Appeal to UN Security Council to Protect Ukrain’s Reactors

June 1st, 2023 - by Anushka Patil / The New York Times

International Atomic Energy Agency team at the Zaporizhzhia reactor.

The IAEA Takes Its Case for Securing the
Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Site to the UN
Anushka Patil / The New York Times

(May 30, 2023) — After months of failed attempts to negotiate an agreement between Russia and Ukraine, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to take his case for securing Ukraine’s embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear exactly what the official, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the IAEA, would be presenting to the Security Council. The aim of the meeting was to “encourage the parties involved to comply with the IAEA’s nuclear safety principles,” the Foreign Ministry of Switzerland, which currently holds the presidency of the council, said in a statement on Monday.

The stakes were high ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, but the politics that have prevented the agency from reaching an agreement so far were likely to also get in the way at the council.

Russia and China, which has aligned itself with Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine last year, both hold veto power on the council. So do the United States, Britain and France, who are some of Kyiv’s strongest allies and are unlikely to endorse a proposal that Ukraine does not accept.

Fighting around the Zaporizhzhia plant has repeatedly damaged it and forced IAEA staff members stationed there to take shelter.

The Russian-occupied plant has lost power at least seven times during the war — including as recently as last week — and has been forced to rely on emergency diesel generators to keep critical cooling equipment running.

The situation has drastically deteriorated in recent weeks ahead of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, and the fate of the plant has become a frequent subject of the information war from both sides.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi at Zaporizhzhia

On Friday, Ukraine’s military intelligence service warned that Russian forces were planning to stage a nuclear accident at the plant to give them a chance to regroup. Vladimir Rogov, a Russian occupation official in the region, in turn accused Ukraine of planning to stage the accident in order to blame it on Russia.

This month, the precarious conditions around the plant also prompted chaotic evacuations from the nearby town of Enerhodar, where many of the plant’s workers live. Gas stations ran out of fuel and hospital equipment was looted in what the town’s exiled mayor, Dmytro Orlov, described as a “panic.”

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