UN nuclear watchdog calls for ‘security protection zone’ around Russia’s Zaporizhzhia power plant

There is an “urgent” need to establish a “security protection zone” on territory under Russian control. Zaporizhzhia Power Plant in Ukraine to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, the The International Atomic Energy Agency declared Tuesday.

“The situation in Ukraine is unprecedented,” warned the United Nations nuclear watchdog. “This is the first time that a military conflict has occurred at the facilities of a large, well-established nuclear program,” he said in a report.

A nuclear accident would be a disaster not only for Ukraine, but also for countries “beyond its borders”.

A Ukrainian emergency worker from the Ministry of Emergencies participates in an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia
A rescue worker from the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry during a drill in the city of Zaporizhzhia August 17, in case of a possible nuclear incident at the nuclear power plant.Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images File

“The IAEA is ready to immediately begin consultations leading to the urgent establishment of such a nuclear safety and security zone” at the plant, the IAEA said.

The dire warning from the Vienna-based organization that is not prone to hyperbole came just 24 hours after the Ukrainian energy company that runs the Zaporizhzhia complex reported that the last line connecting the power station to the Ukrainian power grid was disconnected after days of “heavy shelling”.

The other three lines fell earlier in the war.

“We are playing with fire, and something very, very catastrophic could happen,” Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned the UN Security Council days later. having carried out an inspection visit to the plant.

During the Security Council meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also demanded that Russian and Ukrainian forces pledge to end all military activity around the plant and agree to a “ demilitarized perimeter”.

“The current situation is untenable and the best action to ensure the safety and security of nuclear facilities for Ukraine and its people would be to end this armed conflict now,” the IAEA report said.

“The world is once again on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe,” Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said. said earlier on Facebook.

The Zaporizhzhia plant in the city of Enerhodar in southeastern Ukraine was commissioned in the 1980s when the country was part of the then Soviet Union and supplied up to 20% of Ukraine’s electricity after independence. Its six reactors generate more energy than any such facility in the United States.

But he was captured in the early days of the Russian invasion, which began in February.

IAEA inspectors visited the Zaporizhzhia plant on September 1 and since then have been assessing the damage to the site, evaluating its safety and security systems and interviewing Ukrainian personnel who operated the plant. ‘facility.

Before the war, the Ukrainian factory employed 11,000 people. The remaining number was not immediately clear. But the IAEA left two inspectors at the factory.

“The IAEA remains gravely concerned about the situation at ZNPP – this has not changed,” the monitoring group said in its report, referring to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. “All seven pillars have been compromised at the site.”

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi speaks to the media at Vienna International Airport in Schwechat, Austria, on Friday after returning from inspecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images

The seven pillars refer to the IAEA’s seven basic nuclear safety standardsthe first of which states: “The physical integrity of facilities – whether reactors, fuel basins or radioactive waste repositories – must be maintained.”

The West has accused Russia of increasing the risk of a nuclear disaster by using the plant as a “shield” where it stations troops and weapons – and launches attacks on other Ukrainian targets from the site.

Russia denied the charges and, in turn, accused Ukraine of repeatedly attacking the plant.

The IAEA has warned that the consequences of a war-induced collapse at the plant would be far-reaching and “much more terrible” than those of the 1986 disaster at the plant. Chernobyl nuclear power plant near the city of Pripyat in northern Ukraine.

This disaster triggered the evacuation of more than 100,000 people living near the plant and led to the formation of a radioactive cloud which drifted across most of Europe and was blamed for cancer spikes – in especially among children – in Ukraine and neighboring Belarus.

Zaporizhzhia plant is almost twice the size of Chernobylalthough its reactors are more modern, experts told NBC News earlier.

Associated press contributed.

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