7 July 2023, Kyiv – Amid reports that the Russian occupiers of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant are planning to put a second reactor at the site into less safe ‘hot shutdown’ mode, Greenpeace is calling on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to immediately intervene and demand that the Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, put Zaporizhzhia reactor 5 into cold shutdown and not change the current status of reactor 4 from cold shutdown to hot shutdown.
On 7 July, it was reported by Energoatom that Rosatom’s illegally appointed head of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Yuriy Chernichuk, had ordered preparations for moving reactor 4 to hot shutdown, in addition to reactor 5 being in hot shutdown since last year. Cold shutdown does not eliminate all safety hazards at the nuclear plant which still need cooling water and electricity – but cold shutdown does increase safety margins.
“The IAEA needs to step up the pressure on Rosatom who is illegally controlling the nuclear plant. It is fully aware of the risks of the current situation, with new Russian threats to nuclear safety emerging almost every hour,” said Jan Vande Putte, nuclear expert with Greenpeace Belgium, currently in Kyiv.
The IAEA is aware of increased risks if a reactor is maintained in hot shutdown. Despite this, its public communications have focused on the Russian justification for keeping the reactor in a more dangerous state.
Greenpeace has long questioned the close relationship between the IAEA and Russian nuclear industry, including the Deputy to DG Grossi, the recently reappointed IAEA Deputy Director, Mikhail Chudakov who was for many years a senior manager in Rosatom.
Reactor 5 has largely remained in so called hot-shutdown since last year, a status that reduces safety margins for the reactor increasing the risk of loss of cooling function potentially followed by a severe damage to the nuclear fuel core. On 8 June Ukraine’s nuclear regulator, SNRIU ordered the Zaporizhizhia nuclear plant owner, Energoatom, to immediately move reactor unit 5 to cold shutdown. But the Russian military and the state nuclear corporation, Rosatom have failed to act. On 30 June the IAEA repeated the Rosatom argument that steam was required for operations on the site.
The IAEA knows fully well that the hot shutdown status of reactors reduces safety margins in the event of, for example, a loss of cooling. The Russian threat to damage or destroy key infrastructure such as the cooling pond or the one remaining electricity line increases the risk of exactly the loss of cooling. An IAEA report from nearly 30 years ago states, “The risks during reactor shutdown, refuelling and startup are not negligible, therefore the premise that reactor shutdown inherently means "safe" is false. The events in the nuclear power plants, their investigation and evaluations regarding shutdown risk clearly show that the core-damage frequency for shutdown operation can be a substantial fraction of the total core-damage frequency.”
To help the spread of reliable and accurate information about what is happening at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is organising a webinar for journalists at 10a.m. CEST on 12 July. Greenpeace nuclear experts with 30 plus years of experience and Dr. Nikolaus Müllner, a nuclear scientist from Boku, will share analysis about the latest situation, potential risks around the ZNPP at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and potential scenarios of a radiological release. Journalists interested need to register here.
 Ukrinform, 7 July 2023 https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-ato/3732608-occupiers-plan-to-put-one-of-znpp-power-units-into-hot-shutdown-state.html
 Greenpeace calls for IAEA to suspend deputy over ties to Russian state nuclear energy corporation, 15 March 2022, see https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/52713/greenpeace-iaea-ties-russian-state-nuclear-energy/
 SNRIU Order restricts operation of ZNPP Unit 5 to cold shutdown condition, 8 June 2023, https://snriu.gov.ua/en/news/snriu-order-restricts-operation-of-znpp-unit-5-to-cold-shutdown-condition
 IAEA, Update 168 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine, 30 June 2023, see https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/update-168-iaea-director-general-statement-on-situation-in-ukraine-0
 Risks Associated with Shutdown in PWRs, IAEA international conference, 1996, see https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/29/035/29035011.pdf
Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace Belgium nuclear specialist in Ukraine +380 50 823 79 20
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace East Asia - +44 7904958286
Kateryna Bystrytska, comms officer of Greenpeace CEE, based in Ukraine: firstname.lastname@example.org