UNs nuclear chief wants access to Ukrainian power station under Russian control
Written by First Choice Radio on 28 April 2022
The level of safety at Europe’s largest nuclear power station – under Russian occupation in Ukraine – is like a “red light blinking”, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s director-general said.
Rafael Grossi spoke as his organisation tries in vain to get access for work, including repairs.
He turned the focus to the station at Zaporizhzhia a day after the 36th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. That station was also taken over by invading Russian forces.
Mr Grossi said the IAEA needs access to the Zaporizhzhia facility in southern Ukraine so its inspectors can, among other things, re-establish connections with the Vienna-based headquarters of the UN agency. For that, both Russia and Ukraine need to help.
The station requires repairs “and all of this is not happening”, he said.
“So the situation as I have described it, and I would repeat it today, is not sustainable as it is. So this is a pending issue. This is a red light blinking.”
Mr Grossi gave an interview to the Associated Press (AP) on Wednesday, a day after meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.
“Understandably, my Ukrainian counterparts do not want the IAEA inspectors to go to one of their own facilities under the authority of a third power,” Mr Grossi said.
“I had a long conversation about this with President Zelensky last night and it’s something that will still require consultations. We are not there yet.”
The IAEA chief continues to press Russia’s government for access to the Zaporizhzhia plant.
“I don’t see movement in that direction as we speak,” he said, though he is meeting with the Russia “soon”.
“There are two units that are active, in active operation, as you know, (and) others that are in repairs or in cool down. And there are some activities, technical activities and also inspection activities that need to be performed,” Mr Grossi said.
With 15 reactors and one of the largest nuclear power capacities in the world, the war has essentially turned parts of Ukraine into a nuclear minefield. Again and again since the invasion, nuclear experts have watched in alarm as Russian forces have come uncomfortably close to multiple nuclear plants in Ukraine.
A Chernobyl security worker told the AP the Russians flew aircraft over the damaged reactor site and dug trenches in highly radioactive dirt.
On Monday, Russian cruise missiles flew over the Khmelnitsky nuclear station in western Ukraine.
“There cannot be any military action in or around a nuclear power plant,” Mr Grossi said, adding that he has appealed to Russia about this.
“This is unprecedented to have a war unfolding amidst one of the world’s largest nuclear infrastructures, which, of course, makes for a number of fragile or weak points that could be, of course, exploited wittingly or unwittingly,” he added.
“So this requires a lot of activity on our side and co-operation. Co-operation from the Russian side. Understanding from the Ukrainian side so that we can avoid an accident.”
On Iran, Mr Grossi said his agency is still trying to clarify answers from Tehran on outstanding questions involving traces of human-made enriched uranium at three sites in the country.
The Islamic Republic and the IAEA have been trying to resolve a series of issues between them since the collapse of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, including regaining access to footage from surveillance cameras at atomic sites in the country.
He also acknowledged Iran’s ability to enrich uranium since the deal’s collapse had expanded as it uses more-advanced centrifuges.
Tehran recently moved a centrifuge workshop to its underground Natanz nuclear facility after a suspected Israeli attack.
“They are transferring the centrifuge-producing capacity to a place where they feel they are more protected,” Mr Grossi said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, along with US and European support for Ukraine in the conflict, have increased tensions between Russia and the West, but it is “imperative for us to look for common denominators in spite of these difficulties,” he said.
He added: “We cannot afford to stop. We have to continue. It’s in the world’s interest, it’s in their own interest that the nuclear situation … is successful. I cannot imagine a geostrategic scenario where more nuclear weapons, proliferation, in the Middle East would help anybody or anything.”
Iran has long insisted its nuclear program is peaceful. However, US intelligence agencies and the IAEA assess Tehran had an organised military nuclear program until 2003.
Published: by Radio NewsHub