Zaporizhzhia Plant Must Have Security Protection Zone Around It to Avoid Nuclear Catastrophe, International Atomic Energy Agency Director Warns Security Council
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called today for the creation of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, warning the Security Council of a potential catastrophe should the facility sustain further physical assault amid reports of shelling.
“We are playing with fire,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi warned, as he outlined the findings from the newly released report on the IAEA’s “historic” Mission to Zaporizhzhia last week to assess the conditions — a visit that resulted from “painstaking” efforts to corroborate facts observed over six months.
Laying out the issues in stark terms, Mr. Grossi said the physical attacks sustained by the facility — and that he personally assessed — are simply unacceptable. Operators are working under “extremely challenging” circumstances. Military vehicles and equipment inside nuclear buildings must be removed so as not to interfere with the normal operations of the nuclear safety and security system.
Further, he said operating staff must be allowed to return to the plant’s routine line of authority — an issue raised “time and again” since March, when the plant first became occupied. The off-site power line redundancy must be re-established. “Without this, we could have a very serious nuclear accident,” he stressed.
He pressed all parties to ensure the effective operation of supply chains, highlighting IAEA assistance and support programmes available to help re-establish them, as they did in Chernobyl. IAEA can also help monitor radiation systems, he said, stressing that all reliable means of communications must also be restored. “We are ready to consult quickly with the parties,” he said. The report is considered an interim step until longer-term measures can be put in place.
In line with those remarks, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said any damage, whether intentional or not, to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia could spell catastrophe, adding that “all steps must be taken to avoid such a scenario”.
As a first step, Russian and Ukrainian forces must commit not to engage in any military activity towards or from the plant site, he said. It must not be a target or a platform for military operations. As a second step, an agreement on a demilitarized perimeter should be secured. Specifically, that would include a commitment by Russian forces to withdraw all military personnel and equipment from that perimeter, and a commitment by Ukrainian forces not to move into it.
He trusted that the IAEA experts now deployed to Zaporizhzhia would be able to carry out their work without hindrance, he said. “All of us have a stake in the success of their critical mission.”
Taking the floor first in the ensuing debate, the Russian Federation’s representative said the visit offered IAEA an opportunity to see that the only threats were those from the shelling and sabotage by Ukrainian armed forces. This was evident in the Director General’s statement of concern over the plant’s physical integrity. “It is important that you were able to see with your own eyes that, thanks to cooperation between ZNPP staff and the Russian armed forces protecting the station, it is functioning normally,” he said.
Most other delegations welcomed that the Mission could finally take place and that IAEA now has an ongoing presence at Zaporizhzhia, with Germany’s delegate pointing out that his country, in its national capacity and as the Group of 7 President, was among those that pushed for the IAEA Mission to be deployed as a matter of urgency.
The United States representative stressed that, despite the Russian Federation’s “song and dance”, the situation stems from that country’s 4 March seizure of the plant and conduct of military operations in its vicinity. He — like several of his counterparts — called on the Russian Federation to end all military operations and to return full control to Ukraine.
Albania’s delegate wondered aloud about the motive of the Russian Federation to attack, overrun, occupy and militarize a nuclear power plant in another country. He also questioned why that country had not agreed to establish a secure perimeter in order to avoid any incidents.
To that point, the United Kingdom’s representative underscored that the situation was akin to “playing roulette with nuclear safety”. Describing the pressure under which the Plant’s staff were working, she said: “They are no longer workers, but hostages being held at gunpoint.”
Norway’s delegate took a step further to equate the seizure of the plant with the hostage taking of an essential source of power supply. It is totally unacceptable that a nuclear plant has become a frontline in the Russian war against Ukraine, she said.
Calling for an independent, impartial investigation to establish responsibility when military activity is damaging to nuclear facilities, Gabon’s representative stressed his delegation “cannot be satisfied by half measures, given the scope of the danger”. Existing rules of nuclear security must be abided to in order to ensure that the site is safe.
Mexico’s delegate urged the Agency to continue sharing with the Council any relevant information, expressing hope that IAEA’s visit and permanent presence at the plant will foster early negotiations to end hostilities in Ukraine
The representative of India, meanwhile, issued calls for diplomacy, pointing to the successful export of grains from Ukraine and food and fertilizers from the Russian Federation to make her point. “Differences can be resolved through sustained dialogue,” she said.
To that idea, Ukraine’s representative countered that the only way to remove the nuclear threat is for the Russian Federation to withdraw its weapons and troops, and to return the station to the full legitimate control of his country. Under no circumstance has Ukraine ever used forceful military actions in relation to the plant, he insisted. Only by strengthening sanctions and officially recognizing the Russian Federation as a terrorist State, at all levels, will the situation be corrected.
Also speaking today were representatives of Brazil, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, China, Ghana, Kenya and France.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 4:53 p.m.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the United Nations Secretariat stated his proud support for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its critical task to ensure the safe operation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Thanking all colleagues assisting in the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhia, especially the 13 United Nations support and security professionals who played an essential role in the deployment of the IAEA Mission, he expressed grave concern about the situation in and around the plant, including reports of recent shelling.
“Let’s tell it like it is,” he said, stressing that any damage, whether intentional or not, to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia — or to any other nuclear facility in Ukraine — “could spell catastrophe”, adding that “all steps must be taken to avoid such a scenario”. Common sense and cooperation must guide the way forward. Any action that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant is unacceptable. All efforts to re-establish the plant as purely civilian infrastructure are vital.
As a first step, he said Russian and Ukrainian forces must commit not to engage in any military activity towards the plant site or from the plant site, emphasizing that the Zaporizhzhia facility and its surroundings must not be a target or a platform for military operations. As a second step, an agreement on a demilitarized perimeter should be secured. Specifically, that would include a commitment by Russian forces to withdraw all military personnel and equipment from that perimeter and a commitment by Ukrainian forces not to move into it.
For their part, operators at the plant must be able to carry out their responsibilities, and communications must be maintained, he continued. “Now is the time to urgently agree on concrete measures to ensure the safety of the area,” he said, expressing regret that the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons fell victim to the war in Ukraine. While its outcome document sought to address the safety and security of nuclear power plants in armed conflict zones, including in Ukraine, the Conference failed to reach consensus on how to strengthen the Treaty. Looking ahead, he trusted that the IAEA experts now deployed to Zaporizhzhia would be able to carry out their work without hindrance and contribute to ensuring lasting nuclear safety and security at the plant. “All of us have a stake in the success of their critical mission,” he said. “Let us commit to do everything we can to support them.”
RAFAEL MARIANO GROSSI, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), presenting the Agency’s report on its visit last week to the Zaporizhzhia plant, described it as the result of “painstaking” efforts to corroborate facts observed over six months. He outlined the findings in the context of the seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety, noting that the first pillar involves not violating a plant’s physical integrity. “Unfortunately […] this continues to happen,” he said. The physical attacks sustained by the facility — and that he personally assessed — are simply unacceptable. “We are playing with fire,” he warned. “Something very, very catastrophic could take place.” The report thus proposes the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone, limited to the perimeter and the plant itself.
He said the second safety pillar states that all safety and security systems and equipment should operate normally. However, IAEA experts observed that operators were operating under extremely challenging circumstances, together with military equipment and vehicles in various parts. The report recommends that military vehicles and equipment that are currently inside nuclear buildings should be removed so as not to interfere with the nuclear safety and security system.
The third pillar states that the operating staff must do their jobs without undue pressures, he continued, an issue that has been raised “time and again” since March, when the plant was first occupied. The report recommends that the operators be allowed to return to the plant’s routine line of authority and that an appropriate work environment be established. The fourth pillar — off-site power supply — is crucially important in that a nuclear plant without external power supply may lose functionality, including for the cooling of the reactors and spent fuel. “Without this, we could have a very serious nuclear accident,” he pointed out. IAEA recommends that off-site power line redundancy be re-established and available at any time, and that all military activities be stopped immediately.
He said the fifth safety pillar involves uninterrupted logistical supply chains and transport to and from the site. Explaining that the Zaporizhzhia plant is the largest in Europe, requiring a constant flow of spare parts and other equipment, he recommended that all parties contribute to ensuring effective supply chains. Through IAEA assistance and support programmes, flows of supplies had been significantly re-established at Chernobyl. A similar mechanism could be applied in Zaporizhzhia, he said.
On the sixth pillar — involving radiation monitoring systems — he said IAEA equipment monitoring has been effective. The report recommends that the site continue ensuring this functionality, including through exercises that IAEA can help to perform. The seventh pillar states that there must be continued and reliable communications with the Ukrainian regulator. “We’ve seen, repeatedly, that these lines of communications have been interrupted,” he said. IAEA recommends that reliable communications means and channels be secure at all times.
He described last week’s Mission as “historic”, as it allowed IAEA to undertake a neutral, technical reading of the situation. The fact that IAEA inspectors remain at the site offers enormous value for the United Nations and international community in evaluating immediate conditions on the ground. “This fact is unprecedented,” he said, explaining that IAEA visits to areas undergoing difficult circumstances, such as Fukushima, had always been done “after the fact, to pick up the pieces”. At Zaporizhzhia, by agreeing to a special safety and security protection zone, there is an opportunity to prevent certain events from happening. “We are ready to consult quickly with the parties,” he said, adding that the report is considered an interim step until longer-term measures can be put in place.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the IAEA visit to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant allowed the IAEA Director General and his team to personally assess the situation and make sure that the seven principles of safety are strictly adhered to by the Russian Federation. “It is important that you were able to see with your own eyes that, thanks to cooperation between ZNPP staff and the Russian armed forces protecting the station, it is functioning normally and there are no internal threats to its security,” he said. Moreover, the visit was an excellent opportunity to see that the only threats to the plant are from the shelling and sabotage from the Ukrainian armed forces. This was seen in the conclusion at the Director-General’s briefing when he said that the Agency is most concerned by the physical security and integrity of the station, the risks for which have increased due to the shelling in August. However, it was regrettable that, in the report on the safeguards implementation in Ukraine from April to September this year, the source of shelling was not directly named. While his delegation understands the Director-General’s position as head of an international regulator, in the current situation it is extremely important to call things by their name, he said.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) welcomed the Agency’s technical report and added his support for the inspectors to continue to have unhindered and safe access to the facility. The Russian Federation should let Ukraine operators carry out all measures that they deem important to operate the plant and maintain its safety, he said, stressing that the danger is enormous. He also voiced his support for Ukraine’s call for demilitarization of the area surround the facility. Calling for the Russian Federation to withdraw from Ukraine, he said that despite that country’s “song and dance”, it has no right to expose the world to unnecessary risks. The situation is a result of the Russian Federation’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and its 4 March seizure of the plant. Russian troops continue to conduct military operations around the plant, which in turn create an increased risk of a disaster. Also of concern was the disconnection of the external power line over the weekend, he noted, adding that for now, it is generating enough power to operate its cooling system. He called on the Russian Federation to end all military operations around the plant and return full control to Ukraine. Underscoring that there is no excuse for a nuclear incident, he also voiced his rejection of all attempts of the Russian Federation to take power from Ukraine’s electric grid. The Russian Federation alone is responsible for this crisis and can resolve it. It must respect the Charter and Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) welcomed IAEA’s ongoing presence at the Zaporizhzhia plant and thanked Ukraine for facilitating the Agency’s visit. The physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times. With the publication of today’s report, IAEA confirmed the presence of Russian military personnel, vehicles and equipment in the plant, she said, recalling that Russian military equipment has been as close as 60 metres from the nuclear reactors. The report also confirmed the immense pressure under which the Ukrainian staff are operating. “They are no longer workers, but hostages being held at gunpoint,” she insisted. By choosing to invade a nuclear power plant, the Russian Federation is “playing roulette with nuclear safety”, she added. Any measures to ensure nuclear safety should involve the full withdrawal of Russian troops and personnel. Stressing that the situation at Zaporizhzhia is entirely of the Russian Federation’s making, she pointed out that its invasion has disrupted facilities across Ukraine and jeopardized the safety of millions. The Russian Federation can resolve the situation by immediately withdrawing its forces from all of Ukraine and ceasing its senseless, reckless aggression.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said the Agency’s Mission to the Zaporizhzhia plant was a positive development amid a conflict in which good news has been rare. The presence of IAEA inspectors allows the international community to know the real dimension of risks to the nuclear installation’s safety. Avoiding a nuclear catastrophe must be a priority, he said, adding: “We find it extremely concerning that the physical integrity of the plant has been violated repeatedly in recent weeks.” More worrying is that the prospect that an IAEA Mission was not enough to stop the bombings. He repeated an appeal for the immediate suspension of all actions that could jeopardize the security of Zaporizhzhia before damage to the plant results in irreparable consequences to human lives, the environment and the region’s safety. Attacks on nuclear facilities dedicated to peaceful purposes violate the Charter of the United Nations, international law and the Statute of the IAEA. He reminded parties of their responsibilities under multilateral instruments, such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel, and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its amendment.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), noting that Member States know the origin of the problem, asked: “What is the business of Russia to attack, overrun, occupy and militarize a nuclear power plant in another country? Who is responsible in the first place that there is fighting in the surroundings of the power plant? Why has Russia not answered for demilitarizing that plant, hand it over to those it belongs — Ukraine — and agree to establish a secure perimeter in order to avoid any incidents?” A clear and straightforward answer to those questions would help provide more clarity, he said, calling on the Russian Federation to withdraw its military forces and all other unauthorized personnel from the Zaporizhzhia plant, its immediate surroundings, and all of Ukraine. Voicing concern that the widespread infrastructure damage and loss of off-site electricity could damage the cooling systems and lead to a nuclear meltdown, he condemned any act of violence perpetrated inside or near the plant or against its personnel. He also called for the immediate implementation of the IAEA’s recommendation to establish a secure perimeter around that facility and other nuclear facilities in Ukraine.
CAIT MORAN (Ireland) said she welcomed the Director-General’s intention to maintain an ongoing IAEA presence at the plant. Emphasizing that the Agency has a key role in helping Ukraine uphold nuclear safety and security, she expressed concern by the situation at the plant, including the ongoing military activity and shelling. She urged the Russian Federation to stop its efforts to disconnect the plant from the main Ukrainian grid, which creates a significant risk of a catastrophic radiological incident. The Director-General has again clearly laid out the importance of the seven pillars of nuclear safety and security and how these are being flouted at Zaporizhzhia, due to the Russian Federation’s actions. She called on the Russian Federation and, indeed, all States to fully commit themselves to those seven pillars, for all nuclear facilities and materials, including in situations of armed conflict. “If Russia is serious about safety at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, it must end its illegal occupation of the site and withdraw its troops and munitions,” she said. It is essential so Ukrainian authorities, with the IAEA, can uphold their responsibilities for safety and security at the site.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) said IAEA’s continued presence at the Zaporizhzhia plant cannot be overstated. Commending the Ukrainian staff who continue to operate the plant under occupation by Russian forces, she called on the Russian Federation to return full control to its Ukrainian operator. Safety and security conditions at Zaporizhzhia have deteriorated solely because of the Russian Federation’s aggression, she said, emphasizing that it is totally unacceptable that a nuclear plant has become a frontline in the Russian war against Ukraine. Noting that IAEA identified the urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear disaster, she said this can be achieved through the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone. She reaffirmed the importance of the seven IAEA pillars and expressed support for the Agency’s efforts to ensure their implementation in Ukraine. She also voiced particular concern over the seizure of the plant as a means of taking hostage an essential source of electricity supply for Ukraine, stressing that the power rightly belongs to the people of Ukraine. Any attempts to disconnected it from the Ukrainian grid are unacceptable. The Russian Federation’s aggression has aggravated global food insecurity, affecting the most vulnerable the hardest, she added.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India), voicing appreciation for the IAEA’s recent visit to Ukraine, said her country continues to carefully follow developments regarding the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear power reactors and facilities. The Agency’s discharge of its safeguards and monitoring activities, in accordance with its Statute in an effective, non-discriminatory and efficient manner, is of high priority to her delegation. There must be a strict mutual restraint so as not to endanger the safety and security of nuclear facilities and personnel working there. Since the beginning of the conflict, her country has consistently called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an end to violence. She urged both sides to return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue, voicing support for all diplomatic efforts to end the conflict. She welcomed the Secretary-General-backed initiative to open the exports of grains from Ukraine via the Black Sea and the facilitation of the exports of Russian food and fertilizers, noting that those efforts demonstrate that differences can be resolved through sustained dialogue and diplomacy.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates), emphasizing that the IAEA’s Mission marked a crucial first step to assessing the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, voiced his hope that this spirit of technical cooperation will be extended to all such facilities in Ukraine. Expressing concern that the plant’s physical integrity has been violated several times, he underscored the need for measures to be put in place to prevent an accident that could arise from the physical damage. The recent news that the plant was disconnected from the grid due to a fire caused by shelling is a “serious concern”, he stressed, underscoring the critical importance of de-escalation. Disruption of the external power supply could have disastrous consequences. He recalled that nuclear plants are afforded special protection under international humanitarian law; such protections must be upheld. Calling on both sides to ensure the seven IAEA pillars are respected, he expressed alarm that all seven have been compromised. Going forward, the continued presence of IAEA inspectors will remain essential, he said, calling for the cessation of hostilities and a diplomatic end to the conflict.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) voiced concern about reports of several violations to the physical integrity of the nuclear power plant and disruption in electric supply. It is crucial and urgent to restore and preserve the physical integrity of the power station, he stressed, condemning any and all use or threat to use a nuclear facility for military purposes. He called for a cessation of all military activity within or near the nuclear power plant, noting that parties to the conflict must abstain from any attack against the site. He also called for an independent and impartial investigation to establish responsibility for all military activity when it is damaging to nuclear facilities. Parties to the conflict must abide by existing rules of nuclear security and cooperate with IAEA in a transparent manner to ensure that the site is safe. “We cannot be satisfied by half measures given the scope of the danger,” he said, stressing that good-faith negotiations must continue in order to put an end to the war. He encouraged all initiatives aimed at bringing parties to the negotiating table to stop the hostilities.
GENG SHUANG (China) said the safety and security of the Zaporizhzhia plant has been nerve-wracking for the international community. Noting that the Agency’s inspectors were able to carry out an objective inspection, he said he was pleased with the positive developments. However, despite repeated warnings, the shelling has continued, even after the inspectors had arrived. “This is truly worrying,” he said. Pointing out that the Chernobyl nuclear accident has not faded into memory, he emphasized that the world cannot afford another nuclear disaster. He called on all parties to act rationally and safely and to implement the seven pillars proposed by the Agency’s Director-General. He expressed his support for the inspectors’ long-term presence and said he hoped they can provide technical and safe support. He also encouraged the Agency to maintain its communication with relevant parties. The international community should step up diplomatic efforts to help achieve a ceasefire, with all parties adopting a safe approach to jointly maintain global security.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said ensuring the smooth security and operation of the Zaporizhzhia plant is essential in order to avoid a disaster. He called for avoiding any action that risks its physical integrity and that of IAEA experts, underscoring Mexico’s confidence in their impartiality. He voiced concern that the seven pillars are not being fully respected in the area, cautioning that any attack against a nuclear installation is a violation of international law. He urged the Agency to continue sharing with the Council any relevant information, expressing hope that IAEA’s visit and permanent presence at the plant will foster early negotiations to end hostilities in Ukraine. With that, he reiterated Mexico’s commitment to do its utmost to promote a diplomatic solution to end the war.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said today’s briefing reinforced his continuing concern about the rapidly escalating risk of a radioactive exposure resulting from the militarization of the Zaporizhzhia plant and the surrounding area. After the unrelenting shellfire at the facility on 25 August, which led to a temporary loss of the main power supply to the nuclear reactors, he said he was equally concerned to learn that the plant’s main connection to the power grid was lost on Saturday due to sustained shelling. These incidents compromise the cooling and safe functioning of the plant and elevate the risks of accidental or deliberate radioactive exposure. He added his full endorsement of the IAEA’s position that, pending the conflict’s end and the re-establishment of stable conditions, interim measures will be urgently needed to prevent a nuclear accident due to physical damage caused by military action. He also welcomed the permanent presence of the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhia at the facility and urged the parties to cooperate fully with the team. It is crucial for the Russian Federation to heed international calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of its forces from the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine and to pave the way for meaningful engagement between the parties towards a peaceful settlement.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) said as State party to the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, Kenya upholds the treaty’s aims: to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology; to foster the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; and to further disarmament. He expressed his deep concern regarding the fragile nuclear safety and security situation in Ukraine, particularly at the Zaporizhzhia plant. He welcomed the presence of the IAEA team there and urged full support and cooperation for them. The parties concerned must exercise restraint, act with caution, refrain from any action that may compromise nuclear safety and security, and work to minimize the possibility of accidents. He called for an immediate cessation of the war through diplomatic tools to spare further suffering for the Ukrainian people and he reaffirmed Kenya’s respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity to say that for several weeks, his country has been mobilized at the highest level to facilitate the deployment of IAEA experts to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. President Emmanuel Macron and the Minister for Foreign Affairs received the IAEA Director-General in Paris to express their full support, he reported, also highlighting the constructive role played by the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that the mission takes place in the best possible conditions. Voicing concern about the conclusions shared by IAEA, he said strikes and shelling near and from the plant must cease. In addition, all Russian military personnel and equipment must be removed from the plant immediately, he stressed, calling for the plant’s demilitarization. Moreover, Ukrainian personnel operating the plant must be able to carry out its mission without threat or pressure. Ukrainian sovereignty over the Zaporizhzhia plant must be respected. The Russian Federation must return full control of the plant to Ukraine, as well as of all nuclear installations in Ukraine, and put an end to its attempts to divert the electricity produced at the plant to its illegally occupied territories.
Mr. GROSSI said he valued all the delegates’ comments, noting that they were a tremendous source of encouragement. Nonetheless, the purpose of the Mission was not only to produce reports, though reports are indispensable, but to get things done and improve the situation. He also said he was glad that the delegates recognized the seven pillars and supported an initiative for interim measures to protect the safety and security of the plant through a protection zone. Thus, as important as what was in the report, what is more important is what will come next, he stressed. In that regard, he said he will soon approach the relevant parties with concrete elements for their consideration to move forward in the next logical step. The first step is the immediate protection to the plant, he noted, adding that he was always at the Council’s disposal and will continue to count on the Secretary-General’s support for Agency personnel. He appealed to all to work together on the protection of the Zaporizhzhia plant and to help establish a protection zone.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine), expressing his appreciation for the bravery and professionalism of the IAEA experts, said that their visit is only the first step. The plant remains under occupation; the Russian military equipment and weapons are still deployed at the site; and armed provocations continue. The only way to remove the nuclear threat is the withdrawal of the Russian weaponry and troops and the return of the station to the full legitimate control of Ukraine. This is a key prerequisite for restoring nuclear safety and security and respect for international law. He also said he remained concerned that the Ukrainian staff was working under conditions of threats and pressure by the Russians. The IAEA verified the Ukraine delegation’s assertions during previous Council meetings that it was the Russian Federation’s practice to use the plant as a shield for its personnel and hardware. The issue now under discussion, the continuous presence of the IAEA at the plant, was put forward by Ukraine, which is ready for immediate substantive consultations with the IAEA on the modalities of the Agency’s continuous presence at the plant to stabilize the critical situation and avoid future aggravation.
He re-confirmed that under no circumstance has Ukraine ever resorted to forceful military actions in relation to the plant, which endangers Ukraine and millions of lives in neighbouring countries. Yesterday, the last power transmission line that connected the station to Ukraine’s energy system was damaged, he said, adding: “This is the second time, due to Russian provocation, that the Zaporizhzhia station was one step away from nuclear disaster.” He went on to cite President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy, who said yesterday: “We consider the fact that Russia is doing this right now, right on the eve of the IAEA conclusions, very eloquent.” He further cited the President’s remarks, adding that the Russian Federation only wants the situation to remain the worst for the longest time. Only by strengthening sanctions and only by officially recognizing Russia as a terrorist state, at all levels, will the situation be corrected.
The main outcome of the joint international efforts must be the withdrawal of the Russian military and civilian personnel from the plant’s territory, as well as from Enerhodar, he continued. This will definitely bring the plant to its safe and secure operation, as it was before the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine. As stated in the IAEA report, “the current situation is untenable and the best action to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and its people would be for the armed conflict to end now,” he said.
THOMAS PETER ZAHNEISEN (Germany) noted that, in stark contrast to the Russian Federation’s false claims, it is that country’s seizure of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that poses a serious threat to the safety and security of the site. Moreover, it is the Russian Federation that is militarizing the power plant and placing equipment and troops on the premises. He underscored the importance of investigating the situation and assessing the safety of the plant’s operations, pointing out that his country, in its national capacity and as the Group of 7 President, was among those countries who actively pushed for the IAEA mission to be deployed as a matter of urgency. Noting that the situation at the plant remains of grave concern, he said that the Mission must be able to continue its work there and permanently respond to relevant safety, security and safeguards concerns. He urged the Russian Federation to hand back full control of the nuclear power plant to Ukraine, its rightful sovereign owner, to ensure its safe and secure operations and to provide for continued electricity supply to the Ukrainian population.