United Nations ‘Gravely Concerned’ by Situation at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, Political Affairs Chief Tells Security Council
Delegates Urge Russian Federation to Withdraw Troops from Plant, Support Calls for International Atomic Energy Agency Inspection of Site
The United Nations remains gravely concerned about the dangerous situation in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council today in a meeting requested by the Russian Federation and marked by emphatic calls to cease all military activities at the site.
“The Secretary-General has appealed to all concerned to exercise common sense and reason and to refrain from undertaking any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant — Europe's largest,” Ms. DiCarlo said. Voicing regret at near daily reports of alarming incidents involving the plant, she said preparations for an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission to carry out essential safety, security and safeguards activities at the site are proceeding and the Agency is in active consultations with all parties.
The United Nations has the logistics and security capacity in Ukraine to support any IAEA mission to the plant from Kyiv, provided Ukraine and the Russian Federation agree, she pointed out, calling for the mission’s immediate, secure and unfettered access to the site. “Agreement is urgently needed to re-establish Zaporizhzhia as purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area,” she said, warning that a nuclear incident in Zaporizhzhia, or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, would have catastrophic consequences not only for the immediate vicinity but for the region and beyond.
In the ensuing debate, delegates echoed calls for the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops and for an IAEA site visit as soon as possible, with Gabon’s representative pointing out that it is unacceptable to “wait and speculate” on the potential risk of an accident, with consequences for the environment and human health. It is time to bring peace to the top of the agenda, he insisted, encouraging all diplomatic efforts to silence the guns and reach an agreement for lasting peace.
The speaker for the United States said the Russian Federation must follow the Secretary-General’s recommendation to establish a demilitarized zone in the area surrounding the plant, a move that would allow Ukrainian personnel, currently held under duress, to operate the facility, assess damage and restore its impeccable safety, security and safeguards performance.
Mexico’s delegate pointed out that the negotiation of the grain agreements is credible proof of what can be achieved when there is political will and when reason prevails. “We hope that this can happen once again when it comes to reaching an agreement over Zaporizhzhia when what is at stake is no more or no less the right to life,” he said.
Some delegates, including from Norway, Ireland and United Kingdom, voiced concern about possible efforts to disconnect the power plant from the Ukraine electrical grid, and the further immense suffering that would cause the people of Ukraine.
Likewise, China’s representative underscored that there is no room for trial and error when it comes to the safety and security of such facilities. He called for an Agency site visit as soon as possible, stressing that the international community must not allow the tragedies of the Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants to be repeated.
The Russian Federation’s delegate said Ukrainian armed forces continue to shell the area of Zaporizhzhia and the city of Energodar almost daily, creating a genuine risk of a radiation accident with catastrophic consequences for all of Europe. Catastrophes have so far been avoided only due to the well-coordinated work of the plant workers, fire and emergency crews and Russian Federation military personnel. Nonetheless, he expected that the IAEA mission will still take place in the near future.
Ukraine’s representative retorted that: "Once again, the Russian Federation has the audacity to convene a Council meeting to discuss its own provocations and its own terror at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.” No one can imagine that Ukraine would target a nuclear plant at tremendous risk of a nuclear catastrophe on its own territory. The IAEA mission to the plant must take place at the request of Ukraine and be covered by the agreement on the obligation of safeguards between Ukraine and IAEA, he said, stressing that the Russian Federation must ensure the mission team’s physical security.
Also speaking today were representatives of United Arab Emirates, Ghana, India, France, Kenya, Brazil and Albania.
The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 4:22 p.m.
ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said the United Nations remains gravely concerned about the dangerous situation in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. The plant continues to be operated by Ukrainian technical personnel but has been under the control of the Russian Federation’s military forces since early March. She recalled that in early August, disturbing reports of an escalation of shelling around the plant began to emerge. The Secretary-General has appealed to all concerned to exercise common sense and reason and to refrain from undertaking any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant — Europe's largest. On 15 August, the Secretary-General discussed the issue of the plant’s safety during a call with the Russian Federation’s Minister for Defence, Sergei Shoigu. On 18 August, during his visit to Lviv, he discussed the situation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
She went on to say that in all his statements and meetings, the Secretary-General has continued to call for all military activities in the immediate vicinity of the plant to cease immediately and for all sides to refrain from targeting its facilities or surroundings. All military personnel must be withdrawn from the plant, she said, stressing that there should be no further deployment of forces or equipment to the site. The facility must not be used as part of any military operation and an agreement on a safe parameter of demilitarization to ensure the safety of the area should be reached. Voicing regret at almost daily reports of alarming incidents involving the plant, she said that today the IAEA Director-General renewed his request to send an IAEA mission to carry out essential safety, security and safeguards activities at the site. Preparations for the mission are proceeding and the Agency is in active consultations with all parties regarding its efforts to send such a mission as soon as possible.
She welcomed the Russian Federation’s and Ukraine’s recent statements indicating support for IAEA’s aim to send a mission to the plant, which would be the Agency’s first to that site since the start of the war. Common sense must prevail to avoid any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the plant. “As the Secretary-General stressed in his briefing at the Council yesterday, the commitment to dialogue and results must be applied to the critical situation at the plant. If such incidents continue to escalate, we could face a disaster,” she said. The United Nations continues to fully support IAEA’s critical work and its efforts to ensure the safe operation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and other nuclear facilities in Ukraine. In close contact with IAEA, the United Nations has assessed that it has the logistics and security capacity in Ukraine to support any IAEA mission to the plant from Kyiv, provided Ukraine and the Russian Federation agree.
She urged parties to provide the IAEA mission with immediate, secure and unfettered access to the site. “Agreement is urgently needed to re-establish Zaporizhzhia as purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area,” she said, adding: “We must be clear that any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia, or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, leading to a possible nuclear incident would have catastrophic consequences not only for the immediate vicinity but for the region and beyond”. Similarly, any damage leading to the plant being cut from the Ukrainian power grid would have catastrophic humanitarian implications particularly with winter approaching. As the Secretary-General has made clear, the electricity produced at the Zaporizhzhia plant belongs to Ukraine. “At this moment it is imperative that we receive the express commitment of the parties to stop any military activities around the plant and to enable its continued safe and secure operations,” she said.
VASILY NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) noted that while Ms. DiCarlo said the nuclear power of Zaporizhzhia belongs to Ukraine, the Council has heard nothing about frozen Russian Federation assets. Ukrainian armed forces continue to shell the area of Zaporizhzhia and the city of Energodar almost daily, creating a genuine risk of a radiation accident with catastrophic consequences for the entire European continent. According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, on 11 August, units of Ukraine’s forty-fourth artillery brigade shelled the station with 152-millimetre guns, resulting in damage to equipment within the nuclear reactors’ cooling system. He cited further shelling on 14 August, killing one person, and attacks on 17 August, 20 August and 22 August, noting his delegation provided photo evidence as official documents of the Council and General Assembly. The fact that the Kyiv regime has not stopped attacks on the station is a direct consequence of the criminal acquiescence of its Western patrons. He said those colleagues seem to exist in some parallel reality, in which the Russian Federation forces themselves are shelling the station, which they in fact are guarding.
He further noted United States Congressman Adam Kinzinger has said that the shelling could be a reason for activating North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Article V. Despite Western commentary, he stressed that even under the least destructive scenario, the population of the Zaporizhzhia region would suffer — which Western colleagues are apparently ready to refer to as “collateral damage”. Catastrophes have so far been avoided only thanks to the well-coordinated work of the plant workers, fire and emergency crews and Russian Federation military personnel. Despite false statements by the Kyiv regime and its curators, the Russian Federation does not place heavy weapons on Zaporizhzhia territory and does not use the station for military purposes. He noted Secretary-General António Guterres has not condemned what is happening, and that the Russian Federation did everything possible to ensure that IAEA experts visited the station as early as June — a trip cancelled “through no fault of ours.” He expected that the IAEA mission will still take place in the near future.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said all military activity at nuclear sites must stop, including cyberattacks and rhetoric. He called for an independent and impartial investigation to establish responsibility for the attacks against the Zaporizhzhia plant, pressing the belligerents to respect the security rules and cooperate with the IAEA with a view to securing the sites. He welcomed the intention of both parties to facilitate the conduct of an IAEA expert mission and urged them to agree on operational modalities. It is unacceptable to “wait and speculate” on the potential risk of an accident, with consequences for the environment and human health. After six months of violence, it is time to bring peace to the top of the agenda, he insisted, encouraging all initiatives aimed at bringing the parties to the table for the sake of peaceful coexistence. The surest way to ward off security threats is to end hostilities and he encouraged all diplomatic efforts to silence the guns and reach an agreement for lasting peace.
HAMAD ALKAABI (United Arab Emirates) said the situation around the Zaporizhzhia plant is deeply alarming amid news of shelling near the facility, placing the entire region at grave risk of a catastrophic nuclear accident. The example of Chernobyl has been frequently invoked — “and with reason” — he stressed, underscoring that nuclear safety is a matter of priority for the United Arab Emirates. He reiterated the need to refrain from any action that could further endanger the plant, echoing the IAEA Director General’s call to urgently lower tensions and pointing to the protection accorded to nuclear plants under international law. Underscoring the importance for the Agency to have full, unimpeded access to the site to assess the damage, he welcomed that both parties support such a mission and called for it to be expeditiously conducted. He also advocated for dialogue that will peacefully resolve the conflict and a cessation of hostilities throughout Ukraine towards that end. For their part, Council members must take incremental and pragmatic steps to support such efforts.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway), stressing that the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine has endangered nuclear safety and security in Ukraine, Russian Federation, Europe and beyond, rejected Moscow’s use of the Council as a platform for disinformation. The safety and security in and around the Zaporizhzhia plant has deteriorated due to the presence of an armed aggressor. The Russian Federation’s illegal war has increased the risk of a nuclear accident. She fully endorsed the IAEA’s seven indispensable pillars for nuclear safety and called for maximum military restraint around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia plant, noting recent statements indicating that both sides could support the IAEA’s aim of sending a mission to that area. “We remain concerned that Russia’s seizure of a nuclear power plant in Ukraine is also a means of taking hostage a central source of electricity supply,” she said, commending Ukraine for its commitment to ensuring nuclear safety and security under severe circumstances. She called on the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine and its internationally recognized borders, and to cease all threats and military.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said questions asking why a nuclear facility is being used as a staging ground for war by Russian forces, or why the Russian Federation thinks it can redraw international borders by force, can only be answered by Russian Federation President Vladmir Putin and could have been answered by its delegation. However, instead of answers, the Russian delegation provided a hodgepodge of websites and tweets. Nevertheless, a nuclear disaster at the plant is avoidable, he said, stressing that the Russian Federation must end its unprovoked and unjustified war, withdraw its troops, and follow the Secretary-General's recommendation to establish a demilitarized zone in the area surrounding the plant. This would allow for Ukrainian personnel, which are currently held under duress, to operate the facility, complete a damage assessment and restore the facility’s impeccable safety, security and safeguards performance. Moreover, a demilitarized zone would enable IAEA to travel to the facility, conduct an inspection and assess the safety, security and application of safeguards to plant operations.
Addressing the Russian Federation delegation, he said: “As we approach Ukraine’s Independence Day, the world is watching. This should not need saying, but please do not bomb schools, hospitals, orphanages or homes. We will continue to pursue accountability for any and all violations of international law.”
CÁIT MORAN (Ireland) voiced support for an IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, stressing that the mission must have full access with no restrictions. Possible efforts to disconnect the power plant from the Ukraine electrical grid, in the circumstances, would present significant dangers for nuclear safety, as well as for the humanitarian needs of the people of Ukraine relying on it for their energy needs, she pointed out. If the Russian Federation is genuine in its concern regarding nuclear safety at Zaporizhzhia, it must assume its responsibilities and end its illegal occupation of the site, withdrawing its troops and munitions. This would see control of the plant restored to the competent Ukrainian authorities, supported by the IAEA, she added, calling on the Russian Federation to end its brutal war against the Ukrainian people and withdraw its troops from the entire internationally recognized territory of Ukraine, and to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) noted that when the Council met on this subject just over a week ago, the representative of the IAEA warned of potentially disastrous consequences at the Zaporizhzhia plant — but despite warnings and appeals from the international community, indiscriminate shelling of that nuclear facility has continued. She voiced grave alarm and reminded the armed parties that international law prohibits any military conflicts around nuclear sites, calling for protection of all nuclear materials, and demilitarization of the area. Voicing support for an independent support assessment of the standards and safeguards at Zaporizhzhia to ensure there has been no serious damage, she stressed the Russian Federation must grant immediate access to the IAEA, and urged those representatives to act quickly. Affirming that there is no military solution to the ongoing hostilities, she called for diplomacy and dialogue, while also urging for the parallel, unconditional withdrawal of the Russian Federation as a prerequisite for the peace and security of Ukraine. She further stressed that the plight of civilians, especially women and children, is the overriding concern.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said her delegation is following developments around Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and attaches high importance to ensuring their safety and security. India also accords high priority to IAEA’s discharge of its safeguards and monitoring activities, in accordance with its statute in an effective, objective and efficient manner. Expressing concern over the situation at Zaporizhzhia, she endorsed IAEA efforts to reduce tensions and ensure nuclear safety and security at the facility. She took note of the Agency’s 19 August update and expressed hope that the proposed visit by an IAEA team to that plant and its surrounding areas will be agreed by the two sides, as indicated by their recent statements. The global order is anchored on international law, the United Nations Charter and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of States, she affirmed.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) voiced grave concern over the implications for nuclear safety, security and safeguards of the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine — disrupting the operation of nuclear facilities, and constraining or preventing Ukrainian authorities from carrying out routine safeguards tasks. Instead of calling yet another meeting on the crisis at Zaporizhzhia, the Russian Federation could resolve it immediately by withdrawing its forces from the plant, and all of Ukraine, ceasing its senseless aggression. He welcomed progress towards an IAEA technical visit, which must occur in a manner that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty over its territory. The Secretary-General has been clear that the United Nations can facilitate a visit from the Ukrainian side, and he welcomed the efforts of the Ukrainian Administration, and of IAEA staff to plan and support that mission. Commending the heroic efforts of Ukrainian staff operating the plant despite the great pressure they are under, he stressed that cutting off a major supply of electricity to the people of Ukraine would cause further immense suffering. A nuclear disaster should be unthinkable, and no member of the United Nations — let alone a permanent member of the Council — should bring about that threat by seeking to take another country’s nuclear facilities by force.
JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant's facilities must not be used, under any circumstances, to carry out military operations. The civilian status of the plant must be respected, and all military equipment and personnel and equipment immediately withdrawn. The Ukrainian regulatory authority must have freedom of access and effective control over the operation of the plant so that the seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety can be respected. He voiced support for the Secretary-General's request for the establishment of a demilitarized zone to allow IAEA to carry out the necessary inspections for objective, truthful and impartial information on the conditions at the plant. He called for an end to the war in Ukraine and a return to the path of dialogue, underscoring that the conflict of the last few months has had an enormous cost for the civilian population, with irreversible consequences. The negotiation of the grain agreements is credible proof of what can be achieved when there is political will and when reason prevails, he pointed out. “We hope that this can happen once again when it comes to reaching an agreement over Zaporizhzhia when what is at stake is no more or no less the right to life,” he said.
NATHALIE BROADHURST (France) said the Russian Federation bears responsibility for the Zaporizhzhia situation, insisting that it must return to Ukraine full control of the nuclear power plant, as well as all nuclear installations in Ukraine. All Russian military personnel and equipment must be withdrawn immediately from the plant, and Ukrainian personnel who operate it must be able to perform their duties without threat or pressure. The IAEA’s ability to monitor peaceful nuclear activities across Ukraine — compromised by Russian Federation actions — must be restored, with a mission of IAEA experts permitted as soon as possible — carried out with respect for the full sovereignty of Ukraine over its territory and its infrastructure. Welcoming the agreement in principle given by Ukraine and the Russian Federation, she called for sufficient security guarantees and a commitment from the parties so the mission can take place in the next few days. France will continue to support the efforts of the IAEA to that end, as President Emmanuel Macron indicated to President Vladimir Putin on 19 August, after meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on 16 August, and as France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs indicated again this morning during a telephone conversation with Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov.
STEPHANIE NGONYO MUIGAI (Kenya) said it is unfortunate that the Council is having this discussion for the second time in just over a week, at the tail end of the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Deployment of such weapons can have a long-term apocalyptic effect on humanity, biodiversity and the environment, with a stray or deliberate targeting of any nuclear installation — even those intended for peaceful purposes — turning them into nuclear weapons. She therefore voiced deep concern that shelling continues around the environs of the Zaporizhzhia plant, exposing thousands of civilians to grave security risks as well as power cut-offs. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s recent visit to Lviv and supporting his plea for the withdrawal of military equipment and personnel, she called for an immediate end to all military activity around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. She further urged for immediate and unconditional access to the site for IAEA experts and officials to conduct critically needed safety, security and safeguards verification activities. Parties must urgently shift gears and use diplomatic tools to end the conflict, ensuring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said the Council recently reiterated that any armed attack or threat against any nuclear facility violates the United Nations Charter, international law and the IAEA statute, and agreed it was “high time” the Agency deployed an expert mission without delay. Yet, shelling around Zaporizhzhia continues. Two weeks ago, the IAEA assessed that the situation posed no immediate threat to nuclear safety, however, this threat — which was once limited — is growing. He called on the parties to refrain from any measure that could jeopardize the safe operation of the Zaporizhzhia plant, welcoming news that plans for an IAEA visit to the facility are progressing and urging the parties to allow for its immediate dispatch.
ALBANA DAULLARI (Albania), recalling the Council’s meeting on the topic two weeks ago, said her country’s position is unchanged. “We are here only because of this senseless, unjustified, unprovoked and illegal war,” she insisted. News of innocent civilians, including children, losing their lives is a direct consequence of actions taken by the Russian Federation. She condemned the occupation and militarization of any nuclear power plant in Ukraine, as well as any act of violence inside or near the Zaporizhzhia plant or against its personnel. Ukrainian personnel operating the plant under Russian invasion must be able to carry out their important tasks without restriction, threat or pressure. All seven of the IAEA essential pillars have been compromised at Zaporizhzhia and she voiced strong support for the IAEA Director General to lead an expert mission to the scene as soon as possible. She expressed concern over reports that the Russian military aims to disconnect the plant from Ukraine’s energy network and divert its power to Russian interests. She requested that the Russian Federation not do so and urged it instead to immediately end the war and withdraw all armed forces from Ukraine.
GENG SHUANG (China), Council President for August, speaking in his national capacity, said it is disconcerting that the Zaporizhzhia plant is still under shelling. While there is not yet an immediate threat to its safety, according to IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, this could change at any moment. There is no room for trial and error when it comes to the safety and security of such facilities, as any single incident could have irreversible consequences for the public health and ecosystems of Ukraine and neighbouring countries. Calling for the parties to uphold their obligations under international law and implement the IAEA’s seven pillars, he called for an Agency site visit as soon as possible to assess technical safety and security — noting both the Russian Federation and Ukraine have made positive statements about that visit. The safety and security of nuclear facilities bear on the welfare of mankind, he stressed. The international community must not allow the tragedies of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to be repeated, guiding the parties back to dialogue and diplomacy to reach a ceasefire, while paying attention to respective security concerns.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), taking the floor again, said the reasons that compelled the Council to meet today have not disappeared, citing continued shelling by Ukrainian forces. The nuclear power plant does not have Russian heavy artillery, a point that can be confirmed by the objective control data, including from satellite. Once again, the Council has heard “the old record” that the Russian Federation is guilty of everything. Facts are being passed over or denied, with the goal of ensuring Kyiv protégés are whitewashed by their patrons. The IAEA visit was confirmed in June, a point he again confirmed today. However, some believe the only solution is to withdraw Russian forces and create a demilitarized zone. This does not consider the need to have safe conditions for the plant’s safe functioning. “Stop covering up what your Kyiv protégés are doing and stop them from attacking” the Zaporizhzhia plant, he insisted.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said he wished that the Council had been convened by the Russian Federation to hear that that country will demilitarize the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, withdraw its troops, and hand the plant over to the Government of Ukraine. "Once again, the Russian Federation has the audacity to convene a Council meeting to discuss its own provocations and its own terror at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” he added. Voicing appreciation for IAEA and the United Nations’ efforts to ensure the safety and security of all Ukrainian nuclear facilities, he said that Ukraine, since the beginning of the Russian Federation’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhia plant, has insisted on the need to send a mission to the site and has negotiated its modalities with IAEA.
He welcomed IAEA Director-General's readiness to send the mission to the occupied Zaporizhzhia plant, underscoring that the visit should be conducted in strict compliance with Ukraine’s national legislation and with full respect for its international obligations. He recalled that earlier today Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs had responded to the IAEA Director General's letter dated 17 August regarding the mission. As follows from the letter, the IAEA’s proposed itinerary is in compliance with Ukraine’s national legislation and in general might be accepted, he said. Further arrangements are to be made based on the security conditions and require communication of detailed route plans and other logistical aspects as soon as possible. The mission’s effectiveness can be bolstered by incorporating political and military components backed by United Nations expertise.
Underscoring that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is a Ukrainian facility located on Ukrainian territory, he pointed out that the occupiers have trained some of the hostages in what they should say or what they should show to the IAEA. “The mission must be conducted in a way that would allow the international community to see the real situation and not a Russian theatrical show,” he said. The mission must take place at the request of Ukraine, at the nuclear facility, and be covered by the agreement on the obligation of safeguards between Ukraine and IAEA. The Russian Federation’s role is to ensure the physical security of the mission.
Turning to reports of shelling, he said the Russian Federation’s narratives about Ukrainian shelling of the station do not stand up to scrutiny. No one can imagine that Ukraine would target a nuclear plant at tremendous risk of a nuclear catastrophe on its own territory, he underscored, pointing out that his country is mourning thousands of Ukrainians killed by Russians in their war against Ukraine. Turning again to the international mission to the Zaporizhzhia plant, he said the need to send such a mission is primarily due to violations of all seven pillars on nuclear security due to the Russian Federation’s illegal presence. The international community must continue to apply political pressure on the aggressor State of the Russian Federation and demand full demilitarization, he said.