UN watchdog calls for security zone at Ukrainian nuclear plant

·2-min read

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has issued a highly awaited report on Tuesday about the situation in Ukraine, including at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) where it has established a presence.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been subjected to a string of attacks and near-misses, for which both Moscow and Kyiv blame each other.

The report stopped short of ascribing blame for the damage of the plant, but has made seven recommendations.

These start with the “establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone” and the immediate cessation of shelling around the area.

It has claimed that while the attacks had not yet been the cause of a nuclear disaster, they “represent[ed] 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 UN watchdog found that efforts to maintain safety systems had been “taken under very challenging circumstances” as a result of “military personnel and equipment as well as representatives of Rosatom being present on the site”, and claimed that the “limited” Ukrainian staff had been subjected to a highly stressful environment.

It urged that vehicles be removed from areas which could impinge upon the proper operation of the safety and security systems, and that an “appropriate” work environment be re-established for the personnel at the plant, which could otherwise lead to a greater likelihood for human errors.

The report further recommended that the plant’s off-site power supply should be maintained at all times; that effective supply chains be guaranteed; and that emergency preparedness be bolstered through training and other means.

The document lastly criticised the “lack of communication means and channels”, and called for these to be ensured.

IAEA inspectors led by the agency's chief, Rafael Grossi, reached the plant on Friday, despite continued shelling. Two out of the six experts on the mission have stayed on to maintain a long-term presence at the site.