The IAEA asks to create a “security zone” around the Zaporizhia plant

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The UN nuclear agency considers the situation at the Zaporizhia nuclear plant, occupied by Russian troops, “unsustainable”, for which it demanded the creation of a “security zone” to avoid a possible radioactive disaster. The IAEA’s concerns are several.

After the visit of its experts, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded in a report that all the safety pillars in the Ukrainian nuclear plant in Zaporizhia have been compromised, for which it called for immediate action to safeguard the plant and avoid major risks, such as a possible nuclear disaster.

“This requires an agreement from all parties,” highlights the report of the body that after several attempts managed to access the plant to verify the real state of the huge structure, which has been the target of attacks for months in the framework of the invasion from Russia to Ukraine.

Moscow and kyiv have accused each other of attacking the plant, occupied by Russia, and disconnected from the Ukrainian network with intense bombardment on several occasions, the last since Monday afternoon.

The confrontations between both parties around the plant have generated alarm among the population and the international community due to the high risk of a nuclear disaster.

“The current situation is unsustainable and the best measure to guarantee the security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and its population would be for this armed conflict to end now,” the entity states in its 52-page document.

The IAEA also noted that the personnel in charge of operating the plant are under constant pressure and stress given the tense context, so the risk of human error grows every day.

Stop the bombing and create a safe zone, at the head of the seven IAEA recommendations

In total, the IAEA submitted seven recommendations for the Zaporizhia nuclear plant. The most important is the request for “an agreement of all parties” so that “the bombing of the site and its surroundings stop” and create “a security zone”. This measure would prevent further damage, ensure the integrity of personnel and facilities, and maintain the safe operation of the site.

“While the ongoing bombardment has not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, it continues to pose an ongoing threat to nuclear security,” the report warns.

The agency also raised its concern in several deficiencies that it noted during its last visit: the presence of Russian military material and personnel; the involvement of representatives of the Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, which interferes with “normal lines of command or operational authority”; and the deterioration of elements of the plant, as well as the technical difficulty to repair them.

Employees of the Zaporizhia nuclear plant work during a visit by IAEA officials, on September 2, 2022.
Employees of the Zaporizhia nuclear plant work during a visit by IAEA officials, on September 2, 2022. © IAEA / Handout via Reuters

From these difficulties and others flow the remaining IAEA recommendations. The atomic energy entity urged that the functioning of the security and physical operation systems be ensured; that a suitable working environment for the personnel and the external energy supply system be restored, while at the same time the military operations that put it at risk are completed.

Meanwhile, in its last three recommendations, the IAEA pointed to all parties “committing themselves and contributing to guarantee effective supply chains for the continued nuclear safety of the plant”; that emergency response facilities be restored and regular training in this regard be resumed; and that “reliable and redundant means and channels of communication, including Internet and/or satellite connection, with all external organizations are guaranteed.”

Bombing continues around Zaporizhia

Coinciding with the publication of the IAEA report, the surroundings of the Zaporizhia nuclear plant were the scene of new bombings on Tuesday, fueling fears around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Russian-installed officials accused Ukrainian forces of shelling Enerhodar, the city where the plant is located, while Ukraine claimed Kremlin forces attacked Nikopol, located 10 kilometers from Zaporizhia, across the Dnieper River.

The Ukrainian mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, reported a strong explosion in the city around noon, although it was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, which left the city of 53,000 inhabitants without electricity or water.

These attacks come a day after the Zaporizhia plant was once again disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid, which is key to running critical cooling systems that prevent an eventual meltdown or radiation leak. Without this supply, the plant is forced into the precarious position of relying on its own power to maintain its security schemes.

“For radiation protection professionals, for the Ukrainian and even Russian people, and those in Central Europe, this is a very worrying moment, and that is an understatement,” said Paul Dorfman, a nuclear security expert at the University of Sussex. in the United Kingdom.

With EFE, Reuters and AP

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Written by Editor TLN

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