what does the “violation of the physical integrity of the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant” mentioned by the director of the IAEA mean?

what does the "violation of the physical integrity of the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant" mentioned by the director of the IAEA mean?

The hour of the first conclusions has come. At the end of the first day of inspection of the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant occupied by Russian forces, the director of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, estimated on Thursday 1 September that “the physical integrity of the plant [avait] repeatedly raped”, without giving further details.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency simply asserted that his teams in Ukraine had not “elements to assess this”but it was “something that [pouvait] not keep happening”. His statement comes as Europe’s most powerful power plant is at the heart of a communication war between Russia and Ukraine, who accuse each other of bombings on and around this plant. Moscow has also judged “very positive” that the IAEA was able to visit the premises. For its part, the Ukrainian operator of the plant, Energoatom, considers that “the Russian occupiers are doing everything possible to prevent the IAEA mission from knowing the facts on the ground”.

Asked by franceinfo, Karine Herviou, deputy director general of the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), tries to decipher Rafael Grossi’s sentence. According to her, the head of the IAEA refers to certain specific areas of the Zapoijjia site when he mentions a violation of “the physical integrity of the plant”. The areas “which contain radioactive materials such as dry storage buildings, spent fuel assemblies (uranium already spent in the reactor) or those for radioactive waste treatment“, she specifies.

The director of the AEIA, whose mission must focus on “go around the facilities and check the backup systems making sure they have been tested”according to Karine Herviou, gave some details on the work of her teams, extended until “Sunday or Monday”. The first step is to ensure that the physical integrity of the facilities is maintained, in particular at the level of the reactors and the spent fuel storage pools. This priority is in fact the first pillar nuclear power plant safety and securityas defined by the IAEA.

“We were able to visit the whole site. I was in the units [de réacteurs], I saw the emergency system and other rooms, the control rooms”, explained Rafael Grossi. He also welcomed the Ukrainian personnel still present at the plant which fell into the hands of Russian soldiers in March. The AEIA also hopes “maintain a permanent presence on the site”, in particular to work on the supply of electricity to the Zaporijjia power station. This element is highly important since it cools the reactors.

Just last week, the plant was disconnected from the electricity grid for a few hours, forcing the six reactors (two are still running) to use their emergency protection systems with generators. Therefore, the violation of the integrity of the plant referred to by the director of the AEIA “may also be related to power supply”, abounds Karine Herviou. However, “no abnormal increase in radioactivity was observed in Zaporizhia”reassures the Deputy Director General of IRSN.

The International Atomic Energy Agency identifies six other safety and security pillars of a nuclear power plant, in addition to the physical integrity of the facilities mentioned by its director. This is to ensure that the security systems are functional, that the staff works without pressure or that the plant has an off-site power supply that operates in a secure manner. Maintaining a continuous supply chain, radiation monitoring and site communication with authorities complete this picture. At the beginning of August, the agency judged that five of these seven pillars were no longer respected in the Zaporijjia power plant.

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