Zaporizhzhia: IAEA calls for a “safe zone” around the Ukrainian nuclear power plant

Speaking from Vienna, Chief Executive Rafael Grossi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that a safe zone around the Russian-controlled site was needed amid heavy shelling.

“What is urgently needed now, today, is for us to agree to establish a shield (if you will), a shield, a bubble around the perimeter of the facility,” Grossi said.

Grossi said the creation of a nuclear safety zone around the ZNPP falls within the IAEA’s mandate to protect the safety and security of the facility and the people there. He hoped to be able to consult “very quickly” and “establish an interim measure” because “what we desperately need is to protect this nuclear power plant because it is being bombed”.

He continued: “Now that the IAEA is here, we have corroborated what is happening. And it is a measure that has to be put in place one way or another. We can do it. We we have the means to do it… Nuclear security is essential, we are playing with fire.

Shelling damage to Unit 6 elevated crossing.
A few hours earlier, the IAEA had called for “the immediate creation of a zone of safety and protection of nuclear security” around the nuclear power plant, in a report released Tuesday.

“There is an urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident resulting from physical damage caused by military means,” the IAEA writes in its report.

“This can be achieved through the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone,” the agency continued in the report, adding that it was ready to begin consultations for “the urgent establishment of ‘such a nuclear safety and security protection zone’. ZNPP area.

The much-anticipated report comes days after Grossi led an expert mission to Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear complex of its kind in Europe, in what was the first independent review of the state of the facility since the Russia seized it at the start of the war.

The plant and the area around it, including the nearby town of Enerhodar, suffered persistent bombardment which raised fears of a nuclear accident due to the interruption of the power supply to the plant. Each side accuses the other of acts of nuclear terrorism.

Two members of the 14-person team remained on site as part of the agency’s plan to establish a continuous presence at the nuclear power plant this could help ward off the possibility of a dangerous nuclear accident.

While there, the team saw first-hand the bombardment damage to the facility and “noted with concern that the bombardment could have impacted security-related structures, systems and components, and could have caused significant safety impacts, loss of life and injury to personnel,” the report states.

The team saw damage “at various locations caused by reported events, with some of the damage near the reactor buildings,” he wrote.

This included damage to the roofs of various buildings, the special building that houses the storage facility for fresh nuclear fuel and solid radioactive waste, and “the container where the radiation monitoring system is located, close to the facility. storage of spent dry fuel”.

The IAEA team observes the damage caused by the shelling on the roof of a building in Zaporizhzhia.

The IAEA team also witnessed shelling during its visit and called on both sides to cease hostilities in the area, it writes. In one incident, the team had to evacuate to the ground floor of the factory’s administration building.

“Although the ongoing bombings have not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, they continue to pose an ongoing threat to nuclear safety and security with potential impact on critical safety functions that may result in radiological consequences of a great importance for safety”, concludes the report.

In recent weeks, Russia has accused Ukraine of firing on the plant, while Kyiv alleges that Moscow is using it as a fortress to protect its forces and heavy weapons from Ukrainian forces, which were allegedly ordered not to retaliate against the sprawling complex. CNN has not been able to verify the two governments’ claims.

The IAEA team noted “the presence of Russian military personnel, vehicles and equipment at various locations” at the plant, adding that “military vehicles were stationed under the viaduct connecting the reactor units”.

The highly anticipated report comes days after IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi led an expert mission to Zaporizhzhia.

Plant personnel worked under inordinate pressure, and Grossi said it “was essential that Ukrainian personnel operating the plant under Russian occupation could carry out their important duties without threats or pressure compromising not only their own safety but also that of the facility itself,” the report writes.

“The IAEA recommends that shelling on and around the site be stopped immediately to prevent further damage to the plant and associated facilities, for the safety of operating personnel, and to maintain physical integrity in order to sustain a safe and secure operation,” he added. added.

The IAEA goes on to say that the situation in Ukraine “is unprecedented” and that a “nuclear accident can have serious consequences inside the country and beyond its borders”.

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

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant: history, control and key developments

“All seven pillars have been compromised at the site,” the report says in reference to the nuclear watchdog framework, which includes the physical integrity of facilities, their security systems, secure offsite power supply, efficient systems radiation monitoring and reliable communications. with the regulator.

Ukrainian officials said Monday that Russian shelling had led its last reactor in operation to disconnect from the Ukrainian network, and then President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of intentionally worsening the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

“Russia is only interested in keeping the situation at its worst for as long as possible,” he said in his late-night speech on Monday.

While the international community is on nuclear security alert, experts say a Chernobyl-like disaster is unlikely. The plant is equipped with modern safety systems, which means that even if its maintenance were neglected or if major military action caused serious damage, the result would be most comparable to the Fukushima nuclear disaster – which was contained locally, according to Janes and Energoatom.

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