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IAEA seeks expanded access to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Rafael Grossi.
Rafael Grossi. Screenshot from video
IAEA seeks expanded access to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Amid concerns over cooling capabilities at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the IAEA has requested expanded access for a thorough investigation

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has requested broader access to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) in Ukraine. The aim is to investigate a “significant discrepancy” in the water level data at the damaged Kakhovka dam, used for cooling the plant’s reactors. The IAEA Director General, Rafael Grossi, announced the need for expanded access in a statement on the agency’s website.

IAEA Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, stated the level of the Kakhovka reservoir, which supplies water to cool the nuclear power plant’s reactors and spent fuel storage, has been falling rapidly after a downstream dam was severely damaged five days prior. This reservoir’s water level, as measured at the inlet of the Zaporizhzhia Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP), had stabilized for a day over the weekend. Yet the height reportedly continues to drop elsewhere in the reservoir, causing a possible difference of approximately two meters compared with the level reported by the ZTPP.

Grossi said, “It is possible that this discrepancy in the measured levels is caused by an isolated body of water separated from the larger body of the reservoir. But we will only be able to know when we gain access to the thermal power plant.”

At the current height by the ZTPP, the water pumps remain operable but are not being continuously operated as both the ZTPP channel and a large cooling pond near the ZNPP are full, holding enough water reserves for several months of cooling requirements.

Grossi emphasized the vital importance of maintaining the integrity of the ZNPP cooling pond and the ZTPP discharge channel for the safety of the plant.

Grossi also highlighted the crucial role of the thermal power plant in ensuring the safety and security of the ZNPP, and expressed his expectation that IAEA experts would soon gain access to independently assess the situation. He will personally raise this matter with the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, he added.

The Director General also mentioned that the IAEA requires access to the electrical switchyard of the ZTPP, which has been used in the past to provide back-up power to the ZNPP. The last 330 kV line of the ZTPP switchyard is still unavailable after being disconnected over three months ago. Now, the ZNPP, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, relies entirely on a remaining 750 kV power line for off-site electricity, which has been disrupted repeatedly since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Despite the ZNPP not producing electricity for several months, it still needs access to water and power for cooling and other safety and security functions to prevent the risk of a potential fuel meltdown and release of radioactive material. Currently, five reactors at the ZNPP are in cold shutdown, while the sixth unit remains in hot shutdown to produce steam that contributes to safety on the site. The installation of an independent steam boiler that would enable unit 5 to also enter cold shutdown while still supplying steam to the site is being considered.

What’s the worst that can happen at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant? Four scenarios

On 8 June, Ihor Syrota, the head of Ukrhydroenergo, stated that the level in the Kakhovka reservoir had dropped below the “dead point,” making it impossible to draw water for the needs of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and populated areas.

Concerns for the safety of the plant have been mounting since the occupation of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, Europe’s larges nuclear power plant.

Ukraine made secret, unsuccessful attempt to retake Zaporizhzhia NPP – The Times

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