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The ‘seven pillars’ used to assess the safety of Ukraine nuclear plant as war rages on

UN nuclear experts have provided their assessment of the safety of Zaporizhzhia’s Russian-controlled power plant. They say that its “physical integrity”, which has been subject to weeks of fighting, was “violated”.

Russia and Ukraine both blame each other for the damage caused by the shelling, raising fears of a radioactive catastrophe at the site.

Rafael Grossi, director general of International Atomic Energy Agency, gave his analysis on the safety and security at Europe’s largest nuclear plant. He used a traffic light-coded system to describe the seven pillars of assessment.

Grossi was the head of an IAEA team that visited the plant to assess its security after Russia took it in the early stages of the invasion and the welfare the remaining staff members.


Six of his nuclear watchdog experts are still with him. His agency has established a permanent presence at this plant where two of their current work will continue.

Image Seven ‘indispensable Pillars’ were set by the IAEA.

Putin forced to change his plans after failing – live updates about Ukraine war

These are the “seven pillars”:

:: 1. 1.

The plant has seen military activity. The team saw markings and impact holes on buildings caused by shelling.

Grossi stated that this means that the facility’s physical integrity was compromised not just once, but multiple times.

He stated to reporters that “it is evident that there is a lot fighting in the region.”

He spoke out about the increase in military activity in the region, saying “this concerns me a lot”, adding that shelling began in August and there is the possibility of further physical damage to the plant.

:: 2. Security and safety systems – Amber.

He stated that “most of them work and are functioning relatively well, but there have been interruptions related to the physical break of cables… and some systems not fully back in their place”.

:: 3. Conditions for employees – amber/red.

This was a major concern in the “unprecedented” situation of Ukrainian nuclear experts and military personnel working at the plant.

Grossi stated that it wasn’t fully red as the plant continues to work and there is a professional way to do so.

He said: “The plant has been operational, there is a professional relation between these experts – all of them are nuclear experts, so that they know what is happening, and what they are discussing. They are also human beings and have to choose sides in the war which is affecting their families.

Image Russian serviceman guards the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

:: 4. Off-site power supply amber/red

He stated that without an off-site power supply, the cooling systems for reactors will not work. This can lead to major accidents.

On several occasions, there have been interruptions or blackouts of one or two lines that supply the plant from outside.

He said that at the moment, there are two lines working.

:: 5. Logistical chains – green/amber

This category includes supplies and items like replacement parts that are needed in large industrial facilities.

“We were very probing about it – we were discussing the topic with people on-site – and they gave us the impression that there aren’t any problems,” Mr Grossi stated.

:: 6. Radiation monitoring and emergency responses – green/red

He said that there were interruptions and the red/green situation. However, some systems were functioning well so it was “a mixed bag”.

:: 7. Reliable communications with regulator – amber

According to Grossi, an “operating function with some problems”.

Directly after the announcement by Mr Grossi, Sky News’ security editor Deborah Haynes stated that despite the fact there had been a lot of shelling attacks in the nearby town yesterday morning, the team was at high risk. However, the mission was so important, they continued to go into the plant.

His assessment was very interesting. He created that chart to show the various elements of Europe’s most complex nuclear facility.

“Clearly, the plant’s physical integrity was evident by its large red colour. It has been shelled a few times.”

“It was fascinating that he stated that violence around the plant had been a problem for the past month. This is a sign that the increased fighting is actually increasing the risk to plant.

“Then, he went through all the other elements, highlighting in particular concern over power supply to the plant. That’s clearly a vulnerability.

He said that although the reactors are the core of the facility, they are extremely sturdy. However, the power supplies that supply the facility to ensure the cooling mechanisms are vitally important to keep it safe are not.


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