Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi held a positive and constructive meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv today, discussing the situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in light of recent developments regarding the ownership of the facility and their consequences.
They also discussed the Director General’s proposal for the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the plant and agreed to meet again after his impending trip to the Russian Federation.
The difficulties for personnel at the ZNPP have intensified this week, with staff facing demands to sign a new employment contract with Russian state company Rosatom to keep their jobs, while national Ukrainian operator Energoatom is urging them not to do so and instead follow its instructions.
Director General Grossi said ZNPP staff were being subjected to unacceptable pressure, carrying out their crucial work tasks under increasingly difficult conditions with potentially severe consequences for nuclear safety and security.
“This is a particularly dangerous moment for the safety and security of the ZNPP. Staff at the plant are being forced to make a hugely difficult decision for themselves and their loved ones. The enormous pressure they are facing must stop,” he said.
Europe’s largest nuclear power plant is held by Russian forces but is operated by its Ukrainian staff. Over the past seven months, the staff have continued to conduct their important duties in order to prevent the danger of a nuclear accident during the current military conflict, in extremely challenging circumstances with frequent shelling at the plant or near it.
“The plant’s courageous staff deserve our sincere gratitude and respect for continuing to fulfil their vital tasks in unimaginably difficult conditions, with their workplace located in the middle of a war zone. There is a need for urgent action to make their jobs and lives easier, not the opposite,” Director General Grossi said.
The Director General, who has repeatedly expressed grave concern about the stressful and challenging working conditions at the ZNPP, said the psychological impact on staff was detrimental to nuclear safety and security.
The latest developments risk exacerbating the situation by leading to confusion on who is charge as well as ambiguity about the command-and-control chain at the plant, he said.
This week’s developments could have a direct impact on several of the seven indispensable nuclear safety and security pillars the Director General outlined in March, including one stating that “operating staff must be able to fulfil their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure” and another saying, “there must be reliable communications with the regulator and others”.
Separately today, the IAEA team at the ZNPP reported that there had been shelling in an industrial area close to the access road to the plant.