IAEA meets again with Rosatom officials on safety of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

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Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom Director General (DG) Alexey Likhachev discussed issues related to the safety situation in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) in the current context of conflict in Ukraine, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi in the Russian city of Kaliningrad on June 23, 2023, according to a statement by Rosatom, which currently operates the Zaporizhzhya NPP.     

During the discussions, both delegations addressed issues raised by Grossi at the UN Security Council briefing on May 30, where the security situation at the nuclear facility was reviewed, the statement said. 

“The IAEA Director General explained how he sees the Agency’s future actions in connection with the theses he formulated in this regard. For their part, Alexey Likhachev and other speakers emphasized that now they expect the IAEA Secretariat to take specific steps to prevent strikes by the Ukrainian Armed Forces both on the ZNPP and on adjacent territory and critical supporting infrastructure facilities,” the Rosatom statement said.  

The meeting was also attended by Alexander Trembitsky, Head of Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service of Russia (ROSTECHNADZOR); Vladimir Mashevsky, Head of the General Directorate of Site Protection of the Federal National Guard Troops Service; Mikhail Kondratenkov, Acting Deputy Director of the Department for Non-proliferation and Arms Control of Russia’s Foreign Ministry; and a representative of the Russian CBRN troops. Besides IAEA Director General, his deputies Massimo Aparo and Lydie Evrard took part in the meeting. 

Likhachev told the IAEA Director General about measures being taken by the Russian side “to ensure safe operation of the Zaporozhskaya NPP, including its water supply, after the Kakhovka HPP dam was destroyed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” the statement said.  

According to Rosatom, both parties also discussed the results of Grossi’s visit to the plant on June 15 this year. The IAEA Director General visited the open switchyard at the Zaporizhzhia thermal power plant, one of the key elements of ZNPP’s external power supply infrastructure, where he was shown the consequences of kamikaze drone attacks by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. 

During his visit to the plant, the Agency’s Director General was able to personally verify that ZNPP’s hydraulic structures are in normal operation and the water supply in the cooling pond is sufficient for safe operation of the plant, the statement added.  

Last month, the IAEA said that it saw “no immediate nuclear safety risk” from the damage at Ukraine’s Nova Kakhovka dam but is exploring options to get water to keep Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant’s reactors cool after a dam in southern Ukraine was damaged. 

“The water level in the reservoir that is supplying Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has been falling throughout the day, but the facility has back-up options available and there is no short-term risk to nuclear safety and security,” Grossi told the IAEA Board of Governors. 

Following Grossi’s visit to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant last month, the IAEA said in a statement that the ZNPP is planning to resume pumping water that still remains accessible despite a major loss of water in the Kakhovka reservoir caused by the destruction of the downstream dam. 

“For the past two weeks, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP) has received the cooling water it needs from the reserves held by a discharge channel of the nearby Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP). This is separate from the reservoir, whose water level has plunged since the dam was severely damaged on 6 June (2023),” it said. 

Water from this channel is used to supply the ZNPP’s spray ponds which are cooling the six shut down reactors and spent fuel storage. This water also keeps a separate large cooling pond at the plant full, mainly compensating for evaporation. As a result, and in line with expectations, the channel’s water level has been declining by up to 10 centimetres per day and is currently measured at just over 17 metres, IAEA said  

“The water in this channel is still projected to provide cooling for many weeks. Also, the IAEA team of experts at the site was informed by the plant that the ZNPP spray ponds are also replenished through pumping from a drainage system fed by underground water in the area of the ponds,” the statement added. 

According to the IAEA, the ZNPP is now preparing to replenish the ZTPP discharge channel, either by pumping water from the ZTPP inlet channel, which was the normal practice prior to the dam damage, or from a body of water in the ZNPP port. The latter was created months ago by dredging the bottom of the port to ensure that some water was retained in case the water levels in the reservoir dropped below the level where water could be fed from the ZTPP inlet channel. 

Pumping additional water into the discharge channel would give the ZNPP more time until it may be required to use the much larger cooling pond. 

“Together, the large cooling pond, the smaller spray ponds, and the discharge channel have sufficient water for some months, but the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is also taking action to preserve and replenish these reserves as much as possible,” said Director General Grossi, who travelled to the facility last week to assess the increasingly challenging nuclear safety and nuclear security situation there, the IAEA added.