Zaporizhzhia: IAEA calls for ‘safety zone’ around Ukraine nuclear plant
“There is an urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident arising from physical damage caused by military means,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wrote in its report.
“This can be achieved by the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone,” the agency goes on to say in the report, adding that it was ready to start consultations for “the urgent establishment of such a nuclear safety and security protection zone at the ZNPP.”
“The IAEA is still gravely concerned about the situation at the ZNPP — this hasn’t changed,” the report said. “The seven pillars have all been compromised at the site,” it said in reference to the nuclear watchdog’s framework, which includes the physical integrity of facilities, their safety systems, secure off-site power supply, effective radiation monitoring systems and reliable communications with the regulator.
The report comes after IAEA’s Director General Rafael Grossi led a team to Zaporizhzhia last week amid shelling in the area.
Once there, the team saw first-hand the damage shelling has caused to the facility and “noted with concern that the shelling could have impacted safety related structures, systems and components, and could have caused safety significant impacts, loss of lives and personnel injuries,” the report said.
The plant and the area around it, including the town of Enerhodar, have endured persistent shelling that has raised fears of a nuclear accident through the interruption of the power supply to the plant. Each sides accuses the other of acts of nuclear terrorism.
The Ukrainian president said last week that demilitarization of the plant was “the goal of Ukrainian and international efforts.”
The IAEA team also witnessed shelling during its visit and called on both sides to cease hostilities in the area, the IAEA report said.
“While the ongoing shelling has not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, it continues to represent a constant threat to nuclear safety and security with potential impact on critical safety functions that may lead to radiological consequences with great safety significance,” the report concluded.
“The IAEA recommends that shelling on site and in its vicinity should be stopped immediately to avoid any further damages to the plant and associated facilities, for the safety of the operating staff and to maintain the physical integrity to support safe and secure operation,” it added.
In addition to the danger of the continued fighting around the facility, the agency says staff at Zaporizhzhia and other nuclear plants in Ukraine “have continued to show endurance and resilience in keeping the sites running in a safe and secure way amid the conflict, and the IAEA salutes them.”
The IAEA goes on to say the situation in Ukraine “is unprecedented,” and that a “nuclear accident can have serious impacts within the country and beyond its borders.”
“The current situation is untenable and the best action to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and its people would be for this armed conflict to end now,” the report reads.