territory declared by its president in September. A new Russian operating company has been established to run it. But Ukraine has rejected the annexation announcements by Russia and Ukrainian nuclear energy giant Energoatom says it continues to be in charge of, and run, the Zaporizhzhia plant.
The IAEA says that it continues to treat Zaporizhzhia as Ukrainian but Grossi has said that his priority is talking to both sides about establishing a safety, protective zone at and around the plant. Both Ukraine and Russia have said they back the idea, although it has not yet been possible to agree the details. IAEA officials have been stationed at the plant since early September, and there had been a lull in shelling of the site until the weekend. There have been a number of times that emergency diesel generators have been required after external power supply has been lost as a result of damage to infrastructure away from the plant itself.
Ukraine and Russia have both blamed the other side for the shelling of the plant. Grossi said at the weekend of the shelling that “even though there was no direct impact on key nuclear safety and security systems at the plant, the shelling came dangerously close to them. We are talking metres, not kilometres. Whoever is shelling at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, is taking huge risks and gambling with many people’s lives.”
One other area covered by the talks may have been comments from Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the head of Russia’s Rosenergoatom nuclear power engineering company, who was reported by TASS on Sunday as saying that access to IAEA officials will be given “but strictly within their mandate … the IAEA is an organisation addressing issues of nuclear security. Naturally, we will give them access to corresponding facilities. But if they want to inspect the facility, which has no relation to nuclear security, access will be denied. Not because we want to conceal anything, but because they should work within their mandate”.