Faced with risk “real disaster”, the nuclear policeman went to the scene. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, announced on Monday August 29 that he was on his way to the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant. Located in the south-east of Ukraine, it has been the target in recent weeks of strikes in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
“We must protect the security of Ukraine and the largest power plant in Europe”insists Rafael Mariano Grossi on Twitter, accompanying his message with a photo of his team made up of a dozen people. Franceinfo returns to the objectives of this highly anticipated mission of the UN organization.
The day has come, @IAEAorg‘s Support and Assistance Mission to #Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) is now on its way. We must protect the safety and security of #Ukraine‘s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility. Proud to lead this mission which will be in #ZNPP later this week. pic.twitter.com/tyVY7l4SrM
— Rafael MarianoGrossi (@rafaelmgrossi) August 29, 2022
Carry out “urgent rescue activities”
This is one of the missions set out by the IAEA on Twitter: once there, you will have to “ecarry out urgent safeguarding activities”, she warns.
This week, DG @rafaelmgrossi leads the IAEA Support & Assistance Mission to #Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) to:
Assess physical damage
Determine functionality of safety & security systems
Evaluate staff conditions
Perform urgent safeguards activities
— IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) August 29, 2022
A declaration which joins the procedures briefly mentioned by Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director of the AEIA, in an interview at World, August 26. He mentions the need to “repair the essential” of the facility, and adds want “restart transmission systems that have been damaged.”
Last Thursday, the site was briefly “disconnected” from the network after the damage of power lines, according to the Ukrainian operator Energoatom. Always according to operator, fires near the Zaporijjia thermal power plant, close to the nuclear power plant, twice caused the disconnection of the last line connecting the site to the electricity grid.“Three More Lines” electrical had been “previously damaged in terrorist attacks” Russians, Energoatom continued. According to Karine Herviou, Deputy Director General of the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety interviewed on August 29 on Franceinfo, it is therefore absolutely necessary to restore “either an electrical supply line or refueling the plant”.
Assess battle damage
The ten experts from the UN organization will also have the task of inspecting the plant to see the extent of the damage caused by the six months of war. “The mission will assess the damage caused to the plant’s installations, determine whether the safety, security and emergency systems are functional (…)”, thus warns the IAEA in a press release published on its websiteSunday, August 28. In detail, the agency plans to“inspect spent fuel storage pools and [de s]to tackle the sensitive issue of electricity supply, which is essential for cooling reactors”explains Rafael Mariano Grossi in The world.
At the same time, the IAEA should “verify the state of reactors and stocks of nuclear materials to ensure that they are not being diverted from their peaceful use”further specifies the agency in its press release.
Appreciate the working conditions of the staff
Although controlled by Russian forces since the beginning of March, Zaporijjia has indeed been exploited by its Ukrainian personnel since the beginning of the conflict. All the work of the experts consists in establishing under what conditions this work was carried out.
“You can imagine that the staff are under great pressure, on the battle line, that their families are perhaps also affected”, Advance Karine Hervioualways for franceinfo. The IAEA should therefore “discuss with the operatorthe personnel of the plant, to see if they are able to carry out their function, that is to say to maintain the systems and the safety of all the systems of the plant”she adds.
In his interview at World, the director of the AEIA declared that he wanted to formulate “recommendations that will be disseminated in an official and impartial manner”, at the end of the visit. Even in a crisis situation, the agency has no decision-making power. Its role is limited to making recommendations and reporting its findings in a report. Rafael Mariano Grossi also claims to want “experts from the agency can remain permanently at Zaporizhia“, after this assignment.
Attempt to restore stability around the plant
While for several weeks, kyiv and Moscow have been accusing each other of carrying out bombings near the plant, the international community is counting on an easing of tensions after the intervention of the IAEA. “The way to stabilize the situation is to have an international presence there,” thus declared the director of the IAEA for France 24last Thursday.“I have no official mediator role between Russia and Ukraine, my mandate is limited. My mission is of a technical nature. (…) I want to believe that our presence there will have a effect, if not dissuasive, at least real”he completed in the interview for The world.
The role of the IAEA mission remains to be put into perspective, however, according to Bruno Chareyron, director of the laboratory of the Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity (CRIIRAD). “This is a new step, but we must remain very careful. As long as there is no demilitarization of this area, the problem will not be solved by a simple one-off mission. This endangers the plant, it’s the bombardments”, does he insist on The Parisian. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called on Thursday for the demilitarization of the nuclear power plant. A call that has so far gone unanswered.