“It is urgent to take action.” Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delivered their report on Tuesday, September 6, on the situation in the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant, which has been occupied for six months by Russian forces. The mission of the experts on site lasted a few days. Arriving on Thursday, most of the international team left the plant the next day. Four other experts left on Monday and two others are expected to stay there permanently. Prior to the publication of the report, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said that “physical integrity” of the plant’s infrastructure had been “repeatedly raped”.
Experts call for a security bubble
“The current situation is untenable”writes the UN body in this 52-page document (PDF, in English), which lists seven pillars to improve the situation of the plant, located in the city of Energodar, in southern Ukraine. The first point specifies that “the physical integrity of the facilities – whether reactors, fuel basins or radioactive waste repositories – must be maintained”. The IAEA also claims to have found “the presence of Russian military personnel, vehicles and equipment at various locations on the site”. In response, Vladimir Putin assures us on Wednesday that he “there is no military equipment on the territory of this plant”.
The IAEA therefore requests “the immediate establishment of a nuclear security and protection zone” around the site. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has been calling for the establishment of a demilitarized zone for several weeks, welcomes this proposal with caution, because the agency does not specifically mention the demilitarization of the site. “If the content of this proposal is to demilitarize the territory of the nuclear power plant (…) then we can support such a demilitarized protection zone”, did he declare. The report also recommends the establishment of “emergency preparedness and response measures” radiological.
A call to stop the bombings
In its report, the IAEA insists that the bombardments on the site and in the vicinity cease “immediately to avoid causing further damage to the facilities”. For six months and the beginning of the Russian occupation, Moscow and kyiv have accused each other of bombing the plant. A few hours after the report was delivered, the mayor of Energodar in exile, Dmytro Orlov, accused Moscow of having bombed the city again.
For its part, the Kremlin regretted the conclusions of the report on this theme of the attacks. “The IAEA has turned a blind eye to the situation with the bombing of the nuclear power plant by Ukraine (…) There is not a single call for the Ukrainian side to end its nuclear terrorism”, commented Vladimir Rogov, a member of the pro-Russian occupation administration in the Zaporizhia region, quoted by the Ria Novosti agency. “To maintain the integrity of the nuclear power plant, it is necessary to agree not on the simple creation of a protection zone, but on the establishment of a ceasefire”he later told Tass.
Staff under pressure
Despite the Russian occupation, the operation of the plant is still ensured by Ukrainian employees. But they work in “very difficult circumstances”, linked to the presence of Russian soldiers in the compound. Experts from the Russian group Rosatom were also sent on site, “which could lead to potential interference and friction in the decision-making process”according to the IAEA.
The staff, estimated at 900 people (compared to 1,230 in normal times), is “under constant stress”, insists the report. Rafael Grossi condemned “any violent act committed against employees”, in, or near the site. A conclusion hailed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for whom the mention “the presence of Russian military equipment in the enclosure” and of “the pressure exerted there on our employees” is “a good thing”.