The Ukrainian nuclear power plant faces a “grave hour”, warns the UN

Ukraine’s biggest nuclear power plant could be on the brink of an ‘unacceptable’ radiation leak amid ‘very alarming’ military activity, the UN nuclear chief warned this week – as he called for an end to attacks on the facility.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Thursday urged Russia and Ukraine to immediately allow nuclear experts to assess the safety of the sprawling Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex.

“These military actions near such an important nuclear facility could have very serious consequences,” Grossi told the UN Security Counciladding that “any nuclear catastrophe would be unacceptable”.

Speak to the council by videoconferenceGrossi said the attacks on the factory were “very alarming” and that the situation at the facility had reached a “grave hour”.

The meeting was called by Russia to discuss what Moscow claims were Ukrainian attacks on the factory.

Russia and Ukraine blame each other for attacking the plant, which is the largest nuclear facility in Europe.
Russia and Ukraine blame each other for attacking the plant, which is Ukraine’s largest nuclear facility.
Reuters

Grossi pointed to shelling and several explosions in Zaporizhzhia last Friday that shut down the power supply transformer and two backup transformers, forcing the shutdown of a nuclear reactor.

Last week, Grossi said in an interview with The Associated Press that the situation in Zaporizhzhia was “completely out of control”.

On Thursday, he demanded a halt to military actions “that have even the smallest potential to compromise nuclear security” at such an important facility.

While a preliminary assessment by experts found “no immediate threat to the nuclear safety” of the plant from bombing and military action, “that could change at any time”, he warned.

The plant has been under Russian control since March, but it continues to be operated by Ukrainian personnel.
The plant has been under Russian control since March, but it continues to be operated by Ukrainian personnel.
AFP via Getty Images

Grossi’s call echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call earlier Thursday for an end to all hostilities around the Zaporizhzhia plant, warning that any damage could lead to “catastrophic consequences” in the surroundings, the region and beyond. He had previously described the attacks on the establishment as “suicidal”.

While the plant is controlled by Russian forces, its Ukrainian personnel continue to direct nuclear operations. It’s in Enerhodar, a town seized by Russian troops in early March shortly after invading Ukraine.

Kyiv has said for weeks that it is planning a counteroffensive to retake Zaporizhzhia and neighboring Kherson provinces – most of the territory seized by Russia after its Feb. 24 invasion still in Russian hands.

Grossi said statements received from Russia and Ukraine “are frequently contradicted” and that the IAEA cannot corroborate important facts unless its experts visit Zaporizhzhia.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council that “Kyiv’s criminal attacks on nuclear infrastructure are pushing the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.”

He accused the Ukrainian Armed Forces in recent days of repeatedly using heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers to shell the Zaporizhzhia plant, including on Thursday.

“Background radiation at the nuclear power plant is currently within limits, but if the strikes continue, it’s only a matter of time,” Nebenzia warned. “We call on states that support the Kyiv regime to defeat their proxies to compel them to immediately and once and for all stop the attacks.”

Ukraine’s UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Russia of using “elaborate plans of deception, sabotage and concealment” to stage the bombing of Zaporizhzhia, including on Thursday, which represents “a unprecedented threat to the nuclear security of Ukraine, Europe and the world as a whole. »

The Ukrainian state company operating the plant, Enerhoatom, said there were renewed Russian bombardments of the Zaporizhzhia facility and nearby buildings on Thursday.

Last week, Grossi warned that the situation at the factory was
Last week, Grossi warned that the situation at the factory was “completely out of control”.
Getty Images

“Five (hits) were recorded near the plant management office – right next to the welding site and the radiation source storage facility,” Enerhoatom said in a post on its official Telegram channel. . “The grass caught fire in a small area, but luckily no one was injured.”

The Ukrainian ambassador told the council that the only way to eliminate nuclear threats was to withdraw Russian troops and return the plant to Ukrainian control.

Nebenzia said Russia was supporting a June IAEA visit to Zaporizhzhia, which was given a “red light” at the last minute by UN security experts. Moscow is ready to provide “all possible assistance” to solve any problem for a visit “even before the end of August”, he said.

Yevhen Balytskyy, the Kremlin-installed temporary head for the Zaporizhzhia region, said on Thursday that the Russian-backed administration was ready to provide safety and security to any IAEA delegation sent to investigate the conditions.

He said in an interview on Russian state television that Kremlin-backed authorities had prepared armored vehicles for international envoys.

Kyslytsya blamed Russia’s ‘unjustified conditions’ for the delay in sending IAEA experts to Zaporizhzhia, and said Ukraine was ready to provide ‘all necessary assistance’ to facilitate travel of the nuclear team through the territory under Ukrainian control, which is only eight kilometers from the plant. the Dnieper River.

Bonnie Jenkins, US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, called the situation in Zaporizhzhia “a new tragic result” of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

She said the solution is simple: Russia should immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine so that the Ukrainians can restore “the impeccable safety, security and safeguard performance it has maintained for decades at the facility”. .

After the board meeting, Grossi said there was “a common denominator” among the 15 members: “Everyone agrees that nuclear safety and security must be preserved. … And everyone believes that this mission must take place.

UN experts are calling on Russia and Ukraine to let them assess the damage to the nuclear power plant and carry out the necessary repairs.
UN experts are calling on Russia and Ukraine to let them assess the damage to the nuclear power plant and carry out the necessary repairs.
PA

“So it’s no longer a question of if, it’s only a question of when,” the UN nuclear chief said. “The when should be as soon as possible.”

António Guterres called in a statement “for common sense and reason” to avoid any action “that could endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear power plant”, and for the withdrawal of all personnel and military equipment.

Russia’s capture of Zaporizhzhia has rekindled fears that the reactors of the largest of Ukraine’s four nuclear power plants could be damaged, triggering another emergency like the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster. It happened about 65 miles north of the capital Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Russia to return the plant to Ukrainian control.

“Only a complete Russian withdrawal…and the restoration of full Ukrainian control of the situation around the plant can guarantee a resumption of nuclear security for all of Europe,” he said in a video address.

France echoed Zelensky’s request and said Russia’s occupation of the site puts the world at risk.

“The presence and actions of the Russian armed forces near the plant considerably increase the risk of an accident with potentially devastating consequences,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the only way to ensure the safety of the plant was for the Russians to withdraw from the area.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the only way to ensure the safety of the plant was for the Russians to withdraw from the area.
Alexei Furman/Getty Images

Speaking at a conference in Copenhagen on Thursday, Zelensky told defense leaders that the consequences of a radiological accident in Zaporizhzhia “could be even more catastrophic than Chernobyl, and essentially the same as the use of weapons nuclear strikes by Russia, but without a nuclear strike.”

“If the Soviet authorities tried to hide the Chernobyl disaster and all its consequences, the Russian authorities are much more cynical and dangerous,” he said. “They do everything themselves to maximize the risk of a nuclear disaster and lie to the world that someone else is supposedly to blame.”

With pole wires

Leave a Comment