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IAEA Chief Grossi to Head Assistance Mission to Ukraine's Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant Next Week

International Atomic Energy Agency

78/2022
Vienna, Austria

22 Apr 2022

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, will head an expert mission to Ukraine's Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) next week to step up efforts to help prevent the danger of a nuclear accident during the current conflict in the country.

The team of IAEA nuclear safety, security and safeguards staff will be in Chornobyl from 26 April to deliver vital equipment and conduct radiological and other assessments at the site, which was held by Russian forces for five weeks before they withdrew on 31 March.

"The IAEA's presence at Chornobyl will be of paramount importance for our activities to support Ukraine as it seeks to restore regulatory control of the plant and ensure its safe and secure operation," Director General Grossi said. "It will be followed by more IAEA missions to this and other nuclear facilities in Ukraine in the coming weeks."

The Director General travelled to another key Ukrainian nuclear site last month - the South Ukraine NPP - to start the implementation of the IAEA's assistance initiative aimed at reducing the risk of a major nuclear accident that could have severe consequences for both human health and the environment, in Ukraine and beyond.

Since the beginning of the conflict in late February, Director General Grossi has expressed grave concern about the safety and security of Ukraine's nuclear facilities. He has also stressed the IAEA's commitment and readiness to help ensure that the seven indispensable pillars for ensuring safety and security are adhered to. Several of them - including the physical integrity of facilities, the ability of operational staff to work without undue pressure, and the access to off-site power - have been seriously compromised over the past two months. In March, for example, the Chornobyl NPP lost both external communications and off-site power, forcing it to rely on emergency diesel generators for several days.

During its first such mission to Chornobyl, the IAEA will provide the operator with different types of radiation monitoring equipment, including radionuclide identification devices and gamma dose rate meters. Personal protective equipment will also be delivered to the plant.

"Based on our scientific measurements and technical evaluations, we will be able to better understand the radiological situation there," Director General Grossi said.

In addition, IAEA safeguards experts will repair remote safeguards monitoring systems installed at the site, which stopped transmitting data to the Agency's headquarters in Vienna at the start of the conflict.

Since the withdrawal of the Russian military from the Chornobyl NPP, Ukraine has taken significant steps for the safe and secure operation of the site of the 1986 accident, where various radioactive waste management facilities are now located. It has carried out the first rotation of staff in three weeks, and earlier this week it re-established direct communications between the NPP and the nuclear regulator that had been down for more than a month.

But the general situation in the area around the site known as the Exclusion Zone remains difficult, in part due to damaged bridges and de-mining activities, Ukraine told the IAEA this week.

As he did at the South Ukraine NPP, Director General Grossi will meet with staff at Chornobyl to thank them in person for their courage, resilience, and determination in carrying out their important work duties during extremely difficult circumstances. Unable to go home and rest for several weeks, many of them worked non-stop at the site when it was controlled by Russian forces.

"I look forward to being able to talk to the staff and to express my deep gratitude for everything they have achieved during such immensely stressful and challenging conditions. They have been through more than we can imagine, and they deserve our full respect and admiration for preserving the safety and security of the site despite the dire situation," he said.

In close coordination with Ukraine, the IAEA has drawn up detailed plans for its safety and security assistance to the country's nuclear sites, which include fifteen reactors at four plants as well as the Chornobyl NPP, where the world's worst nuclear accident took place exactly 36 years ago on 26 April.

"Over the past two months, nuclear safety in Ukraine has been seriously jeopardised on several occasions. So far, the worst-case scenario has been avoided. But we need to intensify our efforts to make sure that remains the case. The IAEA will do everything it can to help prevent the conflict from also leading to a nuclear accident, in addition to the vast human suffering and major destruction it has already caused," Director General Grossi said.

Over the past several decades, the IAEA has provided support for the decommissioning and radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel management at Chornobyl.

"The IAEA knows the Chornobyl NPP very well. This local knowledge - coupled with our nuclear safety, security and safeguards expertise - means that we can quickly establish exactly what needs to be done, and how and where," Director General Grossi said.

The Director General is expected to hold a press conference upon his return to Vienna on Thursday.



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