Europe’s biggest nuclear plant out of control, UN warns

NEW YORK – A biggest nuclear power plant gives Europelocated in Ukraine, is completely out of control amid the occupation gives Russiasaid the head of the nuclear agency of UN, Rafael Grossiin an interview with the agency Associated Press. Grossi made an urgent appeal to Moscow and Kiev to allow experts to visit to stabilize the situation and prevent a nuclear accident.

The director general of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)said last Tuesday, the 2nd, that the situation is getting more dangerous every day at the zaporizhzhiain the city of energizesouthwest Ukraine, which was taken by Russian troops in early March, shortly after the invasion on 24 February.

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“All nuclear safety principles were violated at the plant,” he said. “What is at stake is extremely serious and dangerous.” The director added that Zaporizhzhia is located where the war is actively going on, close to Russian-controlled eastern and southern Ukraine.

Image of a destroyed building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine amid the invasion of Russia
Image of a destroyed building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine amid the invasion of Russia Photograph: National atomic power generation company Energoatom via Reuters

According to him, the physical integrity of the plant was not respectedciting bombings early in the war when it was taken and ongoing reports from Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of attacks in Zaporizhzhia.

“There is a paradoxical situation” in which the plant is controlled by Russia but its Ukrainian team continues to run its nuclear operations, leading to inevitable moments of friction and alleged violence, he said. While the IAEA has some contacts with officials, these are faulty and irregular communications, he said.

According to Grossi, the supply chain of equipment and spare parts has been interrupted, “so we’re not sure the factory is getting everything it needs”. The IAEA also needs to carry out essential inspections to ensure that nuclear material remains protected, “and there is a lot of nuclear material to be inspected,” he said.

Appeal to both parties

“When you put that together, you have a catalog of things that should never be happening in any nuclear facility,” Grossi said. “And that’s why I’ve been insisting since day one that we have to access the site to carry out this safety and security assessment, do the repairs and help as we’ve done in Chernobyl.”

Russia’s capture of Zaporizhzhia has renewed fears that the largest of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors could be damaged.triggering another emergency such as the 1986 Chernobyl accidentthe world’s worst nuclear disaster, which happened about 110 km north of the capital Kiev.

Russian forces occupied the heavily contaminated site shortly after the invasion, but returned control to the Ukrainians in late March. Grossi visited Chernobyl on April 27 and tweeted that the security level was “like a flashing ‘red light'”. But the IAEA was able to mount “a relief mission to Chernobyl at the time that has been very, very successful so far.”

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi Photograph: Hiro Komae/AP

The IAEA needs to go to Zaporizhzhia, as Chernobyl did, to see what is really happening there, to carry out repairs and inspections, and “to prevent a nuclear accident from happening,” Grossi said. But for that, he and his team need protection to get to the plant and urgent cooperation from Russia and Ukraine.

Each side wants this international mission to depart from different locations, which is understandable in light of territorial integrity and political considerations, he said, but something more urgent is getting the IAEA team to Zaporizhzhia.

“The IAEA, by its presence, will be a deterrent to any act of violence against this nuclear plant,” Grossi said. “So I’m asking as an international civil servant, as the head of an international organization, I’m asking both sides to let this mission proceed.”

The Russian army has used Zaporizhzhia as a shield against Ukrainian forces, who fear fighting back because of the risk of a nuclear accident. According to the Ukrainian military, the Russians have been firing from behind the atomic plant since mid-Julylaunching rockets over the Dnipro River against NikopolUkrainian-controlled city, and other targets.

Ukraine has no way of responding back, not even using advanced US-supplied Himars rocket systems, which have silenced Russian weapons elsewhere on the front line. An attack against this position would risk hitting one of the six pressurized water atomic reactors or some highly radioactive waste dump. And Russia knows this.

“They are hiding there so they can’t be hit,” said Nikopol Mayor Oleksandr Saiuk. “Using such a facility as a shield is dangerous.” The clash in the city, as well as the risk of a nuclear accident at any moment, has caused the citizens of Nikopol to flee.

Protected from counterfire, the Russians are threatening Ukrainian troops advancing towards the Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River, one of the last water crossing points available for resupplying Russian forces in the south of the country.

Grossi was in New York last Monday, the 1st, to deliver a speech at the opening of the high-level meeting to review the history Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which turned 50, aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and eventually achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

In the interview, the IAEA chief also spoke about efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between the Will and the main powers that the government of Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 and the government of Joe Biden is working to renew.

Grossi said there is “an ongoing effort to try to hold one more meeting or round to explore the possibilities of reaching an agreement.” According to him, the meeting “could be soon”.

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinkentold the NPT review conference that Iran is “unwilling or unable” to accept a deal to return to the 2015 deal aimed at curbing its nuclear program.

Grossi said that “there are important differences between the negotiating parties” and important verification issues related to past activities that Iran needs to resolve. “It’s not impossible, it’s complex,” he said.

If the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, is not extended, the director said some IAEA inspections will continue. But the JCPOA provides for transparency and additional inspections “which I consider extremely important, very necessary, given the breadth and depth of Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.

Grossi emphasized that cooperating with the IAEA, answering its questions, allowing its inspectors to go wherever they need to be, is essential for Iran to build trust. “Promises and good words are not going to work,” he said./AP

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