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IAEA: Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant facing 50% staff shortage, expiring fuel

Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) has just half of the highly trained and licensed personnel required for safe operation, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned on 6 February, dangerously threatening nuclear safety at Europe’s largest facility.
russian occupiers prepping hold hostage zaporizhzhia nuclear plant personnel
Russian troops at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, an illustrative image/ Source: Telegram channel, Tsaplienko
IAEA: Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant facing 50% staff shortage, expiring fuel

The head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, and Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Haluschenko said in a joint press conference that Zaporizhzhia NPP has just 5,000 staff but requires 10,000 trained and licensed personnel, alerting “a very fragile state” of the plant and the exponential growth of technical problems as the two-year mark of its occupation looms.

Russian troops occupied the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe, Zaporizhzhia NPP, in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast (southeastern Ukraine) on 4 March 2022. Its six reactors have all been in shutdown for nearly eighteen months, but still hold large amounts of nuclear fuel that must be kept adequately cooled. Russia restricts international observers’ access to the nuclear power plant.

The IAEA chief also detailed external power supply concerns from past blackouts and reservoir issues impacting the facility’s cooling systems. “There is no assurance of stability,” Grossi assessed.

Furthermore, Grossi and Haluschenko outlined issues with Zaporizhzhia’s nuclear fuel rods, many reaching their 6-year designed operating lifetimes. With expiration, fuel unloading and storage would significantly influence nuclear safety, they said.

The IAEA chief also met with President Zelenskyy, discussing the current security situation at the nuclear plant, the risks posed by its occupation by Russian troops, and the importance of Ukraine’s election to the IAEA Board of Governors until 2025. However, the Russian Federation is also on the board for the same period.

On 7 February, Grossi will visit the Zaporizhzhia power plant for the fourth time since its occupation. The IAEA head vowed “to insist on conducting the deepest possible assessment from our side on the technical condition” of the plant.

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