Open letter from civil society organizations regarding the situation in Ukraine

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Dear International Atomic Energy Agency,

We, the undersigned, represent civil society organizations around the world.

We are deeply concerned about the safety of the Ukrainian people in the context of the current military aggression, which has put the lives of civilians in great danger, threatening a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe.

Specifically, we are very concerned about the current situation at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and at Ukraine’s 15 commercial reactors. We understand that Russian forces have taken control of the Chernobyl nuclear site and are also approaching – or may even occupy – the six-unit Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in eastern Ukraine.

We currently have little information regarding the radiation safety of these sites and the other three nuclear power plant sites.

According to Ukraine’s online radiation monitoring sites SaveEcoBot and MEDO, radiation data provided by the State Specialized Enterprise Chernobyl nuclear power plant has not been fully updated since the morning of February 25, 2022. The data from the Chernobyl site recorded an exceptional jump. in the radiation count of 65,500 nSv/h at 9:50 p.m. on February 24. Another worrying increase of 93,000 nSv/h was recorded at 10:40 a.m. on February 25.

On February 28, 2022, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a statement that:

Last week, Ukraine informed the IAEA that Russian forces had taken control of the nuclear power plant facilities of the specialized state enterprise in Chernobyl, located in the exclusion zone created after the accident of 1986. The regulator said today that the shift supervisor at the site had not been replaced since February 24 but was continuing to perform his duties. The SNRIU (State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine) also provided radiation readings from the site which the IAEA assessed as low and consistent with near background levels.

The IAEA statement does not provide an explanation for the exceptional jump in radiation counts that were recorded on February 24 and 25.

On February 27, 2022, the IAEA released an update that:

Ukraine today informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that missiles struck the site of a radioactive waste storage facility in Kyiv overnight, but no damage was reported to the building or any indication of radioactive release.

The IAEA also pointed out that a similar incident also took place in another city:

An electrical transformer at a similar disposal facility near the northeastern city of Kharkiv had been damaged, also with no reported radioactive release. These facilities typically contain disused radioactive sources and other low-level waste from hospitals and industry.

Beyond Nuclear recently published the following concerns regarding nuclear facilities in Ukraine:

  • The 15 operating reactors in Ukraine – located in Rivne (4), Khmelnitsky (2), South Ukraine (3) and Zaporizhzhia (6) – are all vulnerable to a catastrophic meltdown, even if they are not directly attacked or accidentally touched.
  • Of even greater concern are the fuel pools containing irradiated fuel rods, which are not protected by the containment building. The fuel pools contain far more radioactivity than the reactor itself, and a fire would release even greater amounts of radiation.
  • A war zone could also create a dangerous environment for nuclear workers and their families, prompting some to evacuate. But a nuclear power plant, even in day-to-day routine operations, is unsafe and cannot be abandoned.

Damaged nuclear power plants or radioactive storage sites could have devastating radioactive effects in the region.

We, the undersigned, therefore call on the IAEA to:

  • Determine who is currently responsible for the operation and radiation safety of the Chernobyl site and investigate its level of technical capability to deal with nuclear emergencies;
  • Conduct assessments to identify the need to send additional nuclear technicians to maintain security at the Chernobyl site;
  • Investigate and establish the status of the 15 Ukrainian reactor sites, in order to ensure their continued operation by qualified personnel;
  • Ensure transparency and protect the right to information of local populations by promptly publishing all relevant data and information, in the local language and in English, concerning the radiation safety of all nuclear facilities and nuclear power plants in Ukraine; and,
  • Call upon IAEA Member States, in particular those of all parties to the conflict, to refrain from any military or other action that could threaten the nuclear safety and security of nuclear installations in the conflict zone.

Approved by:

Beyond nuclear
Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Liability
Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, Japan
DiaNuke.org
Manhattan Project for a nuclear-free world
Ontario Air Quality Alliance
Oregon Doctors for Social Accountability
Veterans for Peace Golden Rule Project
Veterans for Peace Linus Pauling Chapter 132 Corvallis-Albany, OR
World BEYOND war

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