UN nuclear chief wants access to Ukrainian power plant under Russian control

The level of security at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant – under Russian occupation in Ukraine – is like a “flashing red light”, said the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Rafael Grossi spoke as his organization unsuccessfully tries to gain access for work, including repairs.

He focused on the Zaporizhzhia station one day after the 36th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. This station was also taken over by the invading Russian forces.

Mr Grossi said the IAEA needed access to the Zaporizhzhia facility in southern Ukraine so that its inspectors could, among other things, restore connections with the UN agency’s headquarters based in Vienna. For this, Russia and Ukraine must help.

The station needs repairs “and all that is not being done,” he said.

“So the situation as I have described it, and I will repeat it today, is not sustainable as it is. It is therefore an outstanding issue. It’s a flashing red light.

Grossi gave an interview to The Associated Press (AP) on Wednesday, a day after meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in kyiv.

“Naturally, my Ukrainian counterparts do not want IAEA inspectors to visit one of their own facilities under the authority of a third power,” Grossi said.

“I had a long conversation about this with President Zelensky last night and it is something that will still require consultation. We’re not there yet.”

The head of the IAEA continues to press the Russian government for access to the Zaporizhzhia plant.

“I don’t see any movement in that direction as we speak,” he said, although he is meeting Russia “soon”.

“There are two units that are active, in active operation, as you know, (and) others that are in repair or cooling down. And there are certain activities, technical activities and also inspection activities that need to be carried out,” Grossi said.

Rafael Grossi speaks during the interview (Francisco Seco/AP)

With 15 reactors and one of the largest nuclear capacities in the world, the war has essentially turned parts of Ukraine into a nuclear minefield. Time and time again since the invasion, nuclear experts have watched with concern as Russian forces come uncomfortably close to several nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

A Chernobyl security guard told the AP that the Russians flew planes over the site of the damaged reactor and dug trenches in highly radioactive earth.

On Monday, Russian cruise missiles flew over the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant in western Ukraine.

“There can be no military action in or around a nuclear power plant,” Grossi said, adding that he had appealed to Russia about it.

“It is unprecedented that a war is taking place in the midst of one of the largest nuclear infrastructures in the world, which of course creates a number of fragile or weak points which of course could be knowingly or unknowingly exploited. “, he added.

“So it requires a lot of activity from our side and cooperation. Cooperation from the Russian side. Understanding from the Ukrainian side so that we can avoid an accident.

On Iran, Grossi said his agency was still trying to clarify Tehran’s responses to outstanding questions about traces of man-made enriched uranium at three sites in the country.

The Islamic Republic and the IAEA have been trying to resolve a series of issues between them since the collapse of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, including recovering access to surveillance camera footage of the country’s atomic sites.

(PA graphics)

He also acknowledged Iran’s ability to enrich uranium since the deal collapsed because it uses more advanced centrifuges.

Tehran recently moved a centrifuge workshop to its underground Natanz nuclear facility after a suspected Israeli attack.

“They’re moving the centrifuge production capacity to a place where they feel better protected,” Grossi said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as American and European support for Ukraine in the conflict, have increased tensions between Russia and the West, but it is “imperative for us to seek common denominators despite these difficulties,” he said.

He added: “We cannot afford to stop. We must continue. It’s in the interest of the world, it’s in their own interest that the nuclear situation… succeeds. I can’t imagine a geostrategic scenario where more nuclear weapons, proliferation, in the Middle East would help anyone or anything.

Iran has long insisted that its nuclear program is peaceful. However, US intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Tehran had an organized military nuclear program until 2003.

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