UN nuclear power plant: Ukraine nuclear power plant is getting out of hand

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UNITED NATIONS (UKTN) — The UN nuclear chief warned that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine is “completely out of control” and made an urgent plea to Russia and Ukraine to quickly allow experts to visit the sprawling complex to investigate the stabilize situation and prevent a nuclear accident.

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview with The UK Time News on Tuesday that the situation is getting more dangerous every day at the Zaporizhzhya plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, which was occupied by Russian forces in early March. after their February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

“Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated” at the plant, he said. “What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely serious and dangerous.”

Grossi cited many violations of the factory’s security, adding that it is “in a place where active war is going on,” near Russian-controlled territory.

The plant’s physical integrity has not been respected, he said, citing shelling early in the war when it was taken over and ongoing information from Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of attacking Zaporizhzhya.

There is a “paradoxical situation” where the plant is controlled by Russia, but Ukrainian personnel continue to conduct its nuclear operations, leading to inevitable moments of friction and alleged violence, he said. While the IAEA has some contacts with the staff, they are “faulty” and “patchy,” he said.

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

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“When you put this together, you have a catalog of things that should never happen in a nuclear facility,” Grossi said. “And that’s why I’ve insisted from day one that we should be able to go there to do this safety and security assessment, make the repairs and help out like we did in Chernobyl.”

Russia’s capture of Zaporizhzhya renewed fears that the largest of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors could be damaged, triggering another emergency such as the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, affecting some 110 kilometers (65 miles) ) took place 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 “blinking like a red light”. But he said on Tuesday that the IAEA had set up “an aid mission” in Chernobyl at the time “that has been very, very successful so far”.

The IAEA needs to go to Zaporizhzhya, as it does to Chernobyl, to establish the facts of what is really happening there, to carry out repairs and inspections and “to prevent a nuclear accident,” Grossi said.

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The IAEA chief said he and his team need protection to get to the plant and the urgent cooperation of 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 there is something more urgent and that is to get the IAEA team to Zaporizhzhya.

“Because of his presence, the IAEA will act as a deterrent against any act of violence against this nuclear power plant,” Grossi said. “So I, as an international official, as the head of an international organization, beg both sides to keep this mission going.”

Grossi was in New York to deliver a keynote speech Monday at the opening of the long-delayed high-level meeting to review the landmark 50-year non-proliferation treaty aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ultimately achieving a nuclear-free world. .

In the interview, the IAEA chief also spoke about efforts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with the major powers, which the Trump administration abandoned in 2018 and which the Biden administration is seeking to renew.

Grossi said there is “an ongoing effort to try and go for yet another meeting or round to explore options for reaching an agreement.” He said he heard the meeting “could be soon”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the NPT review conference Monday that Iran was “unwilling or unable” to accept a deal to return to the 2015 agreement aimed at curbing its nuclear program.

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

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

Grossi stressed that working with the IAEA, answering its questions and allowing its inspectors to go where they need to be is essential for Iran to build trust. “Promises and good words will not suffice,” he said.

On another matter, Grossi said last September’s agreement, under which the United States and Britain will provide Australia with nuclear reactors to power its submarines, requires an agreement with the IAEA to ensure the amount of nuclear material in the ship when it leaves port is present when it leaves port. it returns.

He said Australia has not yet decided what type of ship it will get, so while preliminary discussions have been underway, substantive discussions cannot begin.

Because it’s a military ship, Grossi said, “there are a lot of confidentiality and information protection measures that need to be included in such an agreement, so it’s very technologically complex.”

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