Ukraine’s Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) still has enough essential staff for its current reduced level of operations. However, the continued lack of maintenance personnel on-site could “negatively impact nuclear safety and security” and is “not sustainable,” the Director General of the United Nation’s (UN) International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Friday (12 May).
“It is not sustainable to maintain this major nuclear power plant for extended periods with only essential staffing. The safety of the plant, even in a shutdown state, requires adequate maintenance of plant equipment, as well as other regular and important work. It is concerning that the established maintenance programme was not followed for many months now,” the Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi said.
Last week, several reports emerged regarding an evacuation of residents from the town of Enerhodar, home to staff from the nuclear power plant.
The IAEA team observed that there have been fewer staff on-site over the past week, but they were still able to confirm that essential personnel working in the main control rooms were available and present during each shift.
The IAEA experts were informed that the past week’s reduced number of staff was due to the recent holiday period and the current situation in the region. The site’s management added that it remained a “priority” to have sufficient staff to meet all relevant regulatory requirements, including those for nuclear and industrial safety, IAEA said.
“In the medium and longer term, this is increasing the risk of a nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment. There must be staff available to properly maintain the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant and to ensure it remains in a safe state at all times,” Director General said.
Alongside the reduced number of staff, the plant is also facing an absence of external contractors who previously performed part of the maintenance work and a lack of spare parts needed for the maintenance, including critical components, the UN agency said.