IAEA’s Urgent Plea for an Immediate Ceasefire around Ukraine Reactors

September 10th, 2022 - by International Atomic Energy Agency & Al-Jazeera & Arms Control Association

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi / International Atomic Energy Agency

Director General’s Warning on Dire Situation at
Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant


VIENNA, Austria (September 9, 2022) — Today, I have learned from IAEA staff on the site of the serious situation that developed last night at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).

The power infrastructure feeding the city of Enerhodar, home to the NPP’s operators and their families, has been destroyed by shelling of the switchyard at the city’s thermal power plant, leading to a complete power black-out in Enerhodar: no running water, no power, no sewage.

Given the increased and continued shelling, there is little likelihood of re-establishing reliable offsite power to the ZNPP, especially as the shelling continually and repeatedly damages the power infrastructure.

As a result, the IAEA understands that the operator, having no longer confidence in the restoration of offsite power, is considering shutting down the only remaining operating reactor. The entire power plant would then be fully reliant on emergency diesel generators for ensuring vital nuclear safety and security functions. And as a consequence, the operator would not be able to re-start the reactors unless offsite power was reliably re-established.

Furthermore, there are indications that, with the increasingly dire circumstances that the people of Energodar are facing, there is the significant risk of an impact on the availability of essential staff on site to continue to safely and securely operate ZNPP.

This is an unsustainable situation and is becoming increasingly precarious. Enerhodar has gone dark. The power plant has no offsite power. And we have seen that once infrastructure is repaired, it is damaged once again.

This is completely unacceptable. It cannot stand.

I therefore urgently call for the immediate cessation of all shelling in the entire area. Only this will ensure the safety and security of operating staff and allow the durable restoration of power to Enerhodar and to the power plant.

This dramatic development demonstrates the absolute imperative to establish a nuclear safety and security protection zone now.

This is the only way to ensure that we do not face a nuclear accident.

IAEA Warns Blackout Threatens Safety
at Ukraine Nuclear Plant

UN nuclear watchdog warns shelling
‘compromises safe operation’ of
Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power plant


(September 9, 2022) — A blackout caused by new shelling near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has compromised the site’s safety, the UN atomic watchdog has warned, adding the plant’s operator is considering shutting down the sole remaining reactor.

“Shelling has caused a complete blackout in [Erenhodar] and compromised the safe operation of the nearby Zaporizhzhia [plant],” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi tweeted on Friday, calling it a “dramatic development”.

“This is completely unacceptable. It cannot stand,” he said, calling for “the immediate cessation of all shelling in the entire area”.

“Only this will ensure the security of operating staff and allow the durable restoration of power to Energodar and to the power plant,” he added.

The Zaporizhzhia plant is Europe’s largest nuclear power facility.

It was occupied by Russian troops in March and has been shelled in recent weeks, with Ukraine and Russia blaming each other for the attacks, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.

Grossi said he learned of the shelling on Friday from IAEA staff on the site.

The shelling of the switchyard at Energodar’s thermal power plant has led to a “complete power black-out” in the city, where the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is located, he said.

“No running water, no power, no sewage,” he said.

‘Significant Risk’
Plant operators and others living in Enerhodar faced “increasingly dire circumstances”, with a “significant risk” there would no longer be enough essential staff at the plant.

And there was “little likelihood of re-establishing reliable offsite power” given the increased and continued shelling, he added.

“As a result, the IAEA understands that the operator, having no longer confidence in the restoration of offsite power, is considering shutting down the only remaining operating reactor,” he said.

The plant in recent days has relied on this reactor for the power it needs for cooling and other safety functions.

“The entire power plant would then be fully reliant on emergency diesel generators for ensuring vital nuclear safety and security functions,” Grossi warned.å

Russia said it backed Grossi’s call.

“We fully support the appeal and demand of the #IAEA Director General that shelling of the town of Enerhodar and the #ZNPP must stop immediately,” its ambassador to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov said on Twitter.

The IAEA called on Tuesday for a security zone to be set up around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, saying the current situation was “untenable”.

The IAEA sent a 14-person team to the site last week. Two members are remaining there on a permanent basis to ensure the facility’s safety.

Kyiv on Wednesday called for an international mission to be set up at the plant and for the population to evacuate the area amid fears of a nuclear disaster

Attacks on Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Intensify

Kelsey Davenport / Arms Control Association

(September 2022) — Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant came under attack multiple times in August, highlighting the risks posed by Russia’s occupation and militarization of the facility and leading to renewed calls for a demilitarized zone around the site.

Russia took over Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in early March in violation of international law and has refused to withdraw from the site, despite pressure to do so from world leaders. (See ACT, June 2022.) Since then, it has used the operating nuclear facility for stationing troops and munitions.

Fighting intensified around the plant in August. It included an Aug. 5 attack that caused a temporary power shutdown and an Aug. 6 rocket attack that Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom said deliberately targeted the structure used to store spent fuel. Some 174 casks of spent fuel are stored at Zaporizhzhia. Russia denied the attacks and blamed Ukraine instead.

On Aug. 25, Zaporizhzhia was temporarily disconnected from the electricity grid after fires caused by shelling damaged the power plant’s lines.

The Aug. 6 incident prompted UN Secretary-General António Guterres to call for an end to the “suicidal” attacks on the plant. He renewed his appeal for Ukraine and Russia to cease fighting around the facility on Aug. 11 and to establish “a safe perimeter of demilitarization to ensure the safety of the area” after further strikes caused additional damage. Guterres also called for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) personnel to visit the site, which Moscow and Kyiv say they support.

The IAEA has sought access to Zaporizhzhia in the past, and Russia agreed to allow an IAEA team into the facility in June, but security concerns ultimately prevented the visit.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi told the UN Security Council during an Aug. 11 meeting about the situation at Zaporizhzhia that based on the most recent assessments, the rocket attacks caused “no immediate threat to nuclear safety” but that assessment “could change at any moment.”

He said both sides must “cooperate with the IAEA and allow for a mission” to Zaporizhzhia as soon as possible. As the situation grew more dire, Grossi and his 14-member team entered Ukraine on Aug. 29 for a brief site visit.

Grossi said he is in touch with Russia and Ukraine regarding operations at the plant, but the information provided is often contradictory. He also raised concerns about the Ukrainian staff that continue to operate the reactor under significant stress. An IAEA presence can evaluate the working conditions of the staff and would be “beneficial to the operations and regulators” of the plant, he said.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council that Ukraine has negotiated modalities for access with the IAEA. He blamed Russia for demanding “unjustified conditions” for the IAEA visit. He also accused Russia of planning to cut Zaporizhzhia off from supplying electricity to Ukraine and urged the international community to press Russia to withdraw from the facility and remove its military personnel and weaponry.

Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the UN, said that Moscow is abiding by IAEA guidelines and blamed Ukraine for creating a security situation at Zaporizhzhia that is unconducive for an agency visit.

During the Security Council meeting, Bonnie Jenkins, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, called for Russia to end its “illegal presence” at the facility and return full control of Zaporizhzhia to Ukraine. She said, “Russia alone created risks,” and it “can eliminate those risks now by withdrawing from Ukraine.”

The United States joined more than 40 countries and the European Union in an Aug. 12 statement saying that the Russian military presence at Zaporizhzhia is “unacceptable and disregards the safety, security, and safeguards principles that all members of the IAEA have committed to respect.”

The statement urged Russia to withdraw immediately from the facility and surrounding areas so that “legitimate operating staff can conduct their duties without outside interference, threat, or unacceptably harsh working conditions.”

The Security Council meeting about Zaporizhzhia took place while states were gathered at the UN to review the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Jenkins said in her Aug. 11 statement that it was “especially galling” that Russia’s actions are taking place during the NPT review conference.

Russia’s actions “could not more directly undercut” the interests that NPT member states have in “strengthening nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” Jenkins added.

In an Aug. 9 statement, the Ukrainian delegation to the NPT review conference called for the international community to “close the sky over the nuclear power plants of Ukraine and to provide air defense systems” to protect the country’s nuclear power plants.

Other states raised concerns about attacks on Zaporizhzhia causing a nuclear disaster and called for strengthening norms against attacking peaceful nuclear facilities during conflict.

The NPT does not prohibit attacks against nuclear sites, but Protocol I of the 1949 Geneva Conventions does prohibit the targeting of “installations containing dangerous forces,” including “nuclear electrical generating stations…if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent severe losses among the civilian population.”

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