Update 131 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has once again lost access to external electricity and is instead relying on its emergency diesel generators for the power it needs for reactor cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today, using information provided by the IAEA staff on the site.

Also today, Ukraine’s national operator Energoatom said that “due to a decrease in the frequency in the power system of Ukraine at the Rivne, South Ukraine and Khmelnytskyy nuclear power plants, emergency protection worked, as a result of which all power units were automatically disconnected. Currently, they work in the design mode, without generation into the power system”. It also said that the radiation background at the NPP sites is normal.

The latest incident at the ZNPP highlights the increasingly precarious and challenging nuclear safety and security situation at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, coming just a few days after it was repeatedly shelled, Director General Grossi said.

The ZNPP has been disconnected from the national grid several times during the current military conflict in Ukraine, most recently in early November when it took two days to restore external power supplies.

The team of IAEA experts present at the ZNPP said it lost off-site power at 3:30pm local time today when it was fully disconnected from the grid, following reports of widespread military action targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Initially all the site’s 20 diesel generators started operating automatically, and now eight of them are supplying the site with back-up electricity needed for all safety related equipment. The other 12 diesel generators are in stand-by mode.

The IAEA team also reported that the plant’s operating personnel were performing all activities according to procedures for a loss of off-site power event and that the six reactors were in a safe and stable state. The two reactors that have been in a hot shutdown mode to provide the plant and the nearby town of Enerhodar with steam and heating will be prepared for cooling down. The four others remain in cold shutdown.

The need for secure off-site power supply from the grid for all nuclear sites is one of the seven indispensable pillars for ensuring nuclear safety and security during an armed conflict that the Director General outlined in March.

Reactors need power for cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions also when they are in shutdown mode and do not produce electricity anymore. In the case of an external power loss, they have emergency diesel generators that can provide back-up electricity for a limited period of time, at least for 10 days in the case of the ZNPP.

Earlier today, the Director General met a Russian delegation led by Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev in Istanbul, for consultations on operational aspects related to safety at the ZNPP and on the need to urgently establish a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the plant.

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