United Nations, May 30 (EFE).- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday announced that it has establish five key principles that both Ukraine and Russia will have to respect to guarantee the safety of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest such facility and currently in the hands of the Russian military.
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, from Argentina, made the announcement to the United Nations Security Council, warning once again that the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is “extremely fragile and dangerous.”
Those principles, Grossi said, include the following: not launching any attacks against the plant; not to use it to store heavy weaponry or troops with offensive capabilities; not to put the facility’s electricity supply at risk; to protect all structures, systems and essential components at the plant; and not to do anything to undermine these commitments.
He said that the IAEA experts deployed at the plant to guarantee security there will be tasked with monitoring adherence to these principles and the entity will make public any violations.
These principles are “to no one’s detriment and to everyone’s benefit,” said Grossi, adding that in drafting the principles he held consultations with both Ukrainian and Russian authorities.
In the debate following Grossi’s announcement, the Security Council member states backed these basic rules established by the IAEA and the work of the UN agency to protect the nuclear power center, with the Western powers going on to denounce the fact that Russia is responsible for this entire situation given that the Kremlin early last year ordered Ukraine to be invaded and the plant captured.
Grossi, in remarks to reporters, said that the reception of his announcement by the member states had been very positive, adding that the IAEA will strengthen its mission on the ground at Zaporizhzhia to take on new responsibilities, including reporting violations, something he said would be a factor deterring potentially dangerous moves by either Ukraine or Russia.
However, since the deployment of IAEA inspectors last September at Zaporizhzhia, the entity has not made public a single complaint that would enable any accusation to be made against either of the parties regarding risky practices that could compromise security at the plant.
The huge Zaporizhzhia installation has six nuclear reactors, although operations have been halted at five of them while the remaining one provides energy only for the needs of the plant itself. According to the IAEA, however, the risks of a nuclear catastrophe – such as a radiation leak or a core meltdown – continue to exist.
In particular, Grossi said Tuesday, the risk factors include the fact that the plant is located in a zone where military operations are under way and could increase, the limited number of personnel who are managing the facility and the repeated power supply cuts there, which has forced plant authorities to use emergency generators to cool down the reactor and prevent an accident on as many as seven occasions, the latest of these a week ago.
The IAEA official said that the parties must make pledges “to avoid the danger of a catastrophic incident,” adding that “We are fortunate that a nuclear accident has not yet happened … (but) we are rolling (the) dice and, if this continues, then one day our luck will run out.”
Practically since the start of the war on Feb. 24, 2022, Zaporizhzhia has been one of the hottest areas of conflict, after its capture by Russian troops.
Kyiv accuses Russia of using the center to store military equipment and to launch attacks against Ukrainian forces and civilians, knowing that Ukraine cannot respond out of fear of causing a nuclear accident, although Moscow has repeatedly claimed that Ukraine has bombarded the facility.
On Tuesday, the two parties gave their support to the principles set forth by the IAEA, but Ukraine has said that the five points do not go far enough and Russia should quickly withdraw from the plant.
Saying that the Russian troops and weapons must be withdrawn from the facility, Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya added that the center should be de-occupied and returned to legitimate Ukrainian control.
His Russian counterpart, Vasili Nebenzia, denied that his country had used the plant to launch attacks or had heavy weapons there, at the same time that he promised to take “more severe measures” if Kyiv attacks the installation’s critical infrastructure.