A U.S. nuclear power plant in Ukraine has sensitive nuclear technology and warned Russia not to touch it, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Energy to Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom last month.
In the letter, dated March 17, 2023, which was reviewed by CNN, Andrea Ferkile, director of the Office of Nonproliferation Policy at the Energy Department, told Rosatom’s director general, the Enerhodar The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “contains data on nuclear technology from the United States that is subject to US government export controls.”
Goods, software, and technology are subject to U.S. export controls when they could be used in a manner that harms U.S. national security interests.
The Energy Ministry letter comes as Russian forces continue to take control of the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, in part of the Zaporizhzhia region that Russia seized after its invasion of Ukraine last February. The plant has been frequently disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid due to heavy Russian shelling of the region, sparking fears of a nuclear accident across Europe.
Although the plant is still physically operated by Ukrainian employees, Rosatom manages it. In the letter, the Energy Ministry warned Rosatom that it would be “illegal” for any Russian citizen or entity to handle U.S. technology.
CNN has reached out to Rosatom for comment.
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“Under U.S. law, unauthorized persons, including but not limited to Russian citizens and Russian entities such as Rosatom and its subsidiaries, knowingly and intentionally access, possess, control, export, store, seize, review, export, transport, transfer, reproduce, manipulate, or direct or authorize others to do so, such technology or technical data, without these Russian entities being authorized recipients or powers of the Secretary of State of the United States.”
It was not immediately clear whether Rosatom responded to the letter. The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration told CNN in a statement that the letter was authentic.
The letters were first reported by news outlet RBC Ukraine.
“The Energy Department’s NNSA can confirm that the letter is legitimate,” said Sayara Hassan, NNSA’s deputy director of public affairs.
She added: “The Secretary of Energy has a statutory duty to authorize the transfer of unclassified civilian nuclear technology and to assist foreign atomic energy activities. DOE does not comment on regulatory activities.”
CNN reviewed a separate letter from Ferkile to the Energy Department’s inspector general, dated October 24, 2022, outlining U.S. technology exports to Ukraine for use at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and reaffirming the department’s “There is currently no record of any authorized transfer of this technology and technical data to any Russian national or entity.”
The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy made public U.S. support for the plant, saying on its website in June 2021 that “the U.S. helped implement new maintenance procedures and operations at the reactor that should ultimately enhance energy security” in Ukraine.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the news outlet that first reported the letters. This is RBC Ukraine.