There is an “urgent” need to establish a “safety protection zone” at Russia’s Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine to prevent a nuclear disaster, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Tuesday.
“The situation in Ukraine is unprecedented,” warned the United Nations nuclear watchdog. “This is the first time that a military conflict has occurred at the facilities of a large, well-established nuclear program,” he said in a report.
A nuclear accident would be a disaster not only for Ukraine, but also for countries “beyond its borders”.
“The IAEA stands ready to immediately begin consultations leading to the urgent establishment of such a nuclear safety and security zone” at the plant, the IAEA said.
The dire warning from the Vienna-based organization that does not hyperbole came just 24 hours after the Ukrainian energy company that runs the Zaporizhzhia complex reported that the last line connecting the power station to the Ukrainian electricity grid had been disconnected after days of “bombing.”
The other three lines were destroyed earlier in the war.
“We are playing with fire, and something very, very catastrophic could happen,” Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned the UN Security Council days later. having carried out an inspection visit to the plant.
During the Security Council meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also demanded that Russian and Ukrainian forces pledge to end all military activity around the plant and agree to a “ demilitarized perimeter”.
“The current situation is untenable and the best action to ensure the safety and security of nuclear facilities for Ukraine and its people would be to end this armed conflict now,” the IAEA report said.
“The world is once again on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe,” Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said on Facebook.
The Zaporizhzhia plant in the city of Enerhodar in southeastern Ukraine was commissioned in the 1980s when the country was part of the then Soviet Union and supplied up to 20% of Ukraine’s electricity after independence. Its six reactors generate more energy than any such facility in the United States.
But he was captured in the early days of the Russian invasion, which began in February.
IAEA inspectors visited the Zaporizhzhia plant on September 1 and since then have been assessing the damage to the site, evaluating its safety and security systems and interviewing Ukrainian personnel who operated the plant. ‘facility.
Before the war, the Ukrainian factory employed 11,000 people. The remaining number was not immediately clear. But the IAEA left two inspectors at the factory.
“The IAEA remains gravely concerned about the situation at ZNPP – this has not changed,” the monitoring group said in its report, referring to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. “All seven pillars have been compromised at the site.”
The seven pillars refer to the IAEA’s seven basic nuclear safety standards, the first of which states: “The physical integrity of facilities – whether reactors, fuel basins or radioactive waste repositories – must be maintained.”
The West has accused Russia of increasing the risk of a nuclear disaster by using the plant as a “shield” where it stations troops and weapons – and launches attacks on other Ukrainian targets from the site.
Russia denied the charges and, in turn, accused Ukraine of repeatedly attacking the plant.
The IAEA has warned that the consequences of a war-induced collapse at the plant would be far-reaching and ‘much more terrible’ than those of the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near the northern city of Pripyat from Ukraine.
This disaster triggered the evacuation of more than 100,000 people living near the plant and led to the formation of a radioactive cloud which drifted across most of Europe and was blamed for cancer spikes – in especially among children – in Ukraine and neighboring Belarus.
The Zaporizhzhia plant is almost twice the size of Chernobyl, although its reactors are more modern, experts told NBC News earlier.
Associated press contributed.
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