What is the technical basis behind the seven IAEA pillars for Ukrainian NPPs, who should implement them, and how?

At the meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors held on 2 March 2022, the Agency Director General outlined the so-called “seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security”: seven integral components of nuclear safety and security that must be maintained during the Russian invasion and occupation of two Ukrainian NPPs (Chornobyl and Zaporizhzhya). More details are available here.

This refers to the following seven components:

1. Maintaining the physical integrity of facilities, whether it is the reactors, spent fuel pools or radioactive waste storage facilities;

2. The operability of all nuclear safety and security systems and related equipment must be ensured at any time;

3. Performance by operational personnel of their nuclear safety and security responsibilities and the capacity to make decisions without undue pressure must be provided;

4. Provision of all nuclear facilities with the secure off-site power supply from the grid must be ensured;

5. Ensuring uninterrupted logistical supply chains and transportation to and from the nuclear facilities;

6. Ensuring the operation of the on-site and beyond the site radiation monitoring systems, as well as emergency preparedness and response measures;

7. Reliable communication channels with the regulatory authority and other parties shall be in place.

After having analyzed the defined “pillars”, SSTC NRS experts note that they cover the safety fundamentals to be ensured, however, the basis and objective of these components are unclear, moreover, a number of statements are contradictory. And most importantly, it is not clear who and how must implement the requirements of these components. The role and further actions of the IAEA in assisting in the implementation of the stated principles are also unclear.

For instance, with regard to the wording used in bullet 2, “The operability of all nuclear safety and security systems and related equipment must be ensured at any time”. According to the IAEA Safety Glossary (2018 Edition, published in 2019) (p. 167), “safety systems” are part of “systems (components) important to safety”.

The IAEA Safety Standards SSR-2/1 and SSR-2/2 set requirements that must be applied to all systems (components) important to safety, including, but not limited to, safety systems.

Thus, the use of the term “safety system” in component 2 limits the existing IAEA requirements that apply to systems (components) important to safety.

“We believe that safety requirements must be applied to systems important to safety in full, as Ukraine used to do before the start of the Russian aggression”, the SSTC NRS emphasizes.

Commenting on the essence of the stated components, the ex-Chief Engineer of the Chornobyl NPP Mykola Steinberg notes that in the war conditions none of these “pillars” can be ensured.

According to SSTC NRS Press Service