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Ukraine / EU Joins Condemnation Of Shelling At Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station

By David Dalton
9 August 2022

Energy commissioner calls for Russia to withdraw from site ‘without delay’
EU Joins Condemnation Of Shelling At Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station
Russian forces captured the Zaporizhzhia facility in early March but it is still run by Ukrainian technicians. Image courtesy Energoatom.
Europe’s energy commissioner Kadri Simson has joined condemnation of shelling at and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, Europe’s largest commercial nuclear power facility, which she said has “caused significant damage to infrastructure, including near the dry storage of spent nuclear fuel within the nuclear power plant perimeter”.

“This reckless behaviour by the Russian military forces poses a great danger to the plant’s safe operation increasing significantly the risk of a nuclear accident and must not happen again,” Simson said in a statement.

While information obtained from the EU’s radioactivity monitoring systems and international sources does not indicate any increase of radioactivity in Ukraine or the EU nor any immediate radiation threat, military activities around nuclear power plants are “unacceptably dangerous”, Simson said. “The EU calls on Russia to ensure that repair works can be rapidly implemented and that the safety of the workers involved in them and in the operation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station is guaranteed.”

Simson said the deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at Zaporizhzhia is “an open violation of all internationally agreed safety, security and safeguards provisions”. It said the Russian military and other personnel must withdraw from the site without delay so that the Ukrainian operator can operate the plant safely and as an integral part of Ukraine's energy system and electricity grid.

“Ukrainian nuclear safety authorities must be allowed to exercise fully their regulatory control, including access to the site in view of carrying out their duties in accordance with international conventions and IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safety standards.

Russia ‘Must Bear Full Responsibility’

“Russia must bear full responsibility in front of the international community for its aggression to Ukraine and for its unlawful and reckless actions, including on nuclear safety.”

Earlier this week UN secretary general António Guterres called for international inspectors to be given access to Zaporizhzhia after Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over the shelling of the facility.

“Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” Guterres told a news conference in Japan.

Guterres said the IAEA needed access to the facility. “We fully support the IAEA in all their efforts in relation to create the conditions of stabilisation of the plant,” Guterres said.

Guterres’s comments followed expressions of “grave concern” by the IAEA’s director-general about shelling at Zaporizhzhia. Rafael Grossi stressed the “crucial importance” of the agency being able to send a mission of safety, security and safeguards experts to the site.

Ukraine informed the IAEA that the shelling had damaged the facility’s external power supply system, but that two power lines remained operational, Grossi said. The shelling had also triggered the emergency protection system of one of the station’s three operating reactors. This unit was disconnected from the grid as a result of Friday’s events, Ukraine said.

Ukraine said renewed Russian shelling on Saturday had damaged three radiation sensors and hurt a worker at station, the second hit in consecutive days on the site.

Russian-installed authorities in the area said Ukrainian forces hit the site with a multiple rocket launcher, damaging administrative buildings and an area near a storage facility.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of waging “nuclear terror” that warranted more international sanctions, this time on Moscow’s nuclear sector. “There is no such nation in the world that could feel safe when a terrorist state fires at a nuclear plant,” Zelenskiy said in a televised address on Sunday.

On social media Zelenskiy said he had talked with Charles Michel, president of the European council, and told him about the situation on the battlefield, in particular at Zaporizhzhia. “Russian nuclear terror requires a stronger response from the international community – sanctions on the Russian nuclear industry and nuclear fuel.”

Ukraine told the IAEA that there had been no damage to the reactors themselves, no radiological release and no reports of injuries. However, it said a nitrogen-oxygen station, which supports plant operations, and an auxiliary building were damaged. Firefighters had quickly extinguished a fire at the nitrogen-oxygen station, but it still needs to be repaired, Ukraine said. The IAEA said it has also received information about shelling near the spent fuel storage facility.

Energoatom Calls For Military-Free Zone

On Saturday morning, two of the station’s six units were operating and the radiation situation was normal, Ukraine told the IAEA.

Based on the limited information available, Mr Grossi said IAEA experts had made a preliminary assessment that the current nuclear safety and security situation at Zaporizhzhia seemed stable, with no immediate threat to nuclear safety.

The IAEA said it will continue to closely monitor the evolution of the situation, the progress of repairs and any nuclear safety implications at the site, he said.

The head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom called for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station to be made a military-free zone, warning of the risk of a Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster after the site was hit by shelling.

Petro Kotin called for a team of peacekeepers to be deployed at the site. “The decision that we demand from the world community and all our partners... is to withdraw the invaders from the territory of the station and create a demilitarised zone on the territory of the station,” Mr Kotin said on television.

Energoatom said on Telegram that the periodic shelling of Zaporizhzhia by Russian troops with anti-aircraft missiles had caused “a serious risk to the safe operation of the plant”. The company said: “Given that it is impossible to predict the actions of invaders, the threat to the station’s physical security remains.”

Russian forces captured the facility in southeastern Ukraine in early March but it is still run by Ukrainian technicians.

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