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UN watchdog says nuclear accident must be avoided in Ukraine: ‘We are playing with fire’

The United Nations – The UN’s nuclear watchdog told world leaders at the UN Security Council on Tuesday that Ukrainian technicians who operate Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are “constantly under high stress and pressure, especially with the limited staff available”.

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the situation could “lead to an increase in human error with implications for nuclear safety”.

“We know and observed that the plant operators were operating in extremely difficult circumstances,” Grossi said, adding that the Russian military kept military equipment and vehicles at the plant itself.

“Our concrete recommendation in this regard is that the military vehicles and equipment that are currently present in the buildings inside the nuclear buildings on the site be removed, so as not to interfere with the normal functioning of the safety and security systems. nuclear,” the IAEA chief said. .

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the UN Security Council
Members of the United Nations Security Council attend a meeting on the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine at the United Nations headquarters on September 6, 2022 in New York.

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While the nuclear plant is operated by Ukrainian technicians, it has been occupied by Russian forces since early March.

“The Ukrainian staff are incredibly brave, they are effectively being held hostage by the Russian operation of the power station, and … Russia must step down,” Barbara Woodward, UK ambassador to the UK, told reporters. of ONU.

“Russia is playing Russian roulette with a nuclear incident,” Woodward added.

A convoy of IAEA inspectors arrived on September 1 at the factory with the mission of preventing a nuclear accident. Two permanent IAEA inspectors are now stationed at the plant.

“We join the CEO in commending personnel at all nuclear facilities for their endurance and resilience in ensuring the safe and secure operation of sites,” said Jeffrey DeLaurentis, U.S. Ambassador for Special Political Affairs.

DeLaurentis called on Russian troops to leave the plant and give “full control of the facility to Ukraine.”

The dangers of an accident at Europe’s largest factory increased weekly, since the Ukrainian war came closer to Zaporizhzhia.

Fighting around the plant continued and parts of the plant were damaged, according to a new IAEA report released on Monday. The 52-page report states that “the integrity of the building was violated by the bombardment”.

“Any further escalation affecting the six-reactor plant could lead to a serious nuclear accident with potentially serious radiological consequences for human health and the environment in Ukraine and elsewhere,” the report said.

UN inspectors examined the damage the bombardment inflicted on the plant and “noted with concern that the bombardment could have impacted security-related structures, systems and components, and could have cause significant safety impacts, loss of life and injury to personnel,” according to the report.

“While past events had not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, they posed a constant threat to nuclear safety and security as critical safety functions (containment of radioactivity and cooling in particular) could be impacted,” indicates the report.

On Monday, the plant was completely cut off from the Ukrainian power grid after its last transmission line was disconnected due to a fire caused by bombing, reports the Associated Press.

Only one of the plant’s six reactors was operational as of September 3, according to the AP. This reactor produced the energy the plant needed for its own safety in so-called “island mode”.

Zaporizhzhia’s reactors have had to rely on backup generators on several occasions following fighting around the plant.

“Any damage, intentional or not, to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia – or any other nuclear facility in Ukraine – could be catastrophic, not just for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond,” said UN Secretary General Antonio. Guterres told diplomats at the meeting,

“Any action that could endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear power plant is unacceptable,” said António Guterres. “An agreement on a demilitarized perimeter should be reached. Specifically, this 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 enter it.”

Grossi also called for continued radiation monitoring. He said the fact that the IAEA was able to inspect facilities in real time, rather than after an accident, was “unprecedented”.

“Russia should stop nuclear blackmail,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the UN Security Council end of August in a remote address.

Since then, Ukraine and Russia exchanged blame on the shelling inside and near the factory. The IAEA report does not accuse either side, but calls for a perimeter.

“We are playing with fire,” Grossi told diplomats on Tuesday.

“A nuclear power plant without an external power supply can lose crucial functionality. Without that, we could have a very serious accident,” Grossi said. “The IAEA recommends that offsite electrical power line redundancy be restored and available at all times for this to be possible. Military activities that could affect electrical power systems should be stopped immediately.”


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