UN nuclear chief urges Russia and Ukraine to ban attacks on Zaporizhia nuclear power plant
The UN nuclear chief stressed on Tuesday that the world was happyThis has not happened in Ukraine, calling on Moscow and Kyiv to commit to preventing any attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and to make further commitments “to avoid the risk of a catastrophic incident”.
Speaking before the UN Security Council, Rafael Mariano Grossi reiterated what he said to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors in March: “We’re playing dice and if this continues, one day we’ll run out of luck.”
The IAEA Director-General said avoiding a nuclear accident would be possible if five principles were observed at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plantlast week, “the last line of defense against a nuclear accident.”
Grossi “respectfully and solemnly” urged Ukraine and Russia to comply with the principles, saying IAEA experts in Zaporizhia would begin monitoring and he would publicly report any violations:
- Prohibition of attacks from or against the facility, particularly against reactors and spent fuel storage areas.
- Prohibiting the storage of heavy weapons or the presence of military personnel that could be used in an attack.
- Ensure the security of an uninterruptible external power supply for the system.
- Protect “all structures, systems and components essential for the operation of the facility” against attacks or acts of sabotage.
- Do not take any action to undermine these principles.
Grossi urged the 15 members of the Security Council to support the five principles, stressing that they “harm no one and benefit everyone.”
The Kremlin’s forces took over the work after the Russian attackin February 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejects any proposal that would legitimize control of Russia.
Neither the Russian nor the Ukrainian ambassadors made any commitment to support the principles.
Ukraine’s UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Russia of continuing to “actively use the nuclear power plant for military purposes”. He said Russia has mined its perimeter and will do soAs a result, parts of the system were “seriously damaged”, which endangers safety. He claimed 500 Russian military personnel were at the facility, as well as heavy weapons, ammunition and explosives.
“The threat of a dangerous accident as a result of these irresponsible and criminal acts looms over us,” he said.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said recent news reports indicated that Moscow had shut down Zaporizhia’s vital radiation monitoring sensors, meaning the plant’s data would now be sent to Russia’s nuclear regulatory agency.
“This is a clear escalation of Russia’s efforts to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and authority over the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. And this undermines our ability to have confidence in the level of nuclear safety at the nuclear power plant,” she said. “Let me be clear: the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant belongs to Ukraine. And his data must go to Ukraine, not Russia.”
In response to a question from CBS News correspondent Pamela Falk after the meeting, Grossi addressed the issue: “This flow of information was cut off by the Russian management, who are in control,” he said.
“We have discussed this with the Russian management of the plant in this regard and will collect the information and pass it on to the Ukrainian regulator for information – which is a mitigation, not an ideal situation.” Grossi said, adding that the resolution of the data issue showing the usefulness of the IAEA’s presence in bridging these gaps.
British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward expressed skepticism about how Russia will comply with the Principles.
“New images show that Russian forces have erected sandbag combat positions on the roofs of several of the six reactor buildings. This suggests they integrated the actual reactor buildings of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant into tactical defense planning,” Woodward said.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, denied that Russia had ever attacked the Zaporizhia power plant, planted heavy weapons there, or stationed military personnel at the plant to conduct an attack from its territory.
Grossi was cautiously optimistic about Security Council views, although he said he was “not naïve” about the challenges ahead.
“We’ve come pretty close to a consensus, although everyone wants a little bit more. … I think that’s very encouraging,” he told Falk in an exclusive session for CBS News after the meeting.
“You know, we’ve tried to take a practical approach here. We weren’t looking for resolutions or things set in stone or written down on paper,” he said.
Asked about the interest expressed by both Ukraine’s Ambassador Kyslytsya and the US in an agreement to explicitly state that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be recognized, Grossi told CBS News: “It will be difficult to reach a general consensus on that.” It’s obvious.”
But he continued: “The IAEA, as part of the UN system, makes it very clear that the UN Charter must never be violated and national borders must not be altered by force.”
Grossi said he had an “operational mandate” to do more to prevent a nuclear accident.